Time for Bosh to show mettle

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

As the undisputed leader and the team's go-to guy, it's time for Chris Bosh to step up in these troubled times in Raptorland.

It's time for Bosh to play through the fatigue that has crept into his game and the frustration that is evident by his body language.

A three-time all-star, this is the first time Bosh has been forced to endure an extended stretch of futility since his rookie season in 2003.

For the better part of Bosh's tenure in Toronto, he has been exempt from criticism because he has worn the mantle of franchise player with such aplomb and acceptance.

He's a genuinely good guy, one who is always available to answer questions that have no easy answers. But it's time for Bosh to demand more of himself and his teammates.

He has yet to find a comfort zone playing alongside Jermaine O'Neal, who last night played his former team, the Indiana Pacers, for the first time. While the Bosh-O'Neal combo remains a work in progress, Bosh's game has shown signs of decline in recent matchups.

Some point to fatigue as a factor, having played for the U.S. Olympic team, and having been forced to play an inordinate amount of minutes to begin this season.

On the surface, they are merely convenient excuses.

Players of Bosh's ilk somehow find a way to produce, regardless of any perceived obstacle. It's the measuring stick that separates stars from the NBA's true elite.

Bosh hasn't quite reached that superstar level and his recent play reinforces it.

With the Raptors getting absolutely nothing from Andrea Bargnani and Kris Humphries, sidelined because of an injured knee, the Raptors are thin in bigs, putting added pressure on Bosh.

Virtually unstoppable when he decides to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, there was an encouraging sign last night when Bosh took Pacers veteran Jeff Foster off the dribble.

When he's assertive, all teams can do to take the ball out of Bosh's hands is double team him. When his face-up game is working, there isn't anything opponents can draw up defensively to stop him.

When the Raptors got off to their solid start this season, Bosh was posting MVP numbers, imposing his will and refusing to be stopped.

Somehow and some way, Bosh has to regain that form.

With O'Neal in early foul trouble last night and Bargnani tossing bricks, the offence went through Bosh or Jason Kapono, who was given the starting role at shooting guard for an injured Anthony Parker (ankle).

When Kapono wasn't lighting it up from the perimeter, Bosh was attacking the paint, drawing fouls or drawing defenders.

Interim head coach Jay Triano summoned Bosh to the bench in the final minute of the opening half when Bosh picked up his second foul.

Triano re-inserted Bosh for the half's final possession, a sideline-out that was eerily familiar to the ill-fated set the Raptors tried to execute in Sunday's loss to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers. This time, though, the Raptors actually produced a basket with Bosh attacking the rim.

Despite last night's much-needed 101-88 win, more will be expected of Bosh.

The team's five-game losing streak going into last night exposed flaws that can only be corrected by revamping the roster.

General manager Bryan Colangelo has a history of doing whatever it takes to change the look of a team and there's growing whispers that Colangelo is on the cusp of pulling the trigger on a trade.

His job of turning the team's fortunes around will be made that much easier if Bosh starts to re-assert himself.

As well as Bosh played in the opening half, scoring 15 points on six-of-10 shooting and getting to the line five times, his game tailed off in the second half.

At least he eclipsed the 20-point mark for the first time in four games by netting 21.

Luckily, Kapono kept his hot hand, Jamario Moon responded to his starting role by playing well at both ends and Indiana missed enough shots to allow the Raptors to escape with a victory.

But Bosh must do more because nothing less will do.


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