'Canada's Team' will be surprising: Peterson

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Where is the love for the Toronto Raptors?

The forecast looks grim and the pre-season predictions are downright awful but that doesn't matter to the lone Canadian team in the National Basketball Association as they dribble into their 10th season of existence.

Think what you will -- this negative energy only makes them stronger.

"We're going to surprise a lot of people," Raptors forward Morris Peterson said.

And he wasn't kidding.

"People, our critics, have ruled us out, saying we're going to be one of the worst teams in the league -- if that's not locker-room material or doesn't put some anger into you and light a fire under you, I don't know what can."

In the first NBA exhibition game in Winnipeg since 1995, the Raptors fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 105-98 in front of a surprisingly loud 10,900 at MTS Centre last night.

The Raptors (now 2-5 with one exhibition game left) are picked by many to finish not only dead last in the Atlantic Division but right near the basement of the Eastern Conference.

Pundits start with their dismal 90-156 record over the past three years and work forward, counting the minimal return on the Vince Carter trade and the curious drafting over the last two summers as reasons for the low expectations.

Peterson can't wait to prove everyone wrong.

"That's the worst thing you can tell somebody, that they're not good at something," he said. "We're going to work hard and do everything we can. It sticks in the back of my mind. Everything I step on the court, that's the first thing I think about."

It's not like the Raptors don't have any talent out on the floor.

Peterson, Chris Bosh, and rookie Charlie Villanueva will provide a nice presence up front, while Jalen Rose should settle things down in the back court.

Bosh, entering his third season, is the man who will make this team tick.

The 22-year-old knows he will need to build on his respectable career 14.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Raptors to compete this season.

"As long as I get better everyday, that's my thing I want to work on," Bosh said. "I'm happy we have a lot of other guys like (Rose) and (Peterson) who can take the load off."

Heck, if the Raptors fleet of rookies can contribute regularly, it might not be such a long season.

"You can't worry about any of that," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said about the negative press, laughing at the notion his players will take it personally. "First of all, I doubt if half our guys will be able to read (the criticism)."

"We haven't played a game that counts yet, so we'll see."

Toronto starts the regular season Nov. 2 against Washington.

'PEG CITY PROPS: Most of the Raptors were enthusiastic about their Winnipeg experience, despite dealing with shot clocks on the floor and the old PanAm Games hardwood (which had a few dead spots to it).

Said Peterson:

"It's not like any other road trip. Anytime you go to different parts of Canada, it's exciting because you find out the interest people have in basketball. It's great. We're not Toronto's team, we're Canada's team."


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