Man Without a Plan 2.0

Mike Gillis

It feels as if we have seen this movie before.

An unconventional general manager is hired with the expectations of being inventive, imaginative and savvy. His tenure starts out all sunshine’s and rainbows but eventually the creative ideas fail. In lieu of his failure, he begins to stray from his original tactics. He starts to wing it knowing that he will be axed if success doesn’t come. However, he is too proud to cut ties with what he thought would be the franchise cornerstone. What follows is every free-agent signing, every trade, every face-saving comment to the media is wrong, wrong, wrong. Finally, he is mercifully axed to the delight of fans but not before he has run the team into the ground.

Former Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was the star of that movie. Current Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis is shooting the sequel as we speak.

Related: Never an Idea

Mike Gillis’s path to becoming a GM was not typical. He did not rise through the ranks of the front office. Gillis went straight from player agent to general manager in one of the most pressured filled markets you will find in sports. Gillis wasn’t like the other GM’s. He was supposed to be cut from a different cloth.

Bryan Colangelo was cut from a different cloth too. He was the son of one of the most influential figures in Basketball, Jerry Colangelo. Bryan Colangelo didn’t follow the blueprint of other GM’s. He went to Europe to find cheap talent that could help contribute to a successful team. He selected a 7 foot Italian stallion in his very first draft who became the symbol for his shortcomings. It was the European invasion and Colangelo was spearheading the operation.

Gillis was innovative. He went all-in on Roberto Luongo and then made his goaltender the captain. No one did that (and probably won’t ever again). Heck, the rulebook doesn’t even allow a goalie to wear the ‘C’ on his chest. Gillis had stones.

As a GM coming in after the dreaded 2004-05 lockout, Gillis began designing a team that didn’t need a whole lot of grit and toughness. The new rules were going to allow him to do that.

He created an environment that players wanted to play in. He worked around the cap system by convincing players to take less money because this was where a Stanley Cup would be won. Some of his notable bargains include the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra.

Unfortunately, when things started to go wrong, Gillis was unable to stay calm under pressure. He panicked. Despite his team reaching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with more injuries than a Patrice Bergeron hospital report, Gillis was rattled.

As Bryan Colangelo had done, Mike Gillis started winging it. He threw his plan of a speedy, finesse and skilled team out the window. He was embarrassed to have his roster bullied the way it was by the Boston Bruins. He couldn’t have that happen again even though the core of the roster he had assembled was not made for tweaking in that manner.

He shocked Vancouverites by trading Cody Hodgson for a tough, young and skilled Zack Kassian. Although the story had more to it than just trading finesse for grit, it felt as though Gillis pulled the trigger too quickly in anticipation of another potential match-up with Boston. For a franchise in win-now mode, trading a quality NHL center for a prospect who was far from ready for big-time NHL minutes wasn’t sensible.

Most egregiously, like Colangelo, he refused to admit defeat on his most prized possession (see: Andrea Bargnani). Gillis did not acquire Luongo from the Florida Panthers, but he signed him to the 12 year contract when people still foolishly believed that 12 year contracts were a clever way to circumvent the cap. The Luongo situation was his fault so he insisted that he would be content with an awkward as a 3-legged giraffe goalie circus. Maybe he convinced himself he was.

Nevertheless, when he had the chance to get some value in return for Roberto Luongo, Gillis got greedy. He didn’t want the Luongo debacle to be viewed by the public as a debacle. If he could trick a team into believing in Bobby-Lou, Gillis could get back into the good graces of the fans.

Alas, he was more patient than Ghandi on a hunger strike. Luongo lost every minutia of trade value that he had a year previously so Gillis had to improvise as Colangelo did far too many times. He started shopping the man he gave the keys to the crease to. In the end, he traded an elite goaltender for a draft pick that won’t be ready for quite some time.

For a team in win-now mode, the Schneider trade is perplexing. He went with a short shelf-life coach in John Tortorella only to trade for the future. It has completely overshadowed what my Facebook feed says was a very good draft for the Canucks.

If it wasn’t obvious enough that Gillis has scrapped his plans and tossed it in the trash, he made sure everyone knew that he has done so. In an attempt to justify his decision to trade Cory Schneider, Gillis said that “Our plan three years ago was to develop Cory and move him for a high pick, and that’s what we ultimately did”.

Devious, Mike.

This is almost as bad as if Toronto mayor Rob Ford had come out and said he planned to leak the crack video 3 years ago in order to gain publicity because, you know, all publicity is good publicity.

New Raptors GM Masai Ujiri did what Bryan Colangelo was never willing to do yesterday. He got some spare parts and draft picks in exchange for Andrea Bargnani, which is better than anyone ever thought he could do. What does that say about what Bryan Colangelo could have gotten in return for Bargnani last off-season?

It’s a lesson for GM’s. Having the ability to detach themselves from their bold choices that go south. Now, just as Bargnani symbolized the futility of Colangelo’s tenure, Luongo is the official poster-boy for Gillis’ failings so far.

Although the ending to the Gillis movie has yet to be determined, what we have been shown eerily mirrors that of Bryan Colangelo.

Mike Gillis is hoping that this isn’t the sequel.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Never an Idea

Bryan Colangelo

Sometimes in life, it is a good idea to go with the flow. Be spontaneous. Live in the moment. Don’t worry about what is next and just let life come to you.

Solid advice. Except, not when you’re the general manager of a professional basketball franchise.

Unfortunately for the Toronto Raptors, that’s the way Bryan Colangelo seemed to run his operation on far too many occasions.

It appeared that Bryan Colangelo’s option year would be picked up by MLSE. That is until Tom Leiweke was hired to be the President and CEO of MLSE. After keeping Colangelo in limbo, reports are that Leiweke and MLSE have decided to move the once hyped GM into a corporate, non-basketball role.

After being foolishly extended 2 years ago, Colangelo has rightly been ousted from his position.

Bryan Colangelo wasn’t simply a bad general manager. What made matters worse was that, at a certain point, it became apparent that he was more concerned with keeping his job than building a true contender.

Moves were made on the fly as players would become available. They were not based around a master plan that all GM’s should have. Colangelo lost sight of the big picture and focused more on doing things for the short-term. Moves that he hoped would finally bring the Raptors back into the playoffs. A first round post-season exit would not have phased him because, to the general public, it would have signalled steps in the right direction.

Jerry Colangelo he was not.

The most recent change Colangelo made to the roster was bringing in Rudy Gay, a supremely talented individual scorer. A player who should be able to bring the Raptors to the playoffs next season. The move was flawed from the beginning though. It was only done because the opportunity arose. Otherwise, why extend DeMar DeRozan, the poor man’s Rudy Gay?

But Colangelo could get Rudy Gay at a steal of a price. He sold high on Ed Davis, a solid power forward with a limited ceiling.

The deal on paper was fine. It made the Raptors a better team and brought excitement to the city. However, the deal cost the team much more than Ed Davis and Rudy Gay’s excessively high salary. Once again, it mortgaged the Toronto Raptors long-term future. It was, at least, another two years of mediocrity before the healing could really begin.

The brightest executive on the planet won’t be able to change that.

The past year have featured some of Colangelo’s other finest moments. First, it was trying to bring in Steve Nash with the reason being, well, no particular reason. The man who turned Bryan Colangelo from the son of Jerry Colangelo into ingenious NBA executive couldn’t do anything to save this team. Still, Colangelo tried to seal the deal and he ended up wasting 3 years and $19 million on Landry Fields.

Welp, Steve Nash did not work out so Colangelo had to improvise as he had done time after time during his tenure. He traded a 1st round pick for Kyle Lowry who was given the keys to the franchise. Keys to the franchise? Lowry couldn’t even keep his starting job.

Related: Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to turn the keys of the franchise the right way so Colangelo had to work his magic again. He found Rudy Gay. If he hadn’t used the “keys to the franchise” line at the Kyle Lowry-Landry Fields press conference, he certainly would have used it on Rudy Gay.

Luckily for Bryan Colangelo, Bryan Colangelo was always a fantastic salesman. If he sold Bentley’s, I would probably buy one even though it would take me 35 years to pay it off. He and former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Retardi..err Riccardi are very similar. In spite of poor decision after poor decision, they both had the ability to assure their bosses and the fans that there were greener pastures on the horizon. It allowed them to stay much longer than they should have.

If there was one person who could write a book entitled “how to keep your job as a general manager”, Bryan Colangelo would be the author. Mike Milbury and Matt Millen would even learn a thing or two from it.

A couple of weeks ago, Bryan Colangelo presented his supposed plan to Tom Leiweke and the board of directors at MLSE. I wouldn’t be surprised if Colangelo walked into the meeting with a blank piece of paper and handed it to Tom Leiweke.

From the moment when Colangelo’s attempted to convince Chris Bosh into staying in Toronto with a roster featuring Hedo Turkoglu, there has been no one direction (yes, pun intended!) that the franchise has gone. Colangelo has steered the franchise as if he had a broken compass.

His talking of the talk afforded him opportunity after opportunity. He somehow turned perennial underachieving into 7 years as the decision maker for the Toronto Raptors, which makes him the longest tenured GM in the franchise’s history.

Although the future is brighter for the Raptors sans Colangelo, the damage has already been done. Without any real idea of how he would go about creating a contender, Bryan Colagelo has the Raptors stuck in gear 3. Too good for Andrew Wiggins, not good enough to even sniff the second round of the playoffs.

A new general manager can only do so much.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Even if it isn’t always for the best, “the heart wants what it wants.”

The hearts of Raptors fans were longing for Steve Nash in Toronto. For a 38-year-old aging point guard, this was a longing that had classic heart over head feeling written all over it. A mere month ago, you would have been crazy to say that it was possible that the Canadian-born superstar could play for his homeland’s team. However, Nash to Toronto became a real possibility in recent days and fans didn’t mind pulling out every stop to lure him back up north.

Unlike Raptors fans, Bryan Colangelo’s heart wasn’t in on this one. On paper, it looks and sounds good that their general manager’s heart is not playing a part in this decision. I mean, it is his job to use his head to make the best decision for the sake of the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, it was only a small part of Bryan Colangelo’s head that was making the decision to go all-in on Steve Nash. The business side of his head overrode every other region of his head.

Colangelo’s noggin understood that Raptors fans hearts were all-in on Steve Nash. He felt that he could do no wrong by doing everything humanly possible to bring Nash to the NBA’s lone Canadian team. Nash is still playing at a high level and his arrival in Canada would fulfill the pipe dreams of a nation of basketball fans. Fans would be happy he was doing something rather than nothing.

He figured, what’s the harm?

For many Canadians, including myself, Steve Nash will forever be their favourite basketball player. My heart was in on this Steve Nash deal a little while ago. It was difficult not to get on board the possibility of Nash to Toronto. I mean, it seemed close to impossible anyways.

What a difference a few days makes.

On Tuesday, the Raptors and Landry Fields verbally agreed to a back loaded 3 year $20 million offer sheet, which supposedly prevented the New York Knicks from acquiring Nash. Fields is a guy the Raptors apparently are fond of but probably not at that price. Early Wednesday morning, the Knicks became the frontrunners but then lost out on Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in the evening. Toronto was left in the dust.

Bryan Colangelo went all-in with a pair of 10’s for Steve Nash. The Lakers, they somehow managed a straight flush.

Colangelo’s all or nothing move for Nash via Fields failed big time. The Raptors are going to be stuck with another inconsistent shooting wing player. Fields has potential but he’s not worth what the Raptors are going to pay him. Colangelo gave Steve Nash his best pitch but he knew it wasn’t enough. He decided to risk even more of the future, supposedly leaving Nash no choice.

The Landry Fields move shows that Bryan Colangelo has lost sight of the big picture, well, not that he really had any idea of it to start with.

It has been almost 2 years since Bosh has left for Miami. He was forced to finally rebuild after his retool to impress Chris Bosh didn’t exactly impress. Apparently, 2 years on the rebuild is 2 years too many for the other Bryan GM in Toronto. Colangelo appears to have no issue with compromising the long-term rebuild of the franchise. It’s because he is only looking out for number 1 – himself.

Colangelo knew that Nash was going to buy him some more time.

When Colangelo went all-in for Nash, his eyes lit up like cartoon dollar signs and his blinders only let him see the extra years of job security Nash would provide him. The Canadian icon would have filled the seats, sold merchandise and brought a buzz to the Toronto Raptors not seen since the Vin-sanity days. It was simply business for Bryan Colangelo but this type of business isn’t what the Toronto Raptors need right now.

My heart told me I would have enjoyed the coming years if Steve Nash had joined the Raptors. It would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a situation as unique as Nash in Toronto.

Bryan Colangelo played off those types of feelings. His business head knew that he could take advantage of Canada’s national love for Steve.

Bryan Colangelo was being completely selfish.

The job security of a professional sports GM depends on him making the best decision for the team, except for those times when he is coming close to his expiry date. Once again, Colangelo proved he is unwilling to trust a rebuild. His selfish motives got in the way of his franchises best interests.

The Raptors are lucky to avoid getting Steve Nash. Fields and Nash would have been $55 million on the books for the next 3 years. It would have killed their rebuild. They’re still stuck with Fields but things could be worse.

With the extra revenue Nash would have brought to the team, Bryan Colangelo knew that he would have no trouble compensating for that overpriced tag of $12 million per. However, compensating for those 3 years of lost rebuilding would have been a tad trickier.

For Bryan Colangelo, bringing in Steve Nash wasn’t about helping grow the sport of basketball in Canada. It wasn’t about pleasing the fans. And most importantly, it wasn’t about making the Toronto Raptors the finest team they possibly could be.

BC has been feeling the heat and the Nash sweepstakes were all about what was best for Bryan Colangelo.

His heart may not be in it but, by chasing Steve Nash as relentlessly as he did, Colangelo has clearly shown that his business head has taken over his general managing head.

That’s just bad news for the Toronto Raptors.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani has not lived up to expectations

When Chris Bosh decided to leave for Miami, the Toronto Raptors gave their key to the franchise to Andrea Bargnani. They should have shown him the door.

I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the season but as the year has gone on it apparent the Raptors need to go in a different direction. Bryan Colangelo needs to be a man, swallow his pride and cut his losses now.

As the go to guy in the Raptors offence, Andrea Bargnani has established himself as one of the premier scoring big men in the NBA. This past season he averaged 21.4 points a game. A fairly respectable figure.

Too bad that’s all he does. Sadly, referring to his offensive numbers as respectable discounts his decline in field goal percentage and increased turnover rate from the 2009-10 season.

What is worse is Andrea Bargnani’s insistence on slacking at the defensive end, which is simply inexcusable. It isn’t a coincidence that in the two years that Bargnani has been given a more prominent role in the organization, the Raptors have sported the league’s worst defensive efficiency.

I would say that Bargnani’s defence mirrors that of a stereotypically soft European but to say that would be an insult to soft Europeans.

Andrea Bargnani doesn’t possess the drive that the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s of the NBA have. He doesn’t care that he provides no inside presence for his team. He doesn’t care that it is his job to carry a mostly hapless roster. He doesn’t care about his reputation as a marshmallow. He doesn’t even care about his statistics.

Surprisingly, Bargnani’s rebounding and block totals are down from 2009-10. He averaged a pathetic 5.4 rebounds a game for a 7 foot center playing over 35 minutes a game, which is down from his 2009-10 average of 6.2 rebounds a game. Could it be more alarming that his block average has been cut in half this year? Last season he averaged 1.4 blocks a game and hopefully you can do the math, but if you can’t, he averaged 0.7 a game this year.

As the supposed franchise player, his attitude shows no signs of the responsibility he should feel for his lack of hustle and dismal statistics. When asked about his poor defence he said that, in reference to his offence “I do things that are much more complicated than getting rebounds and playing defence. That should be the easy part.”

In an attempt to be hard himself either he’s incredibly naive, doesn’t understand what it takes or flat out isn’t concerned and doesn’t want to be bothered to correct his obvious laziness and ineptitude.

I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Bargnani also said that the team needs to get more guys that can help play defence.

Wow.

It may be true that management has done an inadequate job of surrounding the team with quality two-way players, but Bargnani’s outlook cannot be tolerated.

The way he plays speaks volumes about his attitude. Well, if his play speaks volumes then I must be deaf because his comments just hit 200 decibels.

The problem is that Bargnani still has 4 years averaged out at $10 million a year left on his contract. Is the possibility of unloading his contract about as small as the impact Bargnani has made on the franchise or is someone willing to take a chance?

Does any team want to take on a player with not only Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies but also his mental deficiencies? Obviously, playing on a losing team has dampened the big Italian’s spirit more than the thought of being the face of the franchise has motivated him.

I’ll slip a little bit of my distaste in for Jay Triano here because I am amazed that he has let Bargnani get away with this for so long. Granted, Triano was the one who saved Bargnani’s career after Sam Mitchell sucked almost every ounce of confidence from Bargnani. Nevertheless, not once this year has Triano sat or even threatened to sit Bargnani for his consistent laziness.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there might be a possibility that a better coach and/or team could inspire Bargnani to put some real effort into his game, which could be a selling point in trade talks with other teams. But that’s a big if.

It is wrong to solely blame Bargnani for the Raptor’s woes considering their line-up features some equally incompetent defensive players, namely Jose Calderon. However, a new wave of talent has come to Toronto with Demar Derozan and Ed Davis proving that they have some serious game. They may not be franchise players but they are good pieces to build around.

Like the other overrated Toronto GM, Bryan Colangelo insists on trying to build a winning team without truly rebuilding. He already traded the Raptors late first round pick that was acquired from the Miami Heat in exchange for another slashing wing player in James Johnson.

If Colangelo did in fact have an offer on the table for Bargnani, would he take it? Bargnani is the first guy that Colangelo drafted as Raptors GM.

Is his ego too big for him to admit he has made a mistake? He was able to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu who he personally signed to a brutal 5 year $53 million contract.

The Raptors will most likely have a very high draft pick as they finished with the 3rd worst record in the NBA. A change in direction to a grittier, defensive oriented team may be exactly the thing this franchise needs as it is evident that Colangelo’s European invasion has not flourished.

The departure of Chris Bosh has once again left the Toronto Raptors searching for an identity. Giving this Italian the boot would be a good place to start.


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Plea to Raptor Fans, Don’t Boo Chris Bosh!

Chris Bosh released his inner cave man more than a few times as a member of the Raptors

In a quiet, undramatic divorce, not like those ones you see on Divorce Court, Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors parted ways after a 7 year long-term relationship. The break up wasn’t messy but it was by no means mutual as the breaker certainly offended the breakee.

GM Bryan Colangelo went as far to say that Bosh didn’t care down the stretch run of the 2009-10 season. “Whether he was mentally checked out or just wasn’t quite into it down the stretch, he wasn’t the same guy,” Colangelo said. “I think everybody saw that, but no one wanted to acknowledge it.” Head Coach Jay Triano further stated that “When you talk about Chris being a leader in the locker room, I think it’s the one thing he wasn’t for us.” Hard feelings much?

Today, Chris Bosh returns to Toronto for the first time since his decision to join Dwyane Wade and Lebron James in Miami. Yes, Lebron James too.

With Bosh essentially leaving fans and most importantly the Raptor organization hanging, it is no wonder why many people expressed their resentment towards Chris Bosh. It wasn’t the first time that their franchise player bailed on them. 3 high draft picks in Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter that had the possibility to carry the franchise all stated their desire to leave the city at some point in their tenure with the Raptors. Not to mention Hedo Turkoglu who requested a trade after one tumultuous season.

It was all too familiar to Raptor fans. Except in this case, like a good stripper, Chris Bosh teased Canadian basketball junkies into thinking he might just come back. However, like a good stripper, the hope dangling in front of them never materialized.

Even though Bosh gave us Raptor fans a good long tease that only ended in disappointment, I am asking you not to boo the man who gave you seven hard-fought seasons.

I understand your pain, but this time the circumstances are entirely different. Chris Bosh didn’t quit like Vince Carter or cry to his General Manager like Damon Stoudamire. He played out the entire length of his contract like a real man should, and wasn’t making any excuses for his team’s lack of success. Almost every night Bosh put his heart and soul on the floor for the Raptors.

It was also the behind the scenes work that makes Bosh different from previous Raptor defectors. His mid-range jumper is as reliable as anyone’s in the NBA and while his size may still be a problem Bosh he worked his tail off in order to add muscle to his 6”10 frame. The growth of Chris Bosh is a product of his effort as Raptor colour man Jack Armstrong likes to say, “Input equals output.”

It became apparent that Chris Bosh was not a franchise player and building the team around him as your cornerstone was not going to work. Nevertheless, you can hardly blame Bosh for that. It isn’t his fault that he can’t carry an entire team on his back like his new teammates Lebron and Wade. His rebounding may not be that of a top NBA rebounder, but he was still a legitimate 20-10 guy. On a nightly basis you could count on his consistency. He didn’t get his shiny new contract for no reason now did he?

Chris Bosh might not have handled his situation as well as Toronto’s other former franchise player Roy Halladay, but he also isn’t a robot like Roy Halladay. Bosh doesn’t just exhibit human emotions either, he exhibits human emotions that are likeable and entertaining. His passion on the court at times was like none other. He was genuine in his attempt to make the Raptors a true contender.

I think after this divorce Raptor fans have forgotten what a great guy Bosh is off the court, which is part of what made us to fall for the guy. Remember this all-star advertisement?

The situation at hand isn’t about forgiving and forgetting because Chris Bosh has nothing to be sorry for. Bosh doesn’t deserve to get what seems to be the inevitable, a hate filled homecoming. He doesn’t deserve to get booed from the fans that he worked so hard to please for seven seasons. He didn’t Lebron James his city or Carmelo Anthony his teammates. Chris Bosh deserves a cheer and I ask you Raptor fans to give him one.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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