Raps set to take show on road

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

The Raptors' holiday season is likely to be more about survival than prosperity.

The next time the Raps will see their home court will be Jan. 2 or 3 for a day or two or practice before tipping off the 2008 portion of their schedule, when they play host to Detroit on Jan. 4.

Between that time and now they will embark on a pair of road trips, one to the far west, the other to the deep south of the U.S. around a small break for Christmas.

The first portion of the trip -- a four-games-in-five-nights mini marathon -- begins in Los Angeles, where the Raptors practised yesterday in preparation for a tilt with the L.A. Clippers tonight, moved on to Portland the following night, a day off in Seattle and then back-to-back games in Seattle and Phoenix.

The players will then disperse to various parts of the world for a Christmas break before reconvening in San Antonio on Boxing Day, where the Raptors will get in a couple of days of practice before taking on the NBA defending champion Spurs.

After that it's into Houston and then on to New Orleans for a New Year's Eve date with the Hornets.

The survival isn't so much about the quality of the opponents as much as it is about the Raptors' history on these elongated trips to the west.

In the past two seasons, the Raps have made a total of four trips west of four games or more and have a 3-15 record.

Last season, the Raptors' first trip west came two weeks into the season. They went 0-5 and returned home with a 2-8 record. They fared better the next time out, getting a 2-2 split just before Christmas on their way to the Atlantic Division crown.

This year's Raptors have proved more resilient on the road than previous versions. They are 6-5 so far this season having won their past two away from the Air Canada Centre at Atlanta and Indiana.

Guard Anthony Parker says the Raptors are better prepared for these west coast swings this year based on experience alone.

"Just because we have more games and have been together, some of us, for more than a year now," he said.

As much as T.J. Ford would like to be part of these games before the calendar turns, he couldn't say for sure whether his body would allow him to do that. "It all depends on how my body reacts," said Ford, who has sat out the past three games after incurring yet another stinger in that hard fall he took last Tuesday in Atlanta.

Ford says the pain, most of it in his arms, comes and goes.

"The other day I felt pain and one day I didn't," Ford said. "(Saturday) I felt it again a little bit. It's still tight and until that pain goes away I have to rest it."

The good news is once through this stretch the Raps will be looking at a friendlier schedule through January when they play 13 games, only five on the road, and none out of the Eastern time zone.


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