Raptors' new exec VP on board

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo announces the hiring of Executive Vice President of...

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo announces the hiring of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Ed Stefanski at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 27, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

TORONTO - The Raptors plan to be patient.

If the NBA lockout comes to a quick enough end that an entire — or partial — 2011/12 season takes place, don’t expect the franchise to try to make an immediate leap forward.

That was the takeaway from president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, who introduced new executive vice-president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski on Thursday at the ACC.

“We’re knee deep in a process that began just over a year ago with realistic expectations,” Colangelo told the assembled media.

“We may be looking at a year where we take a step back ... adding (to the young, cap-friendly core) in a strategic, patient way ... making sure the flexibility we’ve worked so hard to get does not get disrupted.”

In other words, not spending money on any available free agent just to appease a fanbase that has to reach into the memory bank to remember what an appearance in the playoffs was like — and deeper still to recall the Raptors’ lone trip to the second round a decade ago.

Nobody knows what the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will look like.

If there is a way to add an impact piece, Colangelo maintained that he would do so, it’s just far less likely than waiting a year to do so.

“We’re not going to rush out and make rash decisions just to get involved in something that happens quick,” Colangelo said of a rapid-fire free agency period that could arise NFL-style out of an end to the labour war.

“There may be more efficient timing in subsequent periods.”

Next summer, the team will be readying to bring promising fifth overall selection Jonas Valanciunas to Canada full-time, along with whatever standout is landed high in the 2012 draft — considered the best since 1996.

Stefanski, the long-time New Jersey and Philadelphia executive who helped build the Nets teams that twice made the finals, is fully on board.

“The future is very bright here as the players mature,” Stefanski said, adding that a lot of teams came looking to hire him but he focussed on the Toronto gig.

“The only reason that Bryan and I are in this business is because we want to win. The ultimate goal is an NBA championship. That should be the culture we’re looking for. We’re in this to win games. Winning is the most important thing it makes everybody a lot happier, so that’s our goal.”

That’s a long ways off, but at least Colangelo, Stefanski and Co. appear to be going about it the right way.

They are on the same page about the merits of building through the draft.

“You get a couple of players (through) the draft and you can change the tide,” he said.

And they both believe in incoming head coach Dwane Casey.

“(Casey) is the type of guy who will lead this franchise where it needs to go,” Stefanski said.

“He will hold players accountable.”

Stefanski is as aware as anybody that a ton of work is yet to be done. While Valanciunas should be the answer in the middle, a veteran will have to hold the fort for a couple of years as he matures.

He also knows the point guard spot must be upgraded considerably for the Raptors to rise to contender status.

He was not scared away, though, by the usual misconceptions about the NBA’s only Canadian team — that players won’t put up with the taxes, the weather or the customs lineup.

“My mentor Rod Thorn says: ‘If you pay them they will come,’ ” Stefanski said.

“I can’t believe a free agent visiting wouldn’t be totally impressed (with the city and the organization). I see the positives and that’s the reason I chose this job.”


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