TORONTO — Hours before his Raptors took on the Nets at the Air Canada Centre, DeMar DeRozan took a moment to lather praise on a man that helped him to where he is today. Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors former general manager, the man that drafted him, “is one of the best in whatever organization or players that he’s working for.”
It’s looking more and more that the Nets could use someone like him. Especially after another fourth-quarter swoon, and yet another loss.
This time, the Nets squandered strong performances by Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson — in addition to a nine-point third-quarter lead — on the way to a 112-100 loss. It’s their eighth loss in nine games.
Kyle Lowry led all scorers with 31 points, and DeRozan had 30. Lopez had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Johnson had 22 and went 3-for-4 from three-point range, while Donald Sloan had 13 points and eight rebounds.
All of this makes their extensive search for a general manager all the more urgent. Turning around these Nets could prove to be a gargantuan task — they don’t have control of their own draft pick until 2019 — and Colangelo has a proven track record of improving struggling franchises. Monday, the former GM of the Suns and Raptors got a glowing report card from both DeRozan and Sixers coach Mike D’Antoni, who headed the Suns during Colangelo’s reign.
“He’s one of the most stand-up guys I’ve known, I’ve ever met coming into this business,” DeRozan said after the Raptors’ shootaround. “He gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. I credit a lot of my success to him. He’s one of those stand-up, honest guys. He works extremely hard.”
As GM and president of the Raptors, Colangelo drafted DeRozan ninth overall in 2009. He’s also heavily credited with restructuring a franchise that finished fourth place in the Atlantic in the 2005-2006 season, and then first place the year after that — Colangelo’s first full season at the helm. Though he stepped down in 2013, his reputation for turning losers into winners doesn’t exist solely north of the border.
He has “a lot” of strong points, D’Antoni said, adding, “I hope he gets back in the league somewhere quick. But he reshaped, when I was there with the Suns — unbelievable. He reshaped Toronto. He does a terrific job. He’s one of the best minds I’ve worked with.”
He drafted Amar’e Stoudemire and unloaded Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway for the cap space they needed to bring on Steve Nash. Under his tenure, the Suns went from 13th place in the Western Conference during the 2003-2004 season to No. 1 the next year. They finished first in the Pacific for three straight years and went to the conference finals twice in that time.
With their 31st loss of the season, the Nets are inching closer and closer to the Lakers as the second-worst team in the league. Last night, they led for a majority of the third quarter before the Raptors went ahead in the fourth behind some sloppy defense from Bojan Bogdanovic. He fouled Kyle Lowry, who hit both of his shots for 91-90 lead, and then sunk a jumper 30 seconds later.
The Nets tied it at 98 before Terrence Ross hit a left-wing three-pointer. A steal under the Nets basket on the next possession led to a loud dunk by Ross and sent the reeling Nets to a timeout. Both of those baskets ignited the 14-0 Raptors’ run that put the game out of reach.
with Al Iannazzone