Bosh's bold words

The Raptors' Jalen Rose leans on Chris Bosh's shoulder as they pose with Rafer Alston at the Air...

The Raptors' Jalen Rose leans on Chris Bosh's shoulder as they pose with Rafer Alston at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. The team opens training camp in St. Catharines today. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

Somebody forget to tell Chris Bosh that the Raptors are supposed to crash and burn this season.

Expectations for this season's Raptors are the lowest they've been in years, but Bosh, the team's franchise player, boldly predicted yesterday that the club will make the playoffs.

"We all love it," Bosh said of the legion of basketball prognosticators who have chosen the youthful Raps to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. "That's nothing but motivation. When you're ranked at the bottom, there's not much pressure at all, so we can slide in through the back door. We can just come up under the radar.

"We believe in ourselves and I believe in everybody here, that we can prove everybody wrong."

Bosh, entering his third season with Toronto, acknowledged that this year's roster is basically a younger version of last year's entry that went 33-49 but stressed that youth can go a long way. He expects the addition of rookies Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham, both forwards, and point guard Jose Calderon will light a fire under the older guys.

"That's going to be our key thing. We're going to be really enthusiastic," he said. "We're going to make sure if another team doesn't feel like playing that night, we go ahead and take care of it."

Bosh will need to accept more of a leadership role this season and the Dallas native is prepared to step up in that department, even though he is more of a leader-by-example type.

"I'm working on the rah-rah part," he said.

Another veteran the Raptors will be leaning on to help guide the younger core players is Jalen Rose. Rose is a big wild card for Toronto this season. With his pro career beginning to wind down, Rose wants to play out his days with a winner. The Detroit native made it to the NBA final once with Indiana in 2000, and wants another kick at the can, and he'll likely not get it with the rebuilding Raps. However, he is not expected to whine and demand a trade, like a certain underperforming superstar last season.

"Everybody wants to be hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy and I'm no different. But you have to appreciate every role you get," Rose said. "I got down on my knees a lot of years and prayed for this NBA opportunity, so it's something I never take for granted. But as a 12-year veteran, the most important thing is winning. The personal goals and ego go out the window."

Still, no matter how much leadership Rose and Bosh provide, the Raptors will continue to spin their wheels unless they tighten up on defence and figure out a way to grab more rebounds. Toronto scored an impressive 99.7 points per game last season, but gave up 101.4. It also finished fourth from the bottom in total rebounds (3,288).


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