Even with Vince Carter at camp, playing the part of the happy camper, the Raptors are not expected to make a huge splash this season.
After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and completely rebuilding the front office, many pundits see storm clouds in Raptors' future.
Not Jalen Rose. The team's veteran backcourt standout lashed out at what he called "naysayers" yesterday for not giving Toronto a chance to make the playoffs this year, adding that there is an anti-Canadian sentiment around the league.
"To be honest, I don't give a damn about naysayers. They breed negative news," Rose said, following the club's first practice session at Brock University in St. Catharines. "And at the end of the day, being a Canadian team, being in the States a lot of times, they're not rooting for us anyway."
Rose said that he understands why the Raptors are not considered an elite club, given the team's record last season (33-49), and the year before. But he likes what he sees.
"Everybody can just pile on and talk about how bad we are," he said. "It was the same thing last year -- nobody bet all their money on Detroit to win. Nobody bet on Milwaukee to have a good season, or Utah. (But) I'm very optimistic. We've just got to keep getting better."
Small forward Morris Peterson believes -- barring an influx of injuries -- the team will shine under new coach Sam Mitchell's uptempo, running style.
"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people, I really do," Peterson said, who is down 20 pounds from last year. "You look at last year, we had a lot of close games. We lost the majority of them, and we still had a chance to make the playoffs. I don't think people realize that."
BONNER BANGED UP
Rookie forward Matt Bonner missed the afternoon session with a sore right knee. Both the morning and evening sessions ran close to three hours yesterday, an hour longer than scheduled.
"I'd rather take more time to teach correctly than a month from now still trying to teach the same thing," Mitchell said.