HOUSTON -- Chris Bosh, the man carrying the Raptors' colours at this year's NBA all-star game, earnestly believes that his club, which sits 13 games under .500, can still make the playoffs.
Bosh told a scrum of reporters yesterday that if the Raptors go 20-9 to finish the season, they'll have a good chance to qualify for the post-season for the first time since 2002.
"We're really trying to make a push because in the Eastern Conference, if we put together a string of wins, we can find ourselves in the playoffs," said Bosh, the second-youngest competitor at this year's all-star game. "That's the goal we're shooting for and we only have (29) games to do it. But everybody's pulling together."
Despite their losing record, the 20-33 Raptors are only 5 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot. Finishing 20-9 is a tall order, but the Raptors certainly have come together after starting the season 1-15, going one game above .500 since then.
For Bosh, qualifying for the post-season, even more than this weekend's all-star game where he'll play with, and against, the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, has dominated his thoughts more than anything else.
"I think about that every day when I'm working out. I think about that when we're practicing," he said. "I'd really love for everything to just click fast. But I know you have to work everyday at it, you have to work as a team. I think if everybody stays together, we'll continue to grow and we'll trust each other on the court, and it will show."
The most frequently asked question Bosh faced during a media availability session yesterday was about his future with the Raptors.
The 21-year-old star has two years left on his contract after this season, but can sign a long-term deal with the Raptors in the summer if he so desires.
Re-signing the Dallas native is the biggest priority for the Raptors organization right now, in terms of how the team performs in the next few years.
It could even decide the future of the franchise. If Bosh chooses not to invest long-term with the Raptors and jumps ship after his current deal expires, there are those who believe that the team may not be long for Toronto. Every superstar the Raptors have had, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter in particular, eventually jumped ship.
"That's a good question," said Bosh, when asked if the team's future rested on his shoulders. "I'm not sure. If, eventually, nobody stays, it will be really tough to get people to sign long-term deals and get free agents to come up."
Bosh has suggested that, all things being equal, he would prefer to stay with the Raptors, but he does want to see continual improvement and he would like to have a say in future roster decisions, such as his hope that the team will sign guard Mike James to a long-term deal when this season ends.
"It would be real nice to grow together (with James)," Bosh said. "He's a little bit older but we seem to click on and off the court pretty good."