The Raps have hit the mid-season mark with a disappointing 21-34 record. Expectations are at an all time low among Toronto fans, a far cry from the hype and excitement surrounding the team on opening day. They have sustained four losing streaks consisting of five or more games, and been without the services of Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal for extended periods of time. The team has been bombarded by negative energy for most of the season, including trade rumors and speculation that certain players want out of Toronto.
It is no secret that Chris Bosh is the cornerstone of the Raptors organization. He is a perennial All Star and can explode for twenty and ten on any given night. Last week a report surfaced from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that Bosh was unhappy in Toronto and privately requested to be traded. Bryan Colangelo and Bosh adamantly denied the report and questioned Smith’s creditability. Smith wouldn’t site his sources but firmly stood by his initial report. Chris Bosh has a player option to become a free agent in 2010, and join fellow franchise players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady and Amare Stoudemire on the open market. Many teams, including the Detroit Pistons and New York Nicks, have positioned themselves to clear up a significant amount of cap space in anticipation for the summer of 2010, or what has been labeled the ‘summer of LeBron’. Chris Bosh will undoubtedly be one of the marquee names on the block. NBA insiders and critics believe that regardless of what Toronto does Bosh will be gone come 2010. The fact that the Raps will most likely miss the playoffs this year will more than likely seal Bosh’s exit from Toronto. Colangelo is left with a very difficult decision. Either deal Bosh before the trade deadline and get something in return, or roll the dice and hope he can resign him before he becomes a free agent. With the on-going difficulty of luring big names north of the border, losing Chris Bosh could have a catastrophic long term effect on the Raptors organization. Bosh is currently out of the line up with a knee injury and didn’t participate in the All Star game.
With all the controversy and stress surrounding the Raps, it’s difficult for Coach Jay Triano to get his players to keep their focus. A glimmer of hope was ignited last Wednesday night following an impressive home win verses the San Antonio Spurs. The short-handed Raptors were huge underdogs against the red hot Spurs, who brought a 17-8 away record into the ACC. The Raps played a well executed first half and went into the locker room with a six point lead; however, the typical script began to play out and the Raps relinquished the lead heading down the stretch. Then the unpredictable happened; the Raps clamped down, played solid defense and made big shots in a pressure situation against a superior team. The win was even more impressive considering the fact that both Bosh and Calderon where out of the line up.
The Raps made headlines this pass week by trading Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon to the Miami Heat for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. The trade is significant for both teams. Pat Riley is hoping to regain a dominant presence inside which has been absent since the departure of Shaq. The resurgence of Dwyane Wade and arrival of J.O. will hopefully be reminiscent of the Heat’s 05-06 championship team. Bryan Colangelo looked at the trade from a financial point of view. Although Marion is an elite talent, Colangelo was more interested in his expiring 17 million dollar contract. The Raps owed J.O. over 20 million dollars next season, and would have left the team with very little cap space to work with. There is little to no chance that Marion will resign with the Raps in the off-season, giving Colangelo a boat load of money to lure free agents and hopefully re-sign Chris Bosh. Many insiders look at this trade as Colangelo waving the white flag and essentially giving up on the season. It could also be a team altering move, transforming the Raps into the contenders they were supposed to be.