Raptors threatening to slide out of Eastern playoff picture Staff

3/16/2010 6:29:09 PM

With the promise of a 15-7 run from January to mid-February now a distant memory, the Toronto Raptors are looking for answers to a slump that has seen them slide below .500 and almost out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Raptors have lost five in a row and nine of their last ten games, with a 102-96 decision over the New York Knicks on Mar. 5 as the lone victory. They now sit in eighth in the East at 32-33 with the Chicago Bulls (31-34) within striking distance. The only good news for the Raptors is that the Bulls are also sputtering, having lost eight in a row.

The bad news is nobody on the Raptors is sure how to change their fortunes.

With free agency looming for Chris Bosh, a season out of the playoff would seem to all but pack his bags for him. He's a competitor who wants to win and refuses to shoulder the blame for this losing streak on his own.

When asked by reporters if he thought the slide reflected in him, he gave a flat "No," before adding; "What else do you want me to do? Score 30, 40 points a game? Twenty blocks a game? That's not my game. That's not what I do."

Bosh, when healthy, has been what he is expected to be, the team's best player. But his supporting cast has not been very supportive over recent weeks.

"I can understand if we lose the game going down fighting but we're not fighting at all,” said Bosh following Saturday's loss to Golden State. "Time is ticking and it's counting down, and if we keep playing the way we are right now, we're going to be on the outside looking in," said Bosh. "Guys need to step it up, period."

The team responded with a 109-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

At practice following the Saturday-Sunday back-to-back, Bosh called head coach Jay Triano's tone a "teaching" one.

"It's the right tone," Bosh told reporters. "Yelling and screaming is a waste of breath, I've always felt. We're professionals, if you want to scream at a bunch of grown men, good luck."

Triano will be proven as an even tempered man if the current slide continues and he doesn't lose it. With the 42-23 Atlanta Hawks and 41-24 Oklahoma City Thunder up in the next two games, things do not look good.

While a losing streak does reflect badly on players and their coach, there is one man with perhaps more to lose this season than anyone else, president and general manager Brian Colangelo.

With his star player a threat to bolt onto the free agent market and a disappointing result last season, Colangelo made several offseason moves. He brought in Hedo Turkoglu and added Jarrett Jack among others. The moves seemed to make sense, but while Turkoglu has had flashes of being what the team envisioned when they acquired him, he has not lived up to his billing. 

"What did I say at the beginning of the year?" Colangelo told the Globe and Mail in reference to the team's slow start. "I said blame me. I'm the one who put them together. I'm the guy. If you want to blame someone, blame me."

If the team stumbles out of a playoff spot this season and Bosh walks, there is little doubt where the blame will end up.