NBA PM: Raptors Still Hope To Trade Bargnani
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Raptors Still Hope To Trade Bargnani: One of the most disappointing teams of the 2012-13 NBA season is certainly the Toronto Raptors. This was supposed to be the year they returned to the playoffs for the first time in the post-Chris Bosh era, and most analysts fully expected them to achieve that goal. Instead they are sitting 16 games below .500 and in 10th place in the East.
“We really struggled out of the gate, going 4-19,” Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo explains to HOOPSWORLD. “You can probably pinpoint many reasons for the bad start…schedule, injuries, inexperience, a few league-acknowledged bad calls, but lack of execution was a primary cause. Since then we have gone 28-29, which is a pretty dramatic swing, but the hole we dug early was a little too deep. You add to that a significant in-season trade that completely changed the dynamic of the team and you are practically asking for inconsistency. A lot was thrown at this team and this staff this year, but they never stopped fighting.”
That’s not to say that there haven’t been positives, one of which was the much-anticipated arrival of Jonas Valanciunas. Like so many rookies, and especially those coming from overseas, Valanciunas took some time to adjust to the NBA game and then went down with an injury. As the season progressed, however, so did Valanciunas. He averaged 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in November and then 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in December before he broke his hand and missed six weeks of games. After that he seemed to figure things out, averaging 11.4 points and per game while shooting 62 percent in March and nearly 15 points per game in April.
“Even better than expected,” says Colangelo of his rookie. “He began the year coming off a two-and-a-half-year stretch without even a day off. He was likely a little overwhelmed at first with his new surroundings, unfamiliar basketball terminology and ideals, but his injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He was able to take a breath and see things from a different perspective. He came back more poised, more deliberate. The game really seemed to slow down for him and he seems much more comfortable on the court. His Rookie of the Month award for March speaks to his rapid development and progress as the year has passed. He’s a wonderful young man, a tremendously hard worker and a budding future star. If I were a stock analyst I would definitely rate him a BUY.”
One thing that many Raptors fans have been anticipating is a trade that would send Andrea Bargnani elsewhere, and while Colangelo worked to make that happen, a couple of unrelated injuries essentially prevented a deal from happening.
“We obviously had some frank discussions with Andrea and his agent that a change of scenery might benefit everyone, but his two random and unrelated elbow injuries dismissed whatever trade scenarios were being contemplated,” Colangelo explains. “With the timing of his injuries, we simply just ran out of runway prior to the trade deadline. As far as value, I would disagree [that his is low], good size-to-skill ratio is a commodity in this league, especially the way the game is trending. If Andrea stays, however, I’m hoping [head coach Dwane] Case[y] can find a way to duplicate his tremendous start to the 11-12 campaign, where he was performing at an All-Star level on both ends of the floor.”
As Colangelo and his team look at how to improve the Raptors in hopes of making their return to the playoffs next season, they will have to first decide whether or not they want to trade or buy themselves into the draft. Barring a miracle at the draft lottery, the Raptors won’t have a pick.
“We gave up a protected first (1-3) for Kyle Lowry and our second in the Rudy Gay trade, so realistically we may have to sit this one out,” says Colangelo. “Given the underwhelming depth and strength of this draft and the fact that we are currently developing three promising rookies in Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy, we are not overly concerned about that. If there was ever a year to not have a pick, this is the one. Having said that, if we move up in the lottery and end up with a top pick, we do like a few guys on the board.”
Once the draft plays out, Colangelo does have some specific things he’ll be looking for in free agency and via trade over the offseason.
“Very clearly, veteran presence and leadership will go a long way in rounding out our very young nucleus,” says Colangelo. “We can certainly add some mental and physical toughness to our mix too. A full training camp will obviously help everyone, but I do really like the talent level of the young core we have in place. Of course, we need to add a piece or two to the mix, but we should get appreciably better with our efforts of growing organically.”
The core group in Toronto is impressive, even more impressive than the one that had most of us believing the team would make the playoffs this season. Despite their struggles of late, there’s every reason to believe that with a couple of tweaks this team should be right back in the playoff chase next season.
Faried Update: Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried underwent an MRI today on his left ankle. The exam revealed a sprain of the Anterior Talofibular ligament, but no fractures. Faried, averaging 11.5 points and a team-leading 9.2 rebounds per game, will miss the final two games of the regular season and be listed as day-to-day as the Nuggets prepare for the Western Conference playoffs.
Lopez: Avery Firing Was A Wake-Up Call
The kiss of death for an NBA head coach can sometimes be the selection as the Coach of the Month, as was the case for Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson earlier this season. He was given the honor for his team’s performance in October and November, only to be fired some 24 days later after the team fell apart in December. In a recent interview with WFAN in New York, Nets center Brook Lopez said Johnson’s firing was a jolt for the team.
“I think it’s a very up-and-down season,” said Lopez. “We were definitely riding high with Coach Avery but I think the situation went the way it did but it was sort of a wake-up call for myself and my teammates. We made a concerted effort on our part to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. We take accountability for what was going on.”
Since then the Nets have responded in a big way to interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, and while they have not risen to the top of the East as many hoped they would, they are poised for an interesting postseason run.
“It’s been great,” said Lopez. “It’s been a great primer for me. Playing with this team, winning games and playing in Brooklyn with such great fans, it’s so exciting and it makes me that much more excited to get into the playoffs and win games in the playoffs and do something special.”
Last summer, of course, there were many questions about whether or not Lopez would be a member of the Nets going forward. Trade rumors had him possibly leaving town in a Dwight Howard exchange that never actually came to fruition. For his part, Lopez came out determined to show he could stay healthy and be as good as any center in the league, and he has done that.
“Just the whole situation, I was working out to better myself as a basketball player and to try to put myself in the best position possible however the outcome came out,” said Lopez. “I’m confident any night going onto the court I can go out there and prove I’m the best center on the floor.”
In retrospect, Lopez might have been an even better fit for the Nets than Howard could have been.
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