Seeing Raptors all-star Chris Bosh wince a bit when reaching over to scoop up one of those new NBA basketballs at yesterday's practice sent up a red flag or two among observers.
Everyone, though, insists there isn't anything serious about Bosh's heel injury.
Bosh sat out Sunday's pre-season game against the New Jersey Nets. He said yesterday he wasn't sure whether he'll play against Cleveland in Rochester, N.Y., tomorrow night, or Maccabi Tel Aviv Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.
"I'll get word from the coaches or trainers later," he said, staying long after practice to work on free throws with assistant coach Jay Triano. "It's feeling all right. It's getting better. We're just taking the necessary precautions to make sure it doesn't flare up again."
That means riding the bike to stay in shape. It means taking more free throws in practice, anything to avoid the pounding on the feet that comes with playing the game regularly.
Bosh said the injury is a wear-and-tear type of thing, the result of a lot of running, both this off-season to stay in shape and the last basketball season.
Coach Sam Mitchell isn't worried about Bosh's injury, playing down any comparison to this foot injury and the one that scuttled point guard Jose Calderon's season last year. Bosh could have played Sunday, or practised full out, Mitchell added, but why take the risk?
"We're trying to be productive and not counter-productive," he said.
Guard Fred Jones also didn't practice yesterday, the team said, the result of being banged up in the win over the Nets Sunday. Jones went to the hoop hard against Nets forward Awvee Storey in the fourth quarter in that game, got undercut, and came down hard on his chest. Again, not a major concern, Mitchell said, the team is just taking precautions.
Mitchell was singing the praises of his team in a training camp and pre-season that has lacked any real negatives up to this point. The team sits at 3-0, despite the fact it's still the pre-season, team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo put things in perspective: "The record is meaningless, but with regards to changing the culture here, it's very significant."
Mitchell said at this point he isn't entering games with any set rotations.
"I can go into any game with the lineup I want on a piece of paper," he said. "Then a guy picks up two quick fouls and that piece of paper goes into the garbage."
Rookie Andrea Bargnani, who started the Nets game at forward, was a case in point, finding himself in foul trouble quickly, and was substituted.
"But he's a rookie, so it will take a few more trips until he gets it," Mitchell said. Someone like Jorge Garbajosa, older than Bargnani, but still an NBA rookie, is catching on faster to what the team is preaching offensively and defensively.
"We took 98 shots that night,"Mitchell said. "That's pretty good. We'll take that every night. We won that game because we took more shots, and we had fewer turnovers."