Be patient, Raptors say

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Two different coaches and two 20-plus point losses won't exactly inspire the public to buy into Raptors' stock this winter.

But the whole team, from new boss Jay Triano to captain Chris Bosh and his lieutenants, is beating the drum for long-term investor confidence heading home from a rocky road trip.

"I'm just asking that people that have supported us keep supporting us," centre Jermaine O'Neal said as they prepared for the Portland Trail Blazers today (1 p.m.). "We're changing from two different coaching styles, especially on the defensive end. Even small things, such as how we close out (opposing shooters) are being done differently now.

"That's why I hope the fans will be patient. I know they've been really patient already, but this team is really working. No one is trying to get embarrassed."

With just one full practice to veer from Sam Mitchell's methodical ways to Triano's turn-on-the-taps approach, the Raptors were easy pickings for the Utah Jazz on Friday night. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has had 1,000 more wins than his Canadian counterpart to perfect his system.

"A lot of the stuff we're doing, you can't get into in just one practice," Triano said. "You have to work on it over and over. We'll just do the best we can and slowly make changes as we move forward.

"Our guys have been through a lot the past few days (the 0-3 trip and the Mitchell firing) and trying to re-learn things. It's going to be a bit of a learning curve and I think the (23) turnovers showed that. But they were trying to do what we asked them to, so I applaud that.

"We'll try and push the ball. We're last in the league in transition points, so I don't think we could go any slower. We'll see if we can exploit some things in transition, but we're prepared to play in the half court if we have to."

O'Neal bristled at suggestions that Friday's TV audience in Canada and ESPN in the U.S. would sour on the Raptors after such a display. Since a 3-0 start, the team is 5-10.

"It doesn't matter what other people think," he said. "Whether it's on ESPN or the Alphabet Channel, we don't worry about changing people's opinion of us (now), we want to make our team better in the long run.

"This loss feels different compared to the Denver loss (Tuesday's 39-point loss that triggered Mitchell's firing). In Denver we had no effort, but (in Utah) we tried. We tried to stop Utah's guys, but that's difficult even when we have our A game in.

"We put in a new offensive system yesterday and a defensive system today. We've got to give it time, stay committed. Stay positive, because it's a long season."

Bosh, who led the Raptors with 18 points and 11 rebounds, hopes his team will one day hum like the Jazz.

"I just want a system," he said plaintively. "They run their offence flawlessly. Sloan hasn't changed that for as many years as he's been here. "But today's a new day. We have a new leader. Hopefully, we'll pick up (Triano's system), execute, make our cuts and get some easy baskets, too."

Everyone looks to Bosh to see how he's handling this rough start with so much speculation already about whether the team can stay competitive enough to dissuade him from moving on after 2009-10. Bosh said he's just fed up with one-sided games.

"When you're getting beat by 20, it's hard to have good body language," he said of his on-court grimacing and grumbling. "It's a little different when you have expectations. I've been in worse places (as a Raptor), but no one expected us to do anything. That was a long time ago.

"Could it be worse? Yeah, but 8-10 isn't bad. It's still early. We have to continue to work and push each other and get better because if we get in a groove, we'll hit it at the right time and really do some damage."


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