The answer to the question is now available: The number of years Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is willing to put up with an executive of substance missing the playoffs before they fire his ass is five.
We know that to be true because Bryan Colangelo has missed three years in a row and now has two more years to figure this out. The third year on his new deal is a club option, which translated means, if the Raptors aren’t any better two years from now, Colangelo will pay the ultimate managerial price.
It also means, to a lesser degree, that Brian Burke is on notice. He won’t have forever to make it to the post-season, although sometimes it seems that way. He, like Colangelo, as they say at draft time, is on the clock.
The leaking of the information Tuesday that Colangelo had re-upped with the Raptors — and the eventual confirmation by the team — came on yet another bittersweet day for the ever troubled franchise. And really, for this team, are there any other kind of days?
A great day Tuesday would have meant signing Colangelo and snagging the first pick in the NBA draft. That would have been reason to celebrate. Instead, they got their well-dressed executive under contract, and fell back once again in the team building process, hoping for a first or second pick in the draft, ending up in a rather weak class with the fifth pick. That fifth pick might have been something to covet had Harrison Barnes of North Carolina or Jared Sullinger of Ohio State not decided to go back to school for another year.
Which, in fairness, is just another Raptors’ story of woe, which is something we’ve come to expect after 16 seasons of waffling. At first, the Raptors were cursed by the rules of the NBA, then by Isiah Thomas, then by Vince Carter, and now simply by circumstance. You hoped — we all did — for something great to happen Tuesday with this lottery and instead it was one step forward, two steps back.
And what makes it all the more frustrating is rebuilding in the NBA can be a relatively swift process if you get the right draft pick, sign the right free agent, get that one enormous difference maker.
Not that many years ago, the Raptors were considered a much better team than the Seattle Supersonics and probably on par with the Chicago Bulls. But here is the history lesson of why things never work out for this team — and how they never seem to get anything resembling a break. Even when they lose, they don’t win.
The year the Raptors won the draft lottery they got Andrea Bargnani.
The year the Bulls won the draft lottery they got Derrick Rose.
How is that fair?
And the year the Supersonics wound up picking second — good thing they didn’t win or they might have wound up with Greg Oden — they got Kevin Durant and an eventual ticket to Oklahoma City. (OK, so they lost in switching cities but won with Durant.)
So let us recap our collective Canadian basketball misfortune for a moment: The Bulls wound up with Rose, the league MVP, and a legitimate shot at winning another championship.
The Thunder are just starting to be something great with Durant, who led the NBA in scoring (Rose was second) and have made it to the Western Conference final. The team was basically built through three drafts, a trade or two, but none of it happens without Durant. Oklahoma City should contend for years with this lineup.
And Bargnani remains a square peg in a round hole, a scorer who doesn’t make his team better because he won’t or can’t play defence or because he won’t or can’t rebound.
The Raptors have two raw complimentary players emerging in DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis. That’s nice. The rest of the roster is dispensable. To win in the NBA, to make a difference, you need a Kobe, a LeBron, a Durant, a Rose, and you probably need a little luck along the way, too. Colangelo must make this work somehow, knowing he is forever running uphill and into the wind. Whomever he gets at the fifth pick, likely one of the point guards, Brandon Knight of Kentucky or Kemba Walker of UConn, will probably wind up as another complimentary player.
His is not an easy job. But you have to ask, just once in a while, can’t something, anything, go the Raptors way?