TORONTO — Hours before his Raptors took on the Nets at Air Canada Centre on Monday night, DeMar DeRozan took a moment to praise a man who helped him get where he is today. Former Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, who drafted him, “is one of the best in whatever organization or players that he’s working for,” DeRozan said.
It’s looking more and more as though the Nets could use someone like Colangelo. 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 — in a 112-100 loss, their eighth in nine games.
Kyle Lowry scored 31 points and DeRozan had 30 for the Raptors, who broke a 98-98 tie with a 14-0 run. Lopez had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Johnson added 22 points and Donald Sloan had 13 points and eight rebounds.
“We’re still searching,” coach Tony Brown said. “We need two or three more guys to kind of give us something.”
That, along with the looming trade deadline, makes the Nets’ search for a general manager all the more urgent.
Colangelo’s name has come up repeatedly, particularly because turning around these Nets could prove to be a gargantuan task (they don’t have control of their own draft pick until 2019) and because Colangelo has a track record of improving struggling franchises.
On Monday, the former GM of the Suns and Raptors got a glowing report card from DeRozan and 76ers 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. “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 credited with restructuring a franchise that finished fourth in the Atlantic Division in 2005-06 and first the year after that — Colangelo’s first 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.”
With the Suns — then owned by Jerry Colangelo, his father — Bryan Colangelo drafted Amar’e Stoudemire and unloaded Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway for the cap space the Suns needed to bring in Steve Nash. During Colangelo’s tenure, they went from 13th in the Western Conference in 2003-04 to No. 1 the next season. They finished first in the Pacific Division for three straight seasons and went to the conference finals twice.
Meanwhile, the Nets (11-31) are finding frustrating ways to lose. The Raptors’ Terrence Ross hit a three-pointer for a 101-98 lead with 6:11 to go. The Nets would not score again until Johnson hit a driving floater with 1:38 left to end the Raptors’ 14-0 run. “We had too many breakdowns defensively,” Johnson said. “We weren’t patient . . . We gave ourselves a chance, but the last two, three minutes just unfolded for us.”
It’s an all-too-common refrain, one the Nets hope someone with the right skills can change.
With Al Iannazzone