Raptors take a fun day

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:58 PM ET

The only thing missing from the Raptors “practice” session Tuesday were loud shirts with names stencilled across the front.

Coach Jay Triano surprised (and probably delighted) his players by announcing that practice was to be replaced by a day of bowling at a local alley.

“I would have liked to have done something a little more (intense), like paintball or something,” the coach said. “But we can’t afford to do any silly stuff.”

Triano described the day of bowling as an exercise in team building and a needed break from the rigours of hard work.

“We went hard at practice (Monday) and we’re going hard again (Wednesday),” he said. “You can’t go three straight days really hard without the body breaking down.”

The coach said he and strength and conditioning coach Francesco Cuzzolin decided long ago that this week would be the ideal time for a team-building session, given there are four days between pre-season games. Triano has emphasized during training camp that building chemistry and cohesion was essential for this team, which has nine new players.

“We need to build a trust amongst each other and play together and back each other up,” he said. “And I think it’s just real important for the players to see each other not only when they’re competing on the floor.”

Triano said a number of players, including swingman Antoine Wright who has returned from a sore knee, worked out informally at the ACC after bowling. The Raptors are 2-5 in the pre-season, although two key starters, forwards Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, were late joining camp because of injury. Both are back healthy and endeavouring to get into top condition.

Triano said the players loved bowling, saying the idea of actually taking part in a sport, as opposed to, say, touring the Royal Ontario Museum, was to create rivalries and competition.

One player who did not put on the funny shoes was injured forward Reggie Evans, who is recovering from a mid-foot sprain suffered last Wednesday against the Boston Celtics in Hartford. Triano said Evans received treatment on his foot.

It’s unknown if arguably the club’s toughest, most intense player will miss the season opener Oct. 28 when the Raptors play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Raptors play one more pre-season game, Friday in glamorous Sioux Falls, S.D., against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

They will take Saturday off, then practise hard Sunday before tapering down Monday and Tuesday in preparation for the opener.

Triano waved aside suggestions he is anxious for the season to start. He said his club needs these final few days of practice.

“The intensity level once the season starts is very, very high,” he said. “And we don’t want to tax these guys mentally too much right now.

“And there are a bunch of things we want to fine-tune and take control of (this week).”

As for the best and worst bowlers, Triano said he wouldn’t “throw anyone under the bus,” but was shocked that newcomer Marco Belinelli, who had never bowled before, rolled a respectable 157, bowling against Wright.


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