Raptors' new attitude

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Three games into their NBA campaign, the Raptors are undefeated and feeling pretty good about themselves.

And so they should be. A pair of road wins, both against teams playing their home openers, and a gutsy overtime win at the Air Canada Centre against a Golden State Warriors squad that always seems to give the Raps trouble has been the story so far.

But can the Raptors keep it up? The obvious answer is, yes. But whether they will is not something to be answered this early in the season.

No one expects this or any other team to go undefeated. But if the Raps can continue to be the kind of team that fights through challenges, overcomes fatigue, treats defence with the same reverence as offence, they could be on the verge of something special.

Three games in, the Raps seem to be developing the identity of a club that forces opponents to beat them rather than passively allowing teams to inflict their will.

Some players were asked after their gut-check 94-85 win in Milwaukee on Saturday night what makes talk of that kind of deep-down change possible.

Jose Calderon, who seems to be able to turn the switch at will, depending on whether his team needs scoring or just a steady hand on the rudder, brings up the Olympic experience and the impact it had on both he and Chris Bosh. From an outside view, the changes are more dramatic in the gold-medal winning American than the silver-medal winning Spaniard, but, in truth, the Calderon's mindset didn't need that much tweaking.

Bosh believes the change in the Raptors is part of the natural growth of a young team coming into its own but says the key changes have come on the defensive end.

"I just think everyone is starting to grow up," Bosh said. "We're confident on the defensive end now. We get stops. I think last year we let our lack of offence kind of mess up our defence. We would worry about our offence because we were not making shots and then kind of slack off on defence a little bit. This year everybody is just staying more solid no matter what happens."

'IT RUBS OFF'

Coach Sam Mitchell says it's a new attitude that has the Raptors looking like world-beaters.

"When you add Jermaine (O'Neal) with his attitude and Chris with his attitude, it just rubs off on everybody," Mitchell said. "Guys gravitate to it and start to take on that personality."

The trick is maintaining that new attitude over the course of the season.

Mitchell believes it's possible because there is a built-in insurance with the formula the Raps are following right now. It doesn't require any one guy to be on all the time.

"Every night one of our twos or threes are going to have to step up," Mitchell says. "We are 3-0 and it's because every night it has been a different guy. Friday it was Andrea (Bargnani). Saturday it was Jamario (Moon) and AP (Anthony Parker) who were just solid. And Jose. It was Jamario and Jose's nights to score points. One of those guys, regardless of who it is, has got to give us something different every night."

Three games into the 82-game season, that is what the Raptors have been doing. Three games is a long way from 82 but as starts go, it doesn't get any better than this.


Videos

Photos