TORONTO - Bryan Colangelo is willing to be patient.
He is clearly not concerned with appearances or outside opinions.
The man who seems to be continually defending himself for selecting Andrea Bargnani first overall even five years after the fact, put himself right back in the crosshairs of the Don Cherry Euro-hating crowd by taking Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas with the fifth overall pick.
Valanciunas comes with a huge red flag in that potential buyout problems with his team in Europe could mean it will be a year or even two before he can join the team.
Colangelo admitted in the days leading up to the draft that may taint the player on some team’s eyes, but not necessarily the Raptors.
“A little bit,” Colangelo conceded, “but I don’t think it would absolutely scare us away. There is some thought that if you can’t get the guy you shouldn’t pick him. I kind of view it a little bit differently. If he is the best potential five prospect in the draft and he is worth being the fifth pick, it’s very unlikely that any No. 5 pick is going to come in and have an immediate impact.
“Whether he is here working out with our guys or playing one more season over there getting physically mature and getting ready for the jump to the NBA, I think we could work with that. It’s something we are strongly considering as we look at the draft. I don’t think he’ll slide too far down. If he does it will be a shame because he will have been done a big disservice.”
Colangelo made sure that disservice never occurred.
The flags in fact are likely the only reason he was still there at five.
Colangelo said last night that he is planning to get on a plane and get over to Lithuania as soon as possible and get this thing sorted out.
As for the Euro naysayers out there, Colangelo said any backlash from them never entered into the equation.
“I can’t worry about where they are from,” Colangelo said of his selections. “I can only worry about how they fit into our plan.
This is a solid pick. Trust me.”
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said the calls were coming in fast and furious to the Raptors war room inquiring about the availability of the Raptors pick both before and after Cleveland passed on the Lithuanian and took Canadian Tristan Thompson.
The San Antonio Spurs were said to be attempting to move up as recently as Wednesday to get Valanciunas dangling the likes of Tony Parker with the condition that Richard Jefferson and his balky contract go with him.
Say this about the Raptors. If there is a team in the NBA equipped to deal with convoluted European buyouts, Toronto is at or near the top of that list.
In addition to Colangelo’s extensive history with European basketball, the Raptors ace in the hole might just be Maurizio Gherardini. Gherardini, the Raptors senior vice-president of basketball operations, is considered one of the brightest minds and administrators in the history of European basketball having built Benetton Treviso into a European power before jumping to the NBA.
The problem is Gherardini’s contract is up at the end of the month and it is not known if he’ll be around to help the Raptors through this.
Casey admitted his late arrival on the scene kept him from being much of a factor in the draft selection. The fact that he may have to wait a year or more to reap any benefits from this draft didn’t seem to bother Casey in the least.
“You can’t find a lot of big men who can run the floor, that are athletic with great hands, dives down the lane and finishes around the rim,” Casey said. “I was talking to Wayne Embry about him he was talking about the fact that he reminded him of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.”
Defensively Casey said he can certainly use Valanciunas’ length.
At 7-feet and just over 230 pounds, Valanciunas still has some work to do to bulk up to NBA big man size, but he’s already long enough that he can disrupt opposing offences and Casey is convinced from the tape he is seen, he can step in as soon as he is clear of his European obligations and contribute.
Going into the draft, the thinking was the Raptors coveted Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight but weren’t overly enthusiastic that he would still be around by the fifth pick. Knight was — in fact he lasted until the eighth selection before Detroit snapped him up.
Colangelo though said the plan, were Valanciunas not there for them at five, was to trade back in the draft and pick up some other assets that way.