Raptors star eyed by others

FRANK ZICARELLI

, Last Updated: 3:50 AM ET

Donnie Walsh hit a nervous chord among Raptors fans when the Knicks president mentioned Chris Bosh and the free-agent class of 2010.

"You know what's interesting to me?'' Walsh told a New York-based magazine writer.

"What year do you think (Chris Bosh) is a free agent? That kid's a great player. But nobody talks about him. It's all: 'Oh, you've got to get LeBron!' Look, I understand that. But you look at that free-agent class and there's a lot of really good players in it."

Immediately, paranoid hoops fans in Hogtown yelled bloody tampering, but Walsh was merely stating the obvious.

And it's obvious that Bosh will be among the most sought after players next summer if he decides to walk.

Money won't be a problem. Given how much cap room the Raptors will have next

summer -- assuming they don't trade Jermaine O'Neal and take back cumbersome deals, which wouldn't be very prudent -- the team will be in a prime position to lure one of the many available top-flight free agents to T.O.

Whenever Bosh is approached by reporters, usually U.S.-based media members, about next summer and about the possibility of testing free agency, he often mentions the importance of being happy.

It's never about money, which is understandable given that he has plenty of it and stands to collect plenty more in the future.

Under terms of the CBA, the Raptors can offer Bosh roughly $30 million more than any team in a max deal.

If he so chooses, Bosh can opt out of his final year that would pay him $17.2 million.

"Happiness is key," Bosh has said and continues to reinforce. "It's about being comfortable."

O'Neal's $23 million comes off the team's books next season, a sum that will easily attract one of the many athletic wing players available in free agency.

Jose Calderon ($9 million) and Jason Kapono ($6.6 million) are bona fide rotation players who will be under contract when the coveted summer of '10 rolls around.

No doubt the Raptors will qualify Andrea Bargnani at $8.5 million.

The availability of substantial cap space is of little consolation to Raptor fans, who have seen big-name players leave in the past.

For now, Bosh prefers to focus on the present.


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