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Old 07-09-2009, 12:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Thumbs up Raptors, Mavs now contenders

If Chris Bosh is planning on leaving Toronto next summer, you wouldn't know it by reading his Twitter feed.

At around midnight on Wednesday, Bosh tweeted the following message, along with a link to the story that his team had acquired some much-need depth in the yet-to-be-made-official four-team trade that sent Shawn Marion to Dallas.

"Welcoming my new Raptor Team mates Devean George and Antoine Wright ! Welcome to TDOT!"

If Dirk Nowitzki was on Twitter, he might be expressing similar excitement.

Both the Raptors and Mavs have made big improvements this summer, capped by the deal that took all of Wednesday to happen. Neither squad is at the same level as the Lakers, Celtics, Cavs or Magic. But in an offseason where keeping payroll down is sometimes more of a priority than increasing wins, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Raptors president Bryan Colangelo have sent a message to their teams and their fans: We are getting better.

Cuban's own late Wednesday tweet spelled out how hard he's been working to improve the Mavs: "Its been a long day of looking at spreadsheets, reading NBA cap rules and rubbing my eyes"

Cuban wanted Marion and he got him, somehow figuring a way to acquire the four-time All-Star in a sign-and-trade deal that paid him more than the mid-level exception and still allowed the Raptors to acquire Hedo Turkoglu. The move was the capper on what has been an impressive summer for the Mavs so far.

For some reason (probably because the idea was ridiculous in the first place), Cuban wasn't able to get -- as one Dallas-area writer had proposed a few months ago -- Chris Paul from the Hornets for expiring contracts. Cuban brought back Jason Kidd, overpaying to do so. But Kidd had a solid season last year, is still an effective floor leader, and by bringing him back, the Mavs can maintain the momentum they built at the end of last season.

By adding Marcin Gortat (assuming the Magic don't match his offer sheet), Dallas gets a more mobile center and a better fit with Kidd than Erick Dampier. With Marion, the Mavs get much-needed athleticism, an all-purpose defender and somebody that Kidd can feed on the break (Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki don't exactly run the floor well).

The Mavs could afford to let Wright go after signing defensive specialist Quinton Ross on Wednesday. Overall, Dallas has added depth, defense and speed. They're pretty stacked with talent as well, led by the former MVP Nowitzki. Among Western Conference contenders, only L.A. and San Antonio are surer bets to be a top-four seed in April.

The Raptors, meanwhile, may be headed back to the Playoffs after a dismal 33-49 season. Before working Wednesday's four-way, sign-and-trade deal, the Raptors looked like they were sacrificing their depth in order to bring in Turkoglu. And rookie DeMar DeRozan, the No. 9 overall pick who likely isn't ready to contribute, looked like he would be thrown in the fire right away.

With Wright and George, Toronto gets guys that can teach DeRozan the ropes and keep him from hitting the rookie wall in December. And we mustn't forget the pre-Draft trade that brought in Reggie Evans to provide some desperately needed rebounding. Evans can do the dirty work that starting center Andrea Bargnani cannot.

Of course, Colangelo's best work was in convincing Turkoglu that Toronto was his next home and perhaps dispelling the notion that high caliber free agents don't want to come to Canada. Turkoglu will take a load off Bosh's shoulders and give the Raptors a second go-to guy.

Even if all the moves don't work out perfectly for Toronto, at least Bosh knows team management wants to win, and is willing to do whatever it takes to surround him with talent. And next year, when he makes a decision about his future, Bosh may realize that not many teams can say the same.
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