Inauguration a positive distraction

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

ATLANTA -- There's no question the Raptors are in a major funk. They're losing with alarming regularity, injured at key positions and publicly calling out one another.

But yesterday presented a positive distraction as the team delayed its departure from Atlanta to Detroit to ensure that everyone could watch the inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States.

Barack Obama may not be Republican like the majority of the financially secure NBA players, but the Raptors themselves demanded their travel schedule be altered so they could hear Obama's address.

"It's one of the biggest events of this century," forward Joey Graham said. "It's history in the making and I actually wish I could be there for it. I know everyone is going to be watching on TV. Barack Obama -- I look at him much like Martin Luther King Jr. -- he's a trailblazer, a pioneer. We might not reap the benefits of the things that Barack is going to be able to do right now as president, but just like Dr. King, we will reap the benefits of the things he did back then at a later date. It might take some time for what he's trying to accomplish in the White House, but our prayers are all with Barack Obama."

Jermaine O'Neal admits the arrival of Obama on the national political scene has changed the TV-watching habits of his family.

"I've probably watched more CNN in the past couple of years than I ever have before," he said.

But it wasn't until the night Obama was elected that the full force of what he was witnessing hit home.

"My wife and I and my daughter watched a lot of the debates. My daughter (Asjia) is 9. The night Obama won the election she was like: 'Maybe I can be president.'

"The significance of a 9-year-old -- forget what race she is -- she's a female. She believes it. That's the impact of this for me."

O'Neal believes people are capable of achieving more than they realize and to hear his daughter say that the highest office in the U.S. was attainable showed him that Obama's message of change was getting through.

A handful of Raptors, including O'Neal, got some work in before the Obama address, but most took the day off after back-to-back games.

Meanwhile, Chris Bosh, who was taking some heat on various blog boards yesterday for publicly calling out Jamario Moon, has the full backing of head coach Jay Triano. In fact, Triano applauded the on-court dressing down Bosh gave Moon.

"Chris has every right," Triano said. "It doesn't always have to be me yelling at guys. They know what they are supposed to do. When a guy messes up, they have to police themselves a little bit and that's exactly what happened there.

"I have always said as a coach if you're just figuring something out, the players have known it for a long time. They know when a guy messes up and that's why he showed his frustration. He should be doing that as a leader and as a guy who wants this team to be better."


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