Bosh backs James

Chris Bosh celebrates with Jalen Rose in a game against the Wizards at the ACC (Toronto Sun/Craig...

Chris Bosh celebrates with Jalen Rose in a game against the Wizards at the ACC (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Chris Bosh has reached the point now where he could ask the Raptors to build a tunnel from his condo to the Air Canada Centre, and they would do it.

You want clout? That's not just an usher who serves drinks in Bosh's private box at the ACC. That is Usher. You want cache? When Bosh has a cold, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie walks two feet behind him with a box of Kleenex and a plastic bag.

The bottom line is this: The Raptors desperately want to sign their up-and-coming superstar to a long-term contract this summer. To do that, they have to keep him happy, and one way to keep CB4 happy is by keeping point guard Mike James around this season and beyond.

"That would really mean a lot," Bosh said yesterday. "I think that would be the beginning of some stability. We've been working together well and we have a great relationship on and off the court, so I think it would be a good fit for him to stay."

To that end, Bosh hopes to sit down with interim general manager Wayne Embry sometime before the trade deadline on Feb. 23 and "encourage" him to find a way to keep James in Toronto.

But there's a problem. James, who is having a breakthrough season in his fifth campaign in the NBA, becomes a free agent when the season is over. If the Raptors decide they can't or do not want to re-sign him in the off-season, they can get something for him now by trading him before the deadline.

Last year, the Raps kept Donyell Marshall until the end of the season and got nothing when he signed as a free agent with Cleveland, although his departure did clear up some salary cap space.

Given his importance to the franchise, the Raptors probably would do anything Bosh asked, including making a big push to keep James around. But while Bosh does hope to talk to Embry, he certainly does not want to come across as a prima donna.

"I don't want to act like I have so much power," the good-natured forward said. "All I can do is recommend and see what they do. I need to see what (Embry's) thinking and add my little two cents."

As for James, who is averaging 17 points and five assists a game and is providing much-needed leadership in the locker room, the feisty guard said that he definitely will give Toronto first consideration when he sits down to talk contract when this season is over. James insisted that it just won't be about who gives him the most money, although, at 30, he certainly wants some long-term stability.

"My only feeling that I have in my heart is that I just want to be appreciated," James said.

"But I can't twist nobody's arm, I can't make them sniff what they have right underneath their nose."


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