Raps' future in good hands

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

Hard as it may be to believe, Christopher Wesson Bosh turns 23 on Saturday.

That's all.

And hard as it may be to believe, Terrance Jerod Ford turns 24 on the very same day.

That's all.

They're kids, really. Learning on the job. Learning remarkably quickly.

Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford were both, like the song, Born In the USA. Both are sons of Texas. Both were high school stars who never played against each other, but they knew the legend of each other.

One from Dallas, one from Houston. One tall, one short. Both extraordinarily quick in a sport that can't defend speed.

Linked together by their birthdays, their background, their colour of uniform, this is the future and the present of the Toronto Raptors, all at once.

"I didn't know we had the same birthday until I got traded here," Ford said yesterday. "The whole thing is pretty unique."

Same day, one year apart. Bosh and Ford aren't going anywhere but up. Bosh is here for a minimum of three more years, four and counting if he chooses to exercise the option on his contract. Ford is here for the same three years.

How close are these two? Not only do they dress in lockers beside each other in the Raptors dressing room, but even their contract options kick in on the same day.

"The friendship just keeps growing," Ford said. "We have a lot in common."

Like on Saturday, neither is having a birthday party.

"A quiet dinner," Ford said. "I don't think we'll have a party. We're not party people."

The questions prior to last night's game against Orlando were all about Andrea Bargnani and how his lost appendix will affect the Raptors down the stretch. Who would make up the minutes? Who would make up the difference? How would the Raps adjust with all that the kid, Bargnani, provides?

The answer came early and late last night. It came from Bosh and Ford.

Bosh played one second short of 46 minutes, scored 34 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. Ford played 40 seconds more, scored 16 points and had 12 assists in a wire-to-wire, and not so pretty, win over the Magic.

The magic of this night came from the Raptors birthday boys. The Raps won last night without Bargnani, without Anthony Parker, without Jose Calderon. Or, without a starter, an almost starter and a future starter.

"We'll rest them in practice," said Sam Mitchell of Bosh and Ford's extended playing time. "When they're in their 30s, they'll get rest."

Bosh is one of those flowers who grows a little taller, a little wider, a little more perfect with each passing week. The charm of his game is he won't settle for being good. He wants great.

In each of his four seasons, there has been a jump of some kind. The scoring has gone from 11.5 to 16.8 to 22.5 to 22.7. This is a stock worth investing in.

The rebound numbers from gone from 7.4 to 8.9 to 9.2 to 10.4. He has almost doubled his scoring. His rebounding has increased by more than 40%.

QUESTIONS VANISHING

This is only T.J. Ford's third NBA season. He lost a year and almost his career to injury. If there were questions about him in Milwaukee, about how pure a point guard he could be, he is making the questions disappear day after day.

Like Bosh, his scoring has increased in each of his three seasons. Like a point guard growing, his assist totals have increased each year. They have even increased in the second half of this season from the first.

Not that the comparison is valid in any way, but at the same age, Steve Nash was a part-time player. That isn't to suggest that Ford is going to be another Nash. But the possibilities, well, they remain endless.

On Super Saturday for the Raptors, Bosh turns 23, Ford turns 24, on his next birthday, Bargnani turns 22 without an appendix.

Name another NBA team with a threesome of this age and this upside, coming together at the very same time.

"The more we play together, the better we get," Ford said. "It's just the beginning."

Can't wait for the middle and the end.


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