Last summer, Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo watched his star player Chris Bosh leave town for greener pastures in Miami.
One year and one lockout later, and it appears to him as business as usual, with the only change being the names seeking a way out.
It's not LeBron, Carmelo, Stoudemire or Bosh, but this free agency period has Chris Paul and Dwight Howard using their considerable leverage (impending free agency which would leave their current team with nothing) to find their way to preferred locales.
While it hasn't worked for Howard yet, Paul is now in Los Angeles after a blockbuster trade between the Hornets and Clippers.
"We had a system that was supposedly going to be fixed or we were attempting to fix to prevent some of these situations," said Colangelo, a guest on Off the Record Wednesday afternoon. "What we do have is a revised system that still allows for some player movement like this and you're going to have a handful of players, those key, top stars always try to dictate where they go and those preferred destinations are usually the major markets.
"(Places like) L.A., New York, Chicago, and maybe a few ancillary markets where they are having some success or there's something sexy about the place, like warm weather in Miami or something to that effect."
Toronto currently is not one of those locales. Not only did they lose Bosh, but they finished with a dismal 22-60 record last season which put them second last in the Eastern Conference. Jay Triano was relieved of his duties as head coach, and the Raptors handed the reins to defensive-minded Dwane Casey, who comes over after helping deliver a title with the Dallas Mavericks last year.
As much as Colangelo would have liked to see more change from the lockout, he understands what he and the organization are up against.
"You want to change it, but player movement was one of the key issues for the (NBA) Players' Association and their position here through this labour stoppage. But at the end of the day, you're going to have teams like us competing again through those conventional means where you build through the draft, you build through free agency," he said. "We're going to be doing things in a different way. We're a great market, there's a lot of things that we can sell here and right now we're instilling a new system and a new culture and we're excited about where we're going."
For now, that destination includes Andrea Bargnani. The first overall pick of the 2006 draft has been much maligned during his time in Toronto. Colangelo agreed that the smooth shooting seven-footer needed to get stronger, but defended the 5-year, $50 million deal he signed him to in the summer of 2009.
"He's somewhat of an enigma. Here you have a guy who averages 22 points and six rebounds and still people think he's got a terrible contract. Where he is slotted in terms of his salary is as a tier three player," Colangelo said. "If you look at any other roster, the makeup, the dollars are equal to what a No. 3 guy would make."
In fact, Colangelo conceded that the Raptors big man was a person of interest in this rumour-wild offseason.
"There are a number of teams interested (in Bargnani) – we were actually brought into the conversations with respect to the Chris Paul and even Dwight Howard to L.A. possibilities, where Andrea was a piece that was of interest to the teams involved," he said.
"Having said that, we're going to keep him as long as he's a part of what we're doing here. I said nobody on this team is untradeable. We're trying to get better, we're adding young players. The most recent drafts (have produced) DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Jonas Valanciunas – who will be coming and he's a true centre prospect and a bright spot in our future – but Andrea should be a nice complimentary piece to all those players as they're developing through this.
"We should also have another high draft pick in this draft, and it's a very deep talent pool; we're excited about what we see now."