When you're a coach, or a general manager or a player in the NBA, doing the right thing, the smart thing, isn't always easy. It's tough to look past the next game, let alone the next week or the next month.
So when The Franchise, Chris Bosh, banged up his knee on Dec. 8 against the Chicago Bulls, it took a good deal of forbearance on the part of the Raptors braintrust not to hasten the star's return to the lineup until he was fully healed.
Clearly, though, now that he has been back for eight games, that the patience showed by coach Sam Mitchell, general manager Bryan Colangelo and by Bosh himself has paid a handsome dividend. Since he came back on Jan. 3, Bosh has averaged 37 minutes, nearly 24 points and 10 rebounds a game, leading his team to a 5-3 record and sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
Now the Raps have their first extended homestand of the season -- five games over 10 days -- to try to get some separation on their opponents in this weakest division in the league. The Sacramento Kings are first up tonight at the Air Canada Centre.
Bosh sat out a dozen games in December and admits that it was a tough time just sitting and watching but that the response of his teammates during that stretch made the decision a little easier. While Bosh sat, the Raptors won six and lost six.
"I had to make a smart decision," he said yesterday. "We were doing fine without me. It made the decision a little bit easier. I didn't put up a fight."
It's possible that Mitchell and Colangelo took some of the fight out of Bosh by making him honestly assess his own condition. As a coach whose future depends at least in part on results now, Mitchell is unlikely to sit a player who says he's ready to go but he had to know that Bosh was being perfectly honest with him.
"I think the thing for me was we never talked about games we had to win," Mitchell said. "Bryan never came to me saying 'We've got to win this game or that game.' He made me feel no pressure in the games when we were without Chris so therefore I wasn't in Chris' ear trying to rush him back.
"We kept beating it into (Bosh's) brain 'Tell us the truth. Tell us the truth. Tell us the truth.' And we had to sit him down -- me, Bryan and the doctor -- and say 'Are you telling us the truth?' And he'd say 'Yeah. Yeah, it is hurting a little bit.' So, after two or three days of grilling him, we'd finally get the truth out of him.
"But that's what you want. You want your guys to want to play."
Bosh's knee is now fully healed, though he still endures some discomfort from the heel injury that restricted his play during pre-season back in October. With a chance to earn a playoff spot, he's ready to ignore it.
"We're getting closer and closer to that .500 mark," he said. "That's something we've been talking about all year. It's a good time to do it, especially at home. We play so much better at home this year and these are the games we have to take advantage of. We have to treat these as must-win games so we can separate ourselves from the rest of the Atlantic pack."
Bosh's return has forced teams to be more defensively responsible inside, allowing some better looks from outside. On Jan. 1, the Raps were shooting just 32% from three-point range. In the past eight games, they have shot at a 39% clip. The balance works both ways.
"It opens up alot of driving lanes for me and T.J. (Ford)," Bosh said. "We're the guys who drive the most on the whole team. When you have guys like Anthony (Parker) and Mo Pete and Andrea (Bargnani) spotted up back there, it makes it real tough for the defence. They have to make a decision. A lot of times the defence wants to give up two points instead of three, so those driving lanes are there for us."