Bosh: playoff success or bust

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

TREVISO, Italy -- The foothills of the Italian Alps can been seen in the distance from La Ghirada, the training facility for the Benetton Treviso basketball, rugby and volleyball teams.

And only here, at this idyllic spot, does the Raptors on-court and inspirational leader, Chris Bosh, take a back seat to anyone associated with Toronto's basketball team. Bosh is the inspirational and on-court leader of the Raptors, and generally the most popular player with the fans. In Treviso, however, the player most everyone wants to see or get an autograph from is native son Andrea Bargnani.

But Bosh doesn't mind. In fact, he had a good laugh the other day when a visitor from Toronto jokingly asked him if he actually knew Andrea Bargnani.

Still, when it comes to matters of the team, Bosh's opinion carries the most weight by far. And the two-time NBA all-star said yesterday that the goal of this year's edition of the Raptors is to make it past the first round of the playoffs. Anything less, he said, will be a major disappointment.

"We've set (the bar) that high and we have to keep going up," he said.

"We know it's not going to be easy," the Dallas native added, "but we have in our mind-frame that we are the defending Atlantic Division champions and we have to act like that."

The Raptors went 47-35 last season to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign, and won their first Atlantic Division title, before losing to the New Jersey Nets in the opening round of the playoffs. Bosh said this year's version of the Raptors is equipped to surpass that performance, although he admitted that it probably will be tougher to win as many games this year, as a number of teams in the Atlantic Division, particularly the Boston Celtics and the Nets have significantly upgraded their rosters.

Further to that, Bosh said, unlike last season when the formerly dreadful Raptors surprised a lot of teams, the opposition will be gunning for Toronto this season, and that will make every game more challenging.

"Last year, we were able to sneak up on a lot of people because a lot of teams underestimated us," he said.

"(But) I love it," Bosh added. "We want to be the champion of a tough division, that's what a lot teams take pride in, and we want to take pride in that too. We're going to come out and play hard and accept the challenge."

A key this season will be for the Raptors to break out of the gate a little faster than last season, when they went 2-8.

Bosh said, with only four newcomers at camp, this year's club should be more cohesive on the court early on. Part of the reason why the team started slowly last season was because Bosh was not 100% coming out of training camp, the result of a bout of plantar faciitis in his left foot,

"Early last season, my jumper wasn't falling, my defence wasn't good and I wasn't able to prastice," he said. "I'm not a player that mostly ducks in and stays in the paint. I have to rely on footwork, shooting the ball and moving a lot of faster. And if you move a lot faster, you have to be in game condition."


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