Raptors putting out fires

Chris Bosh cleared the air on a couple of topics following two poor games by the Raptors. (Sun...

Chris Bosh cleared the air on a couple of topics following two poor games by the Raptors. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

You had to be careful of tripping on the fire hose at the Air Canada Centre yesterday, as it wound from the gym, down to the locker room and through the team offices in a collective attempt to douse a few hot spots with the Raptors.

General manager Bryan Colangelo met with coach Sam Mitchell, who later put the club through one of its most comprehensive workouts of the season, while team captain Chris Bosh cleared the air on a couple of topics and centre Jermaine O'Neal was pronounced a maybe for the team's game tomorrow against the Charlotte Bobcats after his knee injury flared up.

The smoke was caused by three losses in four games, including two woeful defensive efforts at home, Friday against New Jersey and Sunday against Boston. The body language of the players on Sunday bore little resemblance to the strut from their 3-0 start. The final stats from that game weren't even printed before there were whispers of a loss of faith in Mitchell's system, Bosh getting sour at his and the team's long-term prospects and some kind of imminent move to shake things up.

But Bosh beat the brass to the hydrant yesterday.

"It's not going to happen," he predicted, referring to an attention-grabbing move. "We're going to do our job and get the job done. (But) we can't keep talking about the potential of this team, we have to go ahead and be that team.

"I have high expectations and I still do. It's still very early in the season. Everyone has to say to himself, this is what I can bring to the table, this is how we're going to get out of this and this is how we're going to turn it around."

Mitchell called yesterday's talk with Colangelo mutually reassuring and took his share of the blame for some game plans gone awry.

"We've been down this road before," Mitchell said. "It seems in the first month and a half of the season, we go through something like this.

"It didn't look like that in the first three games of the season and even in some of the losses, we played well. One thing we've learned, and myself as a coach learned, we have to go back and emphasize the basics, remain patient, understand that we still have young players just starting in the NBA and not to panic.

"We've always come out of it because we stayed together as a team. Coaches didn't blame the players and players didn't blame the coach. We're all in this together and we all take equal blame."

Pressed tight against the luxury tax limit, Colangelo would find it hard to make a deal that didn't cross the threshold or cost him one of the team's best players. But with O'Neal's strained left knee not requiring anything more than rest to keep him in the lineup, the focus of the GM-coach meeting was how to get more from the current roster.

"We talked about defence, we talked about getting the ball down the court to make it easier on our guys," Mitchell said. "We're pleased at the way Andrea (Bargnani) has played in the three spot (at small forward, starting ahead of Jamario Moon)."

Mitchell took the team to the movies before practice, specifically the horror show at their end of the court against the Nets and Celtics.

"We watched the bad stuff first and finished off with the good," Mitchell said.

"We're going back to the basics, getting the ball out quickly on offence, getting our wings out quickly. And we worked on our transition defence. If you're going to run down the floor on offence, you better get back.

"In the first three games we were eighth in the league in defence. So we pulled out that tape, showing our guys the games we had won, tough matchups when they were guarding guys who were quicker than them. We were moving their feet, but also their teammates were helping them out."


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