Triano: 'We're not far away'

Toronto Raptor's Head coach Jay Triano talks to the media about the teams future. (Craig...

Toronto Raptor's Head coach Jay Triano talks to the media about the teams future. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

TORONTO - The case to retain Jay Triano isn’t compelling when measured up against wins and losses.

The case to move forward without Triano is sealed tight when the only measuring stick is wins.

And yet there was Triano, as though he were appearing in front of a public court, sitting behind a podium and presenting a body of work that had more broken bodies than available ones.

It was as though Triano had kept to himself all that he wanted to say, all that needed to be said, but waited until the very painful end to a rather painful season.

All the unknowns that served as the backdrop to Wednesday’s season finale remain, the many unsolved questions left to linger until Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment gets its ownership house in order.

Under this set of unsettled circumstance, there appeared Triano, assertive, defiant, honest and proud, not of Toronto’s 22-win season, but at the way his players worked and at the improvement of the team’s young core that could not have been accomplished had this season not unfolded in the way it did.

When asked if he wants to come back, Triano never flinched.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to raise kids for two years and give them up for adoption. We have a great thing going with our young players.

“I want to be part of that. I want to grow with these players.”

The club has an option on Triano that can be exercised by late next month.

Until the time comes, he’s not pre-occupied with what may or may not happen.

The club has to also address GM Bryan Colangelo’s future by July 1.

Colangelo is scheduled to give his take on the season and the issues facing the Raptors this summer when on Monday he sits behind the same podium Triano occupied on Thursday.

It’s not likely Colangelo’s session will be as enlightening, but it may.

If anything, what Triano showed on Thursday was that if this were indeed the beginning of the end, he’s not going to hold anything back.

And he didn’t.

Had the Raptors been able to produce more wins, a top draft pick would not have been achieved.

Had injuries not forced Triano to give extended minutes to players who did not merit them, it’s highly inconceivable all the growth shown by such inexperienced pieces would have been possible.

“We followed the plan to perfection,’’ Triano said of the blueprint he and Colangelo drew up when injuries began to mount.

Regardless of how long this looming lockout lasts, no league can change as rapidly as the NBA, where today’s franchise face is yesterday’s news.

“No one is happy with where we are, but they see the picture,’’ added Triano.

You see DeMar DeRozan taking huge strides and Ed Davis emerging.

You see solid complementary pieces with potential in Amir Johnson and James Johnson.

You see a decent point guard rotation in Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless.

You see a team that can’t defend and a team short on shooters, but with a high draft pick and plenty of cap flexibility you see a franchise whose fortune can change as quickly as Leandro Barbosa turns the corner on a pick and roll.

“The face of this franchise with the development of our young players could change drastically overnight,’’ Triano continued.

“We’re not far away.”

How far depends on many factors, not the least of which is the continued growth from within.

Virtually every player, save for Reggie Evans, an unrestricted free agent who may have played his final game in Toronto, needs to get bigger and stronger.

Mental toughness has to improve and the team’s biggest Achilles heel, defence, has to obviously get better.

“To get better drastically the way that we have to, we’ll have to have a better (defensive) system in place and better defensive players,’’ Triano conceded.

Colangelo calls the shots when it comes to personnel, but there’s a growing sense in Raptorland that Colangelo is now at least prepared to move forward without Andrea Bargnani, who put up numbers in the absence of Chris Bosh but who did absolutely nothing to shed the image of a defensively challenged, rebound-deficient seven-footer.

Bargnani would prefer to play at his natural position at power forward, but he has to defend the middle and provide that much-needed anchor, a strategic area that can mask perimeter issues.

Before he met with the media, Triano spent his time in individual meetings with his players.

When it came to Bargnani, Triano imparted the need to be a better weak-side defender and rebounder.

He then rhymed off the NBA’s top defensive teams, each having a defensive anchor.

“Is it asking a home run hitter to bunt?” Triano said of Bargnani being able to emerge as that anchor. “Possibly.

“But he has to for us to be successful. I asked him if he wanted to be a 20-point scorer and have 22 wins. He said no.”


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