Despite what looked like some positive improvements, last season was another step back for Toronto Raptors. Clearly management felt a change in direction was necessary to get the club back on the right path to success.
The 2003-04 season started off with the hiring former Pistons’ assistant coach Kevin O’Neill as head coach replacing Lenny Wilkens. The ping-pong balls at the Draft Lottery didn’t appear to help the Toronto Raptors at the outset but getting Georgia Tech centre Chris Bosh with the 4th pick proved to be the most positive move the team was able to make.
The Toronto Raptors tied a NBA record for fewest points scored in a game by dropping a 73-56 contest in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on November 1st. This offensive drought continued throughout the season. The Toronto Raptors finished last in the league in points scored.
With the team 8-8 on December 1st, general manager Glen Grunwald swung a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls acquiring Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, and Lonny Baxter in exchange for Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, and Chris Jefferies.
This new move made an impact quickly as the Toronto Raptors reeled off a five-game winning streak after the trade, including a team single-game record 17 three-pointers made on December 3rd. But, as if someone turned off a switch, the Toronto Raptors lost momentum right away, following the winning streak by going 1-6 in their next seven games.
Although the offence struggled, the defence was thriving. On February 8th, the Toronto Raptors held the Golden State Warriors to only two points in the fourth quarter of an 84-81 road victory, tying an NBA record. After winning their next game on February 10th, the Toronto Raptors sat at 25-25, with just one game before the All-Star Break, when that old injury bug came back to, once again, plague the team.
Jalen Rose (fracture in left hand, missed 16 games), Vince Carter (sprain in left ankle, missed 6 games), and Alvin Williams (knee surgery, 25 games) all fell victim as the club limped to a record of 8-24 the rest of the way. Oh, and those good luck jerseys? The Toronto Raptors went 2-11 wearing them, losing their final nine. The Toronto Raptors ended up missing the post-season for the second straight season with a final record of 33-49.
On April 1st, the team relieved general manager Glen Grunwald of his duties, two weeks later head coach Kevin O’Neill was dismissed on April 16th.
The one shining spot on the season was rookie Chris Bosh, who finished the season first among league rookies in blocks and rebounds, earning himself a spot on the got milk? NBA All-Rookie First Team.