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Old 09-26-2012, 07:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
jeffb
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Raptors SN: Raptors on the cusp?

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A year ago, it was tough to be a fan of the Raptors as even before the opening tip-off it was pretty clear that Toronto was not making the playoffs.

But that was then and this is now according to team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo.

"Our goals and target has changed this year," Colangelo told sportsnet.ca on Wednesday. "Last year again, was very much about building and that meant that as much as we wanted to win, building entails allowing players to grow on the court and in real time.

"This year, the target has changed, our objective has changed and our goal is to make the playoffs. I'm not saying we're going to make the playoffs but we're certainly going to be in the fight as that stretch run occurs."

The spotlight is set to shine even brighter on Colangelo and company as an NHL lockout has left the Maple Leafs on the sidelines. The Raptors boss is relishing the opportunity to showcase his squad this winter.

"I hate the fact that hockey is in the situation that they are in," Colangelo said. "But I love the fact that we will be the beneficiary of some of that."

Colangelo is well aware that the extra attention could be a double-edged sword. If the Raptors play well, fans will tune in; should the team perform poorly, they risk turning away those new fans permanently. But Colangelo believes that the additions to the roster will help keep the team competitive and the fans interested.

"I think we've got a chance to have a really special unit, chemistry-wise, that might possibly be able to achieve more than they might just based on talent alone."

Of course, Colangelo should be painting a bright, rosy picture of his team heading into the new season but it will take a lot of dominoes falling into place for this team to have a realistic opportunity to push for a playoff spot.

One of the team's major offseason acquisitions was Kyle Lowry, who will share time at the point guard spot with incumbent Jose Calderon. The Spanish veteran was one of the team's better players a season ago and head coach Dwane Casey will need to figure out how the pieces fit together.

"I think as it is, we've got two great point guards and I think the fact that we've got both of them in a situation where they're going to be able to play together and work together and sometimes be on the court together -- I think it bodes well for what we've got," Colangelo said.

Many believe that Calderon could be traded before the season is over as he only has one year remaining on his contract. The Raptors' biggest weakness last season was at small forward and if they were to allow Calderon's contract to expire, that cap space could also be used to fill that spot on the roster next summer.

Colangelo said he listens to all offers and weighs them on how they would make the franchise better.

"We constantly look for ways to make this team better and if the right deal comes along regarding any player on our team, I've got to listen and I've got to look at it strategically and try to make the right decision," he explained.

"Don't think for a minute that there's not a moment in any day that I am not thinking about a way to make it better."

Nielsen on NBA: Raptors on the cusp? - sportsnet.ca
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