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Andrea Bargnani play fights with Kris Humphries after practice in the weight room.
(Toronto...

Andrea Bargnani play fights with Kris Humphries after practice in the weight room. (Toronto Sun/Greg Henkenhaf)

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, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Chris Bosh doesn't want to put the cart before the horse, or in the Raptors' case, a playoff prediction ahead of an 82-game regular season.

Toronto officially embarks on its 14th NBA campaign tonight in Philadelphia, with arguably its best starting lineup. But there are too many question marks to punch a ticket to the second round, their minimum goal.

"We want to get better and move up, but playoffs are a whole different season," Bosh said yesterday at the Air Canada Centre. "(Philadelphia and Toronto) is a tale of two teams who made improvements and must take a bigger step than last year. But it's on paper. It comes down to defence and rebounding. If you can't stop the other team, you won't win."

Coach Sam Mitchell knows what Bosh, big off-season acquisition Jermaine O'Neal and lynchpin point guard Jose Calderon are capable of doing. But he also needs some stability from Jamario Moon at small forward, where he starts ahead of Joey Graham at least for tonight. Three-point specialist Jason Kapono and 7-footer Andrea Bargnani look to be good forwards off the bench, before the uncertainty sets in at backup point guard between rookie Roko Ukic and Will Solomon.

Then there's the "X-factors", as Mitchell describes forward Kris Humphries and whether Graham's basketball mindset will catch up to his incredible athleticism.

"I can't tell you how many minutes those guys will play," said Mitchell, who would prefer getting as much as possible from his three big guns, as well as starting shooting guard Anthony Parker and the Moon/Graham combo.

"I think anyone who comes off the bench is an X-factor," Humphries said. "We have to do everything we can to expand a lead, or protect it. It can be a tough job, but unfortunately, that's your role if you aren't starting."

The Raptors' pre-season record was 4-4, but Mitchell wouldn't have cared if his team went 8-0 or 0-8.

"Now it starts for real," he said. "Pre-season doesn't tell you how hard (new 76ers star) Elton Brand is playing. (Cleveland's) LeBron James played about 10 minutes a game, where now we know he'll play 38. How much can you judge a guy on 10 minutes?

"This feels no different than any other coach. Boston lost (James) Posey so every coach has his unknowns.

"I know Chris is ready to go on our team, but a lot of guys have not played (a lot). We'll start looking at that (tonight). We'll all be ready to play. We're in the right frame of mind."


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