Raps ready to grind it out

Raps coach Jay Triano doesn't see the early part of the schedule as a problem. (Sun Media/Jack...

Raps coach Jay Triano doesn't see the early part of the schedule as a problem. (Sun Media/Jack Boland)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

Head coach Jay Triano pleaded ignorance and forward Chris Bosh scoffed.

The question put to the respective leaders (bench and floor) yesterday following the Raptors practice at the Air Canada Centre was: Do they think they got screwed by the NBA schedule-makers?

In less than a week -- next Wednesday to be specific -- the Raptors open up the regular season at home against LeBron James and the explosive Cleveland Cavaliers, a squad many wags have selected to win the Eastern Conference title.

POWERHOUSES

After that, the Raptors face two other Eastern powerhouses, within a week, the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. In the first month of the season, the Raptors face the Pistons, the Magic twice, the Boston Celtics and head off on two major Western Conference road swings.

On the surface, the first month of the 2009-10 campaign looks to be a tough, tough grind -- particularly considering that the Raptors are a team with nine new faces and building team chemistry and unison has been a prevailing theme during training camp and in the pre-season.

However, neither Triano nor Bosh see it as a problem. In fact, Triano -- offering up the old 'make lemonade out of lemons' spiel -- believes the tough start is actually a good thing.

"We need to come together and sometimes the best time to do that is on the road," he said, adding that he really is largely unaware of the schedule for the early part of the season.

"I've looked at (game) one -- and two and three I've glanced at them," Triano said. "I'm going to 100% focus on the first game, and our focus is mostly going to be on the Toronto Raptors and not on who we play."

Triano added that he doesn't want his players looking too far ahead either.

"I don't want our guys to play outcomes," he said. "I want them to focus on the task at hand, whether it's the game at hand, or the half, or the quarter or the possession at hand. I don't want us focussing on down the road and labouring over a tough schedule."

Bosh said that sooner or later, every NBA team faces a tough block in the schedule. And if it comes early for the Raptors, so be it.

Bosh is confident that Triano, who begins his first full season as the club's head coach, has designed training camp and the pre-season practice schedule in such a way that the club will peak for the opener on Oct. 28 and that it will only get better as the season goes on.

"As we're together more, we're going to learn each other more, the offence is going to flow more and the defensive principles are going to be etched in our head just a little bit more," he said. "But don't get me wrong. Just because we're going to be better in a couple of months, doesn't mean we can't be good right now. We can still win games with what we have now. It's just about effort and it's about believing in ourselves and having confidence."

The Raptors finish off the pre-season tomorrow night in Sioux Falls, S.D., against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Right now, team work and conditioning are two of the key components," said Triano. "You guys might look at defensive numbers. But I think if we're in better shape, we're a better defensive team. We're missing assignments because of fatigue right now."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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