WHAT WILL Bosh
1 After six full seasons in a Toronto Raptors
uniform, it's finally time for Chris Bosh
to put up or shut up. He has until Oct. 31 to sign a contract extension with the only NBA team he's played for or he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Talented 25-year-old power forwards who routinely score 20 points, grab 10 rebounds, shoot 50 per cent from the field and get to the foul line on a regular basis are rare commodities; and he's a good employee, too. But does that get him the six-year, $130-million (all currency U.S.) contract he craves? Should it? As the current NBA salary-cap system heads into its second decade, there's a greater awareness that being the best player on a team doesn't translate into being the best-paid player in the NBA, which is what a maximum contract means, by definition. Now that Raptors
president Bryan Colangelo spared no detail in surrounding Bosh
with as talented cast as Bosh
has had, it seems reasonable to expect that Bosh
- as a max player - could lift the group into the postseason and help them stay there for more than one round for the first time in his career. He's never been shy about putting pressure on the organization as questions about his contract status have swirled. Now the pressure is on him.
CAN TRIANO COACH?
2 When seeking a comparison for Colangelo's decision to hand the head-coaching duties to Jay Triano, a common first stop has been to make reference to the hiring of Mike D'Antoni to coach the Phoenix Suns, who sparked the ever-compelling, Steve Nash-led 70-seconds-or-less desert track meet that resulted in 58 wins a year for four consecutive years. Like Triano, D'Antoni was a little-known NBA assistant coach with whom Colangelo took a chance. In D'Antoni's case, it launched one of the most accomplished coaching careers in recent NBA history. But D'Antoni had already been an NBA head coach and, more significantly, was one of the most respected coaches in Europe before returning to the NBA. Triano's NBA coaching experience before taking over as the Raptors
head man last November consisted of acting as an assistant coach - with widely varying degrees of responsibility and input - to Sam Mitchell, Kevin O'Neill and a very late-model Lenny Wilkens. His high point as an international coach was leading Canada to a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Olympics and, prior to that, even at Simon Fraser University he failed to achieve a signature success. That said, Triano has the everlasting respect of Nash and Bosh
and by all accounts has shown a confident hand when assisting Team USA in the previous summers. He's got a full training camp to work with and what should be a deeper and more talented roster than he had last season, but he'll still need to learn on the job - and quickly.
WHO'S THE NEW SHOOTER?
3 Last season, it wasn't too hard to pinpoint where the Raptors' lineup fell short. With Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon at shooting guard and small forward, respectively, Toronto lacked the scoring punch (Moon) and athleticism (Parker) typically associated with the wing positions on good NBA teams, and even the arrival of Shawn Marion at the all-star break failed to move the needle in any significant way. According to 82games.com, the Raptors
ranked 23rd and 25th, , respectively, at the two positions. The signing of Hedo Turkoglu in the off-season has cleared up the small forward spot, but it remains to be seen exactly what emerges at the shooting guard position. Rookie DeMar DeRozan, drafted ninth overall, has impressed the Raptors' staff in summer league and off-season workouts, but it remains to be seen if he's got the offensive polish to punish other teams that will inevitably rotate off him to help on Bosh. Jarrett Jack, signed for four years and $20-million from the Indiana Pacers, solidifies the Raptors
point guard spot but look for him to play significant minutes at shooting guard as well, even though he stands just 6 foot 3. Italian Marco Belinelli will also see minutes there and will get a chance to prove he's an NBA player - or maybe Don Nelson knew something when he jettisoned him from the Golden State Warriors for next to nothing.
WHAT NOW, BARGNANI?
4 His time is now. Andrea Bargnani
has been to varying degrees promising and disappointing through three full NBA seasons. Only twice in his career has he had a full month of the schedule where he's shot better than 50 per cent from the floor; six times he's shot less than 40 per cent. He's had just one month when he's grabbed more than seven rebounds a game and he's never averaged eight. And as tantalizing as last season was - he averaged 18.9 points on 46.8-per-cent shooting after December, while showing new authority and vigour in the paint - he was flat or worse in the first two months of the season. It's convenient to suggest it was former coach Sam Mitchell who couldn't get through to Bargnani, but he's not the only coach who has failed to unlock the seven-footers' considerable talents. His turns on the Italian national team have been without distinction. Signing Bargnani
to a five-year, $50-million extension could prove a master stroke if the last half of last season ends up being a building block and he begins to resemble Dirk Nowitzki on the floor and not simply on the scouting report. If not it's a lot of money to spend on a hot-house flower.
HOW DO HEDO?
5 It's crunch time in one of the most important games your franchise has played. You get the ball over and over again down the stretch. You deliver a 25-point, 12-assist masterpiece in Game 7 at Boston Garden to help your team advanceto the Eastern Conference final. In the NBA final, you lead your team in scoring, shooting percentage, three-point shooting percentage and rank second in assists. You are one year removed from the best season in your career and almost never get hurt. You ask for a raise and your team says thanks, but no thanks, and trade for Vince Carter, instead. Oh, and your old general manager, Otis Smith, consoles the Portland Trail Blazers (left at the altar when the Raptors
swept in with a last-minute, five-year, $53-million offer) by telling them they aren't "missing anything." So what gives? There is no doubt that Turkoglu gives the Raptors
an additional playmaker on the floor, a luxury that should alter the club's offensive mix considerably and create a series of potential match-up nightmares for any opponent by running pick-and-rolls with Chris Bosh
and Andrea Bargnani, forcing teams to defend two big, mobile sweet-shooting players at once. But for all of Turkoglu's big-game heroics, consistency hasn't been his strong suit. And what kind of start will the 30-year-old get off to after playing deep into June for the first time in his career and then appearing in the European Championships in September? Inquiring Raptors
fans want to know.