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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 16.03.10
Raps need mental toughness
Bosh is back
Change is afoot in Raptorland, where the unplanned practice Monday attracted a Leafs-like media contingent.
There’s blood in the water and the sharks are beginning to circle.
But no matter what changes are in store for the visit by the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, there’s one change that cannot be measured in field-goal attempts, minutes played or any other statistical number.
Until the Raptors rediscover the mental toughness that surfaced in the wake of the team’s early season struggle, nothing substantive will occur.
Jose Calderon will be back in the starting unit, a move that is long overdue but one that clearly has upset Jarrett Jack, at least based on Jack’s terse comments.
Jack shouldn’t feel bad, but he does because he’s a professional and he takes pride in wanting to be the on-court leader.
It’s commendable, but the Raptors need to get out to better starts and they need to regroup better at halftime.
For one of the few times since the all-star break, the Raptors actually won a third quarter, outscoring Portland 29-24 on Sunday with Calderon on the floor when the period began.
DeMar DeRozan’s status as the starter at shooting guard must also be re-evaluated.
Antoine Wright would seem to be the most likely candidate to start.
“I think I’m back to where I was,’’ Bosh said after Monday’s practice. “My timing is better and I’m feeling better.”
Bosh is the key, no matter what anybody says or thinks.
When he is dominating and drawing defenders, so much gets opened from an offensive perspective. When he is controlling the boards, second-chance points are limited.
The moment Bosh turned his ankle on Feb. 17, the Raptors took a turn for the worse. In his absence, neither Hedo Turkoglu nor Andrea Bargnani, the team’s next two best players, were able to step up.
Bosh, meanwhile, doesn’t like looking at the standings.
“The fact of the matter is that we’re still in the playoffs," he said.
As early as last month, the Raptors were eyeing perhaps as high a spot as the fourth seed.
“I am concerned," head coach Jay Triano said of the team’s recent plight. “It’s not like we’ve stopped working.”
It was decided midway through the team’s four-game trip to the West that the Raptors would be best served to gather on Monday, an unusual move given the team had finished back-to-back games.The team took a red-eye charter from Portland following Sunday’s loss, arrived in Toronto at 7 a.m., and practised at 4 p.m.
Players, however, weren’t about to complain.
“Coaches are in charge," Bosh said.
Feschuk: Distracted Bosh playing out string?
“If you want to blame somebody for the way we’re playing, blame me,” Colangelo said late Monday afternoon.
It was late Monday after back-to-back games on the west coast, a red-eye flight home, a practice called on what was thought to be a day off.
“I’m the guy ultimately responsible,” he said, and then essentially put the onus on his players, not his coach, to find a way out of this dark NBA hole the Raptors find themselves in.
It is, frankly, a mess without any chance for real success this season. Not that long ago, the Raptors looked like a team on the upswing, looked to be building something tangible from a terrible start.
But they are back at terrible now, fighting for a playoff spot, in a no-win situation.
Should they miss the playoffs, which is plausible, this season will be considered hugely disappointing. Should they fight their way to seventh or eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, that makes them easy first-round fodder for Cleveland or Orlando.
Either way, there will be no happy endings, especially if the year is followed by the departure of Chris Bosh. All of which comes back to the man with the great wardrobe.
Raptors skip out as questions get tough
And witness the recent work of Chris Bosh, wherein he has appeared to throw up his hands and deflect all responsibility for a black hole of a slump that has seen Toronto lose five in a row and 10 of 13 since the all-star break. Blame the ankle injury that kept him out six games a while back, but there are those within the team who will tell you Bosh's injury has nothing to do with his diminished impact.
With his numbers topped up – he's averaging a career-best 24 points and 11 rebounds a game – the free-agent-to-be often looks like his mind is, er, elsewhere.
That's not to say he's made a decision to exit, because he hasn't said anything of the sort. And it's insane to argue the Raptors will be better off without him because the NBA system demands you hold on to your all-stars, period.
But note Bosh's answer when he was asked on Monday if yet another failed season would be a reflection on him.
"No. What else do you want me to do?" he said. "Do you want me to score 30, 40 points a game? Twenty blocks a game? That's not my game. That's not what I do. I try to get these guys going, and that's pretty much it. I'm not weak-minded by any means. I know that we're going to be good this year. I think we have time to turn it around. That's the plain fact."
Bosh doesn't think losses reflect poorly on him
But who slipped out of the gym as all eyes were on the embattled rookie head coach?
That would be Bryan Colangelo, the team president, general manager and architect of a house once again badly listing.
To his credit, Colangelo did eventually pause to answer for a roster questionable enough that it appears rookie DeMar DeRozan – the sacrificial lamb most often requested by those seeking a shake-up to the starting lineup – will maintain his starting job tomorrow night because the rival candidates are, in descending order of preference, Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright and someone playing in the NBA Development League right now.
“What did I say at the beginning of the year?” Colangelo said, referring to the Raptors' 7-13 start, which gave way to a 24-11 middle, which in turn has given way to a disturbing 1-9 slump with the finish line in sight.
“I said blame me. I'm the one who put them together. I'm the guy. If you want to blame someone, blame me.”
Who could Colangelo blame, were he in the mood?
Well, he could start with Turkoglu, who took his five-year, $53-million (all currency U.S.) deal but has yet to earn it.
Then Colangelo could look to Andrea Bargnani, the enigmatic seven-footer who has at times appeared to be a bargain for the five-year, $50-million contract extension Colangelo gave him last summer in an eight-figure show of faith.
In Sunday night's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Bargnani was embarrassed at the hands of LaMarcus Aldridge, who was taken second overall in the 2006 draft to Bargnani's No.1.
“That was disappointing,” said Colangelo, the closest he's ever come to pointing his finger at Bargnani.
And where was Bargnani while all this was going on?
Nowhere to be found.
NBA Insider: If Chris Bosh decides to leave Toronto, the Blazers should go after him
Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh expects to be given a maximum-value contract this summer as a free agent. He has been clear on that for a while now.
Still, there is the theory that players given those contracts should be A-level superstars, players that do not let their teams get in funks. Bosh's team is certainly in one, having lost their last five games, the five contests since Bosh returned from an ankle injury and stomach bug.
Bosh and the Blazers don't sound optimistic that Portland could be a potential destination for him.
"I think they're already set. Especially with the acquisition of (Marcus) Camby, and they have LaMarcus (Aldridge)," Bosh said. "They're pretty much locked up at the four position."
The Blazers also do not have enough room under the NBA's salary cap to sign a free agent of Bosh's stature.
The Blazers' scenario could change, though, if Bosh tells the Raptors that he is opting out of his contract and will not return to Toronto. And with the way the Raptors are playing these days -- five straight losses and nine losses in their last 10 games -- that's not a far-fetched possibility.
The normally mild-mannered Bosh harshly criticized the team after a loss at Golden State on Saturday. They were the toughest words yet from the normally reserved Bosh during his seven seasons in Toronto, which only led to increased speculation that he is done with the Raptors.
"I'm just trying to tell the truth," Bosh said. "I don't think anybody can dispute what I said."
If the Raptors don't think they can re-sign Bosh, they might purse a sign-and-trade deal, rather than lose him as a free agent without getting a player in return.
That scenario is the most likely method for the Blazers to acquire Bosh. But Portland likely would have to be willing to break up its young nucleus of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and Aldridge.
Any trade with Toronto would likely start with Aldridge. The two players are similar in height, weight and age. But that's where the similarities end.