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  Wed, October 15, 2003


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Minor stops could turn into major woes

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

Raptors rookie Chris Bosh's knowledge of life on the road in the NBA consists of trips to Grand Rapids, Mich., and Moline, Ill.

No wonder Bosh has adjusted so well to the pros. He probably thinks he's still in college.

"It is odd," the 19-year-old Bosh said with a smile yesterday before boarding the club's charter flight to Moline, where the Raptors will play a pre-season game against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight.

GLASS HALF FULL

"But maybe it's a good way to ease into (the NBA). It's not so overwhelming. I'm not dealing right away with big players and big arenas. That's how I'm looking at it, anyway."

Well, Bosh should be commended for seeing the glass as half full. But there's no denying the Raptors' pre-season schedule is rather unusual this year in that all four road games are in neutral sites, rather than in NBA cities. Besides Grand Rapids and Moline, the Raptors also will play in Bridgeport, Conn. (against the New Jersey Nets) and in St. John's, Nfld. (against the Cleveland Cavaliers).

Through the years the Raptors have been to virtually every nook and cranny in North America in the pursuit of pre-season competition. El Paso, Tex., Fort Wayne, Ind., Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., Buffalo, Halifax, Winnipeg, Saskatoon ... you know the old country song that goes, "I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere?" It could serve as the Raptors' theme music.

But since this is the first pre-season in which the only NBA arena the Raptors will see is their own, it certainly begs the question, how much is too much?

"I understand what the NBA is trying to do with these games," Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill said. "I know why we're going to these places. But to be honest, we'd rather be playing NBA teams in NBA arenas. That would be the best way to prepare."

Courts are courts in terms of size, of course, but conditions can vary wildly from place to place. And that can lead not only to inconveniences but to safety concerns.

There are plenty of things that can fall through the cracks when playing in a building that is not technically the home arena for either of the teams involved. For example, when the Raptors took on the Detroit Pistons in Grand Rapids on Sunday, the Pistons were the home team in name, but presumably because of neutral-site organizational confusion they failed to provide the Raptors with any towels or water.

Even prisoners gets towels and water.

Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald said the decision to take an NBA pre-season game to a neutral site usually is the result of a direct negotiation between two teams. Often the concept is driven by the existence of a corporate sponsor. Case in point, the Raptors are going to Moline because that city has an association with a bank that has close ties to the T-Wolves. It's the same bank that previously lured the Raptors and T-Wolves to the Stephen King-ish Billings, Mont. (friendly people but stark and scary).

"We haven't faced any major, major problems with these games to date, but we have run into some little issues," Grunwald said. "For example, Kevin DiPietro (Raptors equipment manager) had to do some running around to provide us with towels and liquids for the game last weekend.

"There are basic standards that the arenas which play host to these things have to meet, in terms of the floor and the medical facilities. Things still pop up, though. Remember in Calgary when they had that slippery stuff all over the court?"

ALMOST TRAMPLED

Oh, yes, some sort of silicone filler seeped up through the floorboards. Then there was the issue of the two baskets being at slightly different heights in Edmonton. Or the time in Colorado Springs, Colo., when a still-hot Vince Carter was almost trampled in a narrow hallway because the young security guards on hand were as wide-eyed as the fans.

This season Chris Bosh will be the wide-eyed one when he plays his first NBA road game in a real, live NBA arena. When he gets to Minneapolis on Nov. 1, it'll seem like Rome.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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