Raptors' Bosh willing to face wrath of fans

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

If asked, Chris Bosh would be more than willing to address the crowd at the Air Canada Centre tonight, even though he may have a new playing address next season.

If the club approaches the team captain to carry on a tradition best remembered for the booing then-GM Glen Grunwald endured in 1997, Bosh knows what words he would summon.

Given all that Bosh has shouldered this season, standing at midcourt and conveying a message, no matter how it's received, pales in comparison to the frustration he has experienced.

"I would thank the fans for their support,'' Bosh said yesterday following practice. "It's not something we get to express very often.

"To see people in the stands is always very nice. I appreciate that."

A year ago at this time, Bosh stood at midcourt and spoke about the possibilities of a post-season run.

There will be no post-season appearance this time, no promises of playoff potential and no guarantees that the Raptors will be better.

As of yesterday, it wasn't clear what the Raptors have in store for tonight's home finale.

It has been customary for a team executive or a player to address the crowd, either pre-game or post-game.

As of yesterday, Bosh wasn't sure if he would be asked to perform the duty, but he'd gladly take the mike and take whatever reaction the fans might muster.

Despite the losing, Bosh never has lost sight of the fans, even when they have turned ugly.

"The fans here really enjoy basketball,'' Bosh said. "They come out and they support us. It makes it easier to get up for games, even though we haven't played well."

With so many question marks hovering over the team, tonight might well represent the final time the home crowd will see of some players, including Bosh, in a Raptors uniform.

Bosh is too savvy to think about the future.

He knows the Raptors have been a disappointment and is fully aware of the team's inability to establish any kind of identity, especially at home.

"There's a certain pride in playing at home,'' Bosh said. "There's a certain attitude and mentality you have to bring."

In the wake of Friday's buzzer-beating 100-98 loss to the Washington Wizards, the Raptors' home record dropped to 17-23.

"There's a very local fan base here,'' Jason Kapono said. "Through thick and thin, they show up and continue to show their support."

For the first time in four springs, Kapono won't be in the post-season.

For the first time in three years, the Raptors won't be preparing for an opening-round series.

"It's both sad and disappointing,'' Kapono said of failing to make the post-season. "You get used to the playoffs and the competition.

"It's tough because that's what you play for, that chance to win it all. You position yourself to get into the playoffs and then you want to keep going further."

After tonight's tip against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors will board their charter for Washington.

Following tomorrow's game, the Raptors will wing it to Chicago and Wednesday's season finale against the Bulls.

The off-season of uncertainty officially will begin.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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