Chris Bosh has plenty to be happy about.
His team is on the verge of becoming a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference and he has just been voted an NBA all-star for the first time in his career, representative of a continent-wide appreciation of his talents.
Now, the basketball fans in his home market are letting him know loud and clear he's worthy not only of MVP consideration but must be included in any such conversation.
Things are so good, in fact, that a lesser player might fall into the trap of resting on one's laurels even a bit, but there doesn't seem to be any danger of that with Bosh.
Sam Mitchell, for one, won't let that happen. From the first time the Raptors coach saw Bosh play he knew one day Bosh would be something very special in the league.
"We came in to play the Raptors (Mitchell was an assistant with Milwaukee) and he had on those two braces and you could see he was beat up," Mitchell recalled. "But he went out there and played 38 minutes and he was playing centre. We were sitting on the bench watching him play and we were beating him but we were impressed. Here's a young kid, one year of college, the season is over and he is competing. That told me right there this kid had a chance to be good. He could have chosen to sit."
The following season, Mitchell became Bosh's head coach. Morris Peterson remembers Mitchell telling Bosh soon after he took over he was going to be very hard on him because of the potential he saw in him.
Mitchell isn't sure Bosh needs that prodding, but he keeps it up just the same.
"I guess we all need it to a certain point," Mitchell said yesterday as the Raps prepared for tonight's game with the Los Angeles Lakers. "When you tell a player something you have to be truthful and honest, but Chris wants to be good. A coach can say what he wants to say, but if a guy doesn't have it in him to be the best that he can be, then that's not going to happen. Most of the stuff I say to Chris is sarcastic. He knows I'm just saying it, but he understands the message. Don't get complacent. Keep working hard, but it's in him to do that. He wants to be good. So how much effect does my sarcasm have with him, I don't know."
But Mitchell isn't all tough love, though.
Last Thursday in Atlanta, with the Raps coming off a big win over Washington, Mitchell pulled Bosh aside and told him how proud he was of him. It was a rare moment of praise from the head coach to his franchise player. As it turned out, it was very short-lived too.
"Then he said he would pick up the insults the next day," Bosh said, laughing at the memory.
Bosh, who leads the Raptors with 23.3 points, 1.22 blocks and 10.6 rebounds per game, is pretty sure he doesn't need any external motivation. He pushes himself pretty hard, but he's not going to tell Mitchell to back off either.
"He challenges me every day," Bosh says of Mitchell. "He wants me to get better. He makes sure he stays on me all the time so I won't have my guard down going out there all relaxed and nonchalant. He wants me to come in intense. I don't need it, but I accept it,. I'm not the type of player you have to stay on me so I will come and play. I will be professional.
"I'm going to do my job, but if he pushes me a little bit that's going to do nothing but help me."