CB4 life?

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Chris Bosh is not afraid to say it.

"Of course, it is a realistic goal," the Raptors' franchise player, at the tender age of 21, said.

It, in this case, is the NBA all-star game, which isn't just another meaningless mid-season classic for Bosh and Raptors fans this season.

If the third-year player/media guide cover boy earns a spot in the game this season -- Feb. 19 in Houston -- it will be important on a number of fronts.

Last season, Bosh was an all-star snub thanks in large part to the fact he was playing for a bad team. Presumably, the Raptors will have to improve as a team for Bosh to have a legitimate shot this time around. If that happens -- and it's a big if -- the Raptors would be making much-needed positive strides heading into a huge off-season for Bosh and the franchise.

Next summer, the Raptors have an exclusive window to negotiate a long-term deal with their star power forward. In that same period in previous years, Tracy McGrady didn't sign an extension and Vince Carter did. The writing was on the wall when McGrady didn't re-sign during that period. He bolted after one more season with the Raptors.

It will be a telling time for Bosh, who is locked up for another season after this one. But what happens next summer could very well be directly related to what happens this season.

"Anybody that's with an organization, if they want to stay, they have to see it going in the right direction," the well-spoken Texan said. "Right now, we're going in the right direction."

Of course, that's easy to say when the Raptors' record is 0-0. Bosh has been here for two non-playoff seasons, filled with trade demands, controversies and plenty of losses. Heck, before he even was a member of the team, Carter told a newspaper he wanted the Raptors to trade the No. 4 pick it eventually used to select Bosh.

By all accounts, Bosh is a fine young man. His devotion to the charitable Chris Bosh Foundation, his commitment to becoming more vocal on the court and his surprise appearance at summer league practices this year speaks to his solid character. But who could blame Bosh if he wanted out after two more bad seasons?

"The main thing is us winning," said veteran point guard Alvin Williams, who remembers the days when Toronto was a place players wanted to be. "If we don't win, it's going to be hard to get other players to try to join. If we win and Chris stays, other people are interested, just like a couple years ago when we all re-signed and other people wanted to come here. It's all about winning."

Whether the Raptors can win with their inexperienced lineup and numerous question marks, is open to debate. A guy who should be in his senior year of college -- Bosh -- is now the mentor for guys like Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham. This is what happens when you are the fourth pick in a draft featuring Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. But those three have proven supporting casts and Bosh does not.

"To sit back and think about (being a key veteran) is funny," Bosh said. "After a while, I'm used to it. It just comes with the package of playing basketball. Of course, it's my third year and some of the guys coming in, they kind of look up to me. I have to make sure I set a good example."

That won't be a problem. Bosh does things the right way. The guys around him, especially when he is double teamed, must follow his lead.

"Coach (Sam Mitchell) told me they're going to be coming this year," Bosh said. "He just told me to make the first simple pass. It's up to my teammates to make the plays so they'll stop (double teaming). I have to become a better passer."

For now, Bosh has his eyes fixed firmly on the season opener tomorrow night against the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre. His agent, Henry Thomas, isn't about to start saying what Bosh needs to see to re-sign in Toronto or start suggesting his client should receive a max contract, like Carmelo Anthony's agent did recently.

"He starts thinking about next summer, next summer," Thomas said. "He's focusing entirely on this season and doing everything he can to help the team be successful."

The Raptors, meanwhile, want to make Toronto an attractive long-term home for Bosh.

"If you really look at who's going to be the guy they're willing to build around, the guy you want to see on billboards, the guy they want to re-sign and make the face of the franchise," Raptors swingman Jalen Rose said, "they want to make that guy Chris Bosh."

They want to do that because Bosh has the look of an all-star. The question is, will he be representing the Raptors when that day arrives?


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