HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Chris Bosh is gone.
Hedo Turkoglu is, too.
There aren’t any mixed feelings around here about the Toronto Raptors after a seemingly empty offseason that has seen them go from a bubble playoff team to rebuilding mode.
It’s time for a fresh start and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo made that clear with the way cleaned up after Bosh’s departure to Miami (via free agency), where he’ll team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in a title chase that will be the envy of so many in Toronto and beyond.
The holdovers in T-Dot — a relatively motley crew including the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems as well as newcomers Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa, Ed Davis, Julian Wright, David Andersen and Solomon Alabi — will have to come together quickly if the Raptors want to erase the nasty taste of summer from the mouths of their fans.
Still, we have to ask, exactly whose team is this now?
Jack provided HT with some answers to that and more after a recent workout:
HANG TIME: It’s been a tough summer. What’s the internal outlook in terms of what kind of team you’ll put on the floor this season?
JARRETT JACK: It was rough when the trade got rescinded that was on the table with Charlotte. Basically, both teams agreed and then I guess at the last-minute it got refused. If we could have added Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler to the team that we already had that would have given us a shot at being a legitimate team in the Eastern Conference. So I think that set us back a little bit. From what I understand we are still exploring some avenues to try to add to our team and hopefully we can make it happen. But if not, we’ll just have to go with what we’ve got.
HT: Going into the summer, when everybody was still in play in free agency, was there a feeling that even if you didn’t keep Chris (which seemed bleak even then) you’d get something in return to help rebuild this team?
JJ: Sure, assuming that Chris would just got traded straight up and it wasn’t going to be a sign and trade, we figured no human being in this lifetime was going to do something like that and leave $30 million on the table. But it was a situation where they worked it out and he didn’t leave $30 million on the table, we were able to get a trade exception back in exchange. We’re still trying to make some moves. And it’s not over until training camp starts. We’ve still got a little time, and it only takes a phone call and two sides to agree. So you never know how quickly things could change.
HT: You know they’re talking championship in Miami, Boston, Orlando, Chicago and places like that. What’s the attitude for a team like yours, when you know the climb is going to be much steeper than some of your competitors?
JJ: It’s definitely steeper. We just have to find our own identity, really. All these other teams have established stars and we have a pretty young group of guys. We have guys that really haven’t established themselves in the NBA yet. I think once we do that, once we establish ourselves individually and as a team, once we decide what brand of basketball we’re going to play night in and night out, we’ll be fine.
HT: When you are watching all that goes on in a wild and crazy summer like this, with players going from this team to that one and the balance of power shifting the way it did, how do you stay focused only on your team?
JJ: I just worry about the things that affect me, my teammates, the organization I represent and let that other stuff be what it is. You really can’t worry about where everybody else is going or what they are doing. I’m just worrying about how we’re going to get better, what steps we’re going to take, what kind of positive moves that can be made so we can be a factor in the Eastern Conference. All you can do is mind your own business and see where it lands at the end of the day.
HT: From afar it seemed sort of strange last season watching the Raptors’ point guard situation. You started 43 games and Jose started 39 games, but it was hard to tell who was “the guy.” One minute it looks like your team and the next it seems like Calderon’s team. Who leads from that spot this season?
JJ: Just play, man. And that’s the frame of mind I’m going in with. If they have me leading the team and running the squad, then that’s what it is. If not, then I’ll come off the bench and do whatever I have to do and keep doing what I’ve been doing since I got in the league. Even if I wasn’t starting, I was coming in off the bench as a positive influence and trying to lead the team on the floor when I’m out there. I’m always trying to be the best leader I can possibly be whenever I’m out there.
HT: With such a passionate and knowledgeable fan base in Toronto that’s thirsty for a winner, how do you think they’ll respond to this team this season?
JJ: I think they’ll follow our lead. If we come out there and play a tough brand of physical basketball night in and night out, win or lose, they’ll respect us. To me, Toronto is a blue collar city. It reminds me of New York, Philly and those type of fans that are really passionate and rowdy. They definitely make their presence felt, if you’re playing bad or well they’ll let you know. So I think it’s up to us. If we go out there and show every single night that we’re hungry and just truly passionate about the game, they will respond to that. And honestly, that’s what you love about them the most as a player.
HT: I know you and Chris are good friends and have been for years. So you’ve obviously spoken to him about what they have going on in Miami. I know you guys have business to handle in Toronto this season, but you have to be curious to see how things play out down there, don’t you?
JJ: Yeah, I’m curious. The bottom line is, one person is going to have to be left out. And I’m not pointing fingers or anything. That’s just real talk. It’s very rare that you have three superstar guys in this league and everybody get’s their fair share amount of touches and whatever. And I know they all “compromised” some things to play together in the first place. But it’s one thing to say we’re going to do it and something else to actually swallow that pill and be that third option. Going from a superstar to that third option, when you’ve been “the guy” on a team for four or five years of whatever … it’s different. It’s like when you go from college to the league and you’re not that dude anymore and you have to take that step back. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. Like I said, somebody is going to get squeezed out of the equation down there. And that’s just how it is.