Bosh-Shaq feud fuel for opener

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 4:54 PM ET

Now that the tedium of pre-season hoops is over, the focus turns to Wednesday's home opener and the return of Shaq Daddy.

O'Neal lit up the Raptors in the desert last season and then lit a fuse with Chris Bosh by invoking the name of a drag queen.

"I heard what Chris Bosh said, and that's strong words coming from the RuPaul of big men," the Big Aristotle opined following his 45-point outburst, a total that helped his then-Phoenix Suns romp to a 133-111 win on Feb. 27.

"I'm going to do the same thing (in their next meeting) I did before -- make him quit. Make 'em quit and complain. It's what I do."

The next time arrives Wednesday when the Raptors christen their 15th season in the NBA.

According to various ticket brokers in the area, this home opener has created quite the buzz.

Not only will fans get to see Shaq in his new Cavaliers jersey, but they also will get to watch LeBron James, the NBA's reigning MVP in what could arguably be his final season in Cleveland.

Much like Bosh, who accused Shaq of camping out in the paint beyond the three-second window when they last met, James has the option to become a free agent next summer.

Despite a 2-6 pre-season, which ended in four successive setbacks, the Raptors promise to be entertaining and dangerous offensively.

Shaq's attack on Bosh adds another layer of anticipation.

Bosh is coming off a double-double in the team's exhibition finale, a 98-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On Friday night, Bosh scored 27 points and added 14 rebounds. He attempted 12 free throws, but he also committed six turnovers.

The Raptors were given the day off yesterday and have three days to get ready for their curtain-raiser, a time that should be best used to develop better team chemistry and devise a game plan to stop Shaq and King James.

The Raptors, among other issues, have to take better care of the basketball.

Against the T'Wolves, they turned the ball over 22 times.

If the Raptors don't make shots, they're in trouble.

Against the T'Wolves, they went 2-of-20 from beyond the three-point line.

Hedo Turkoglu, whose play last post-season helped the Orlando Magic topple the favoured Cavs in the Eastern Conference final, sustained a mild ankle sprain Friday, but it's not considered serious.

The only troublesome ailment involves Reggie Evans (foot).

It doesn't appear Evans will be able to suit up on Wednesday, leaving a huge hole in the Raptors' frontcourt.

Besides the behemoth O'Neal, the Cavs can throw Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao at opponents.

Rasho Nesterovic, who spent last season with the Indiana Pacers, will at least put a body on Shaq and it stands to reason that the gentle giant from Slovenia will get plenty of minutes coming off the Raptors' bench.

Andrea Bargnani, who fouled out during Toronto's flameout in Phoenix last season, will force bigs such as O'Neal away from the basket, which helps spread the floor.

Lest anyone forgets, the night also coincides with the return of Anthony Parker, who signed with the Cavs this past off-season as a free agent.

Briefly

Having been bought out by the T'Wolves, veteran point guard Antonio Daniels, who broke into the league with Vancouver, is said to be close to signing with Cleveland.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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