3. Chris Bosh keeps improving. Bosh
reports none of the usual fatigue from playing for the Olympic gold medal last summer. His scoring (24.1 ppg), shooting (52.6 percent) and rebounding (10.4) are all up.
"If anything, it helped me,'' Bosh
said of his summer with USA Basketball. "You put some of the best players in the NBA on the same team, so when we started practicing it became like a competition. Who can be the best basketball player, the best defender, the best scorer -- unspoken things that guys try to compete over. We didn't take any days off. We tried to guard hard every single time we stepped out on the floor, whether it was a game or practice. We showed great concentration, but at the same time it was fun.''
coach Sam Mitchell: "Someone reminded me the other night that Chris is still only 24 years old. He's been around a while, but he's still a very young player. He has a chance to be something special. I tell him this all the time: He can be an All-Star, OK. But there's another level he can get to. And I think he's trying to get to another level.''
Bosh should continue to develop a more complementary relationship with Jermaine O'Neal, who is averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds as he recovers from two years of injuries while fitting himself in.
"It was a little tough at first trying to get used to him,'' Bosh
said. "We need to get him the ball inside, and I wasn't really used to playing with a guy who can do well in the post like that.
"But as time has gone on, we've gotten more time together, and I see his tendencies. I know the different spots to be at when he has the ball, so I can make more space for him. And I see what he does when I have the ball, so it's working out pretty well.''
2. Jose Calderon may be the best point guard in the East
. He leads the conference at 9.0 assists and is No. 1 among NBA starters in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.1 to 1).
"He's a scoring point guard who can really get people the ball,'' O'Neal said. "He's not a real big break-the-defense-down type of point guard.''
Calderon drew the attention of Kevin Garnett, who guarded him in the third quarter as the Celtics were coming back Monday from a 15-point deficit against the Raptors. Garnett waved a finger in his face while picking up the defense full-court, but Calderon
yelled right back at him. The officials did Toronto a favor by declining to interrupt the exchange by whistling Garnett for taunting: It was a defining moment for the Spanish guard.
The crucial improvement for Calderon
has been his three-point shooting; he made 16.3 percent as a rookie in 2005-06, but this year he's hitting better than 40 percent just as he did last season.
"The first year was bad, terrible,'' he said. "Coach was really hard on me every time, and I don't know, I thought about getting back to Europe because maybe it wasn't my time to be here. But I worked hard during that summer, and everything paid off, and I'm feeling happy to make the decision to stay in this league.''
After sharing the position with T.J. Ford the past two seasons, Calderon
suddenly needs backup help. He's averaging 36.3 minutes and appeared exhausted in the fourth quarter of the loss at Boston.
He's too busy to worry about making the All-Star team for the first time.
"I don't know what's going to happen in February,'' Calderon
said. "Right now, I just try to make plays, make things happen for my team, and if the coaches and the people vote for you, that's perfect. But I don't feel upset if I don't go. It's not in my job to decide.''
1. Toronto has become a stable market.
A decade ago, it was viewed as a fragile NBA environment, but that changed with the rise of Vince Carter, who drew national TV coverage in the States while introducing Canadians to the NBA. They remained plugged into the team during the fallow years before the emergence of Bosh
and team president Bryan Colangelo, who was hired from the Suns in 2006.
American players don't complain nearly as much as they used to about playing in Canada, though financial concerns remain.
"What got them afraid was the tax situation of having to pay Canadian taxes and U.S. taxes,'' O'Neal said. "It's gotten better, but it's still there. That's why guys are still veering away from coming across the border to Toronto.''
O'Neal said he loves the city and its support of the Raptors.
"The diversity in the city has been amazing,'' he said. "It's basically like New York City, but a cleaner version. I'm pretty happy about being there.''
"I knew about the [tax] situation before the trade was made,'' said O'Neal, who declined to talk specific numbers. "We tried to make some things happen [to ease the burden]; it didn't happen. But sometimes you've got to take a couple of steps back in order to take five steps forward. I've made a lot of money in this league, and I just wanted to be somewhere where I had an opportunity of winning. Sometimes you've got to pay the price financially to get to where you want to be.''