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News » Raptors look to bounce back


Raptors look to bounce back


Raptors look to bounce back Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani pose with menacing glares in an ad campaign for the upcoming Toronto Raptors season, the only three familiar faces from this time last year.

But the picture could get fuzzy over the coming months as Bosh heads into a season of uncertainty and the Raptors may be seeing the last of their team captain and poster boy.

The six-year veteran appears poised to join an illustrious free agent group this coming off-season that could include LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Questions about the fate of the Raptors' franchise player are sure to swirl around the team as it tries to bounce back from a dismal 2008-09 season - and just how well it can do that will go a long way in determining what jersey Bosh will be wearing come this time next year.

"I just want to be on a contender," Bosh said when training camp opened. "Hopefully this team this year, we're starting to talk about it, we're changing our focus this year, and hopefully we can be one of those contenders, but we have a lot of work to do."

The revamped Raptors open the season at home to James and his Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday (The Score, 7 p.m. ET), intent on improving on their 33-49 mark.

"The team failed miserably last year," said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. "There was no one more embarrassed than me."

The Raptors missed the playoffs, and as soon as they trudged off the court following their final game Colangelo got to work. He signed head coach Jay Triano to a contract extension - the Canadian was named interim coach after Sam Mitchell was fired in December, but had been able to do little more than to try to plug the dam.

He toughened up the team by trading Jason Kapono for bruiser Reggie Evans, acquired all-star and all-around player Hedo Turkoglu, who's known for poise under pressure when the clock's winding down, and selected swingman DeMar DeRozan - whose dunking ability has already drawn comparisons to Vince Carter - with the No. 9 pick in the draft.

By the time training camp opened only Bosh, Calderon and Bargnani remained from the previous year's camp roster.

"Sometimes you sit back and marvel at the amount of change, the volume of change," Colangelo said. "You look at where we were last year at training camp and three guys remain. (Triano) and I talk all the time about how if we were going to walk into last year's gym and pick three guys and let's change everything, it would be the three guys that we've chosen."

A beefed-up Bosh, who led the team with a career high 22.7 points plus 10.0 rebounds last year, showed up at camp 20 pounds heavier after an off-season of hard training and careful dieting - four to five meals a day of vegetables, chicken and fish and no fast food.

"I got with my trainers and they told me, ?you need to put weight on, you need to get bigger and stronger,' " Bosh said.

Calderon spent the off-season strengthening the hamstring that kept him out of 14 games last season - and limited his mobility for most of the games he did play, a key factor in Toronto's woeful season.

Colangelo wasn't taking any chances this season, acquiring a legitimate backup in Jarrett Jack, who shared starting point guard duties with T.J. Ford last season in Indiana.

Bargnani, meanwhile, thrived under the direction of Triano last season and appears poised for a strong campaign.

Turkoglu is one of the biggest pieces in the Raptors puzzle. The Turkish player is coming off a career season that saw him lead Orlando to the NBA final against the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists and shone in the post-season, scoring a career playoff-high 29 points against Cleveland.

Turkoglu was late to begin the pre-season after a long summer of national team duty, and it remains to be seen if he'll be the tonic for Toronto.

Evans, whose 5.7 offensive boards ranked him fourth in the NBA last year, is the tough guy Toronto never had, quickly turning up the intensity at Raptors practice and earning fans in the pre-season games he played before injuring his ankle.

He doesn't demand the ball but will kill himself trying to get it for his teammates, a quality Triano loves.

"He's going to rebound everything, he's going to give an honest effort, he's going to protect his teammates. We haven't had a guy like that in the past, a guy who will step up for his teammates, almost like a team enforcer," Triano said.

Having the hard-nosed Evans on the floor will definitely bolster Toronto's defence, always the team's one glaring weakness. "You can score points all day," Evans said. "if you're trying to sell tickets go and score some points, if you're trying to win games, go and play some defence."

With the addition of DeRozan, Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems, the Raptors are vastly more athletic than they were last season.

The task for Triano, with so many new players to assimilate into a new system, is developing team unity before the season gets away from them.

"We're going to have to work harder than other teams because there are a lot of teams in the east that have the same nucleus coming back," Bosh said. "We're going to have to do things to make up for that, whether it's practising longer, doing more tape or walk-throughs, talking to each a little more, working on our games a little more.

"Something is going to have to give us that edge to make up some ground."

The 25-year-old Bosh knows that making a championship contender out of a team that won 33 games last season is a huge leap. But the all-star power forward said as long as he's enjoying playing this season, everything else will follow.

"You have to be happy to do your job the right way, in order to do your job to maximize your potential," Bosh said. "If you're not happy it's just not going to work.

"It's more of a feeling. I'm really not expecting anything at all, I'm not expecting to make this huge leap, I just want to see what happens at the end of 82 games and maybe put ourselves in the position to maybe make some noise hopefully in the playoffs."

Raptors facts

Last season: 33-49, missed playoffs.

Projected starting five: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani.

Additions: Turkoglu (trade, Magic), DeRozan (draft, USC), Jarrett Jack (free agent, Pacers), Reggie Evans (trade, 76ers), Antoine Wright (trade, Mavericks), Marco Belinelli (trade, Warriors), Rasho Nesterovic (free agent, Pacers), Amir Johnson (trade, Bucks), Sonny Weems (trade, Bucks).

Subtractions: Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Joey Graham, Carlos Delfino, Roko Ukic.

Coach: Jay Triano (25-40 as interim coach last season).

Big picture: With only three players back from the squad that opened last season, the key will be in getting players on the same page quickly.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 24, 2009

 

 
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