Bosh looking for a door

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill plans to give his players three days off over the holidays, which is good news for Chris Bosh because his Christmas goose appears to be cooked. Lacking an experienced centre, O'Neill has been forced to play the exceptional rookie more minutes than he would like.

While Bosh certainly has risen to the occasion this season -- putting up numbers that rival his more famous contemporaries, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony -- the 19-year-old has exhibited the energy level of a tranquillized reindeer at times during recent games.

Up against all-world centre Tim Duncan on Wednesday night, Bosh adjusted well as the game progressed, hauling in 12 rebounds, but his energy level at times seemed to lag.

O'Neill would like to limit Bosh's playing time to 35 minutes or so per game but, given the dearth of depth at centre, he has often had to play the rookie more than that. Against the defending NBA champions San Antonio Spurs, Bosh played 36 minutes and against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, the Texas native logged 43 minutes.

O'Neill has nothing but good things to say about the 6-foot-10, 228-pound rookie but acknowledged yesterday that it is only natural that Bosh -- and, for that matter, second-year power forward Lonny Baxter -- would hit the wall a little earlier in the NBA season than the veterans on the squad.

"Chris has already played more this year than an entire season of college," O'Neill said.

"I said earlier that he would hit the wall five or six times this season, but that's no more than any other rookie in this league.

"Chris is a rookie and, of course, he's not going to be able to handle the strain of an NBA season the same way as Milt Palacio or any of the other veterans on the team. I think every player hits the wall in this league and I think he has hit a couple already.

"But, then again, if you look at the game on (Wednesday), the guy played pretty well once he got his feet wet and figured Tim Duncan out a little bit."

O'Neill gave his troops a day off from practice yesterday. He had no choice given that the Raptors arrived home from San Antonio about 3:30 a.m. and, because of the hour, were forced to land in Hamilton and then bus to Toronto. Most of the players and coaches didn't hit the hay until close to 6 a.m.

In any event, the Raptors have a good opportunity to end the four-game losing streak tonight with the troubled New York Knicks hitting the Air Canada Centre.

The Raps (13-12) are struggling, but the Knicks (9-17) have almost hit rock bottom. The team has been besieged with controversy in the form of trade rumours and injuries, and has won only three of 14 games away from Madison Square Garden.

Still, O'Neill insists he doesn't attach any special significance to tonight's game.

"That would be a mistake. There are 82 games (in a season)," he said. "The guys on our team follow the league. They know what's up and understand that every game is important."


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