Heading into the summer, any and all angst related to the Toronto Raptors
could be directed at general manager Bryan Colangelo. He was the person who assembled last year's 33-win roster, one that was supposed to be destined for much more than that.
But after overhauling two-thirds of that roster, Colangelo has regained some of that lost lustre in the eyes of Raptors' fans. Now the pressure falls to Jay Triano, who is on the verge of running his first training camp as an NBA head coach. And with 10 new players to familiarize himself with at the Raptors' training camp, which opens Sept. 29 in Ottawa, Triano knows what the theme will be.
"Building a team is going to be one of the biggest things that I do with so many new players," Triano said yesterday, as he served as guest drawmaster for the Woodbine Mile. "A lot of it is going to be teamwork, a lot of meetings, so they all understand what's expected of each and every guy and what I expect of them. And then there's got to become a familiarity between each other."
Triano, named permanent head coach in the off-season, certainly will not have an easy gig. On paper, the team is more talented than last year. But he faces challenges, including the spectre of Chris Bosh's free agency, which figures to be a distraction all season, and a brutal November schedule.
Triano will have far more depth to manage than last season while he was the interim coach. Additions Reggie Evans, Rasho Nesterovic, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright, among others, ensure that. But that could become an obstacle for Triano as he tries to work those players -- and uber-athletic rookie DeMar DeRozan -- into the rotation.
"We might start [DeRozan] off in games, let him play with a real good bunch of players because if we don't start him, maybe we have a hard time getting him in," Triano said, while clarifying the rookie's place in the starting five was not a sure thing.
"You can't let a No. 9 pick rot on the bench and not develop him."
Triano does not yet know how many players his rotation will consist of, or which players will fill it out. Training camp and the preseason will help, as will a coaches' retreat this weekend with his assistants -- newcomers Marc Iavaroni and Alvin Williams and returnees Alex English, Micah Nori and Eric Hughes.
A major talking point on the weekend will be defence. Hedo Turkoglu promises to make the Raptors
a more dangerous offensive team. But the starting unit -- Turkoglu, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon
and DeRozan -- does not figure to resemble the Bad Boys-era Pistons.
"I think it's obvious to people watching ... that we have to do it as a team. We have to have concepts that people are going to buy into," Triano said.
"We're not great one-on-one defenders. We have to be very sound with the principles that we're going to run at the defensive end of the floor, know where we're going to push guys and how we're going to play. That's part of what we're trying to figure out right now."
That process could take all of October, and given the roster turnover, even longer. But if it drags on much longer than that, Triano will be on the receiving end of the fans' angst.