Chris Bosh is not suffering from delusions of dino grandeur.
On the eve of the Raptors season-opening game tomorrow night against LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and the explosive Cleveland Cavaliers, the all-star forward acknowledged yesterday that his revamped, re-tooled and refocused team will have to out-work the elite clubs in the Eastern Conference this year to have any chance of winning.
And if they don't, well, it could be a long year. And though he didn't say as much, if they don't, this season may end up being Bosh's farewell tour in Toronto, as one U.S. wag put it. Even with some key new faces, including potential all-star Hedo Turkoglu, Bosh suggested yesterday following a practice at the Air Canada Centre, that the Raptors, who are 2-6 in the pre-season, are certainly not one of the upper echelon teams in the powerful East.
"We're not one of those good teams where we can show up for a game and play basketball. Some teams are like that, but we're not good enough to do that," Bosh said. "We're going to have to practise hard. This is our first month together (so) we're going to have to do things at full speed."
Bosh, who put on about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season in an effort to bump up his own game, particularly when he's facing three of the best bigs in the East (Shaq, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard), said that building chemistry is going to be huge for the Raptors, with nine new faces in the lineup. Given the fact that they missed the playoffs last year and they really haven't had a chance to play as a starting unit full-out during the pre-season because of injuries, Bosh admitted that this year's Raptors are very much a mystery team.
"It's very interesting. We're one of those teams that has a question mark by our record," Bosh said. "But you just have to play basketball.
"But it's good to have a question mark," he continued. "You never know what's going to happen. And as long as we stick to positive thoughts about success, I think we're going to be good."
Naysayers might suggest that Bosh worked doubly hard in preparation for this season because he is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the campaign. But those close to the four-time NBA all-star, including Triano, see it as a young player determined to lead his team out of the wilderness.
"I noticed mid way through the summer, he was very determined to get better," Triano said. "He was sending me text messages saying that he was watching games (on tape), saying: 'How can we get better spacing? How can I do this better?' ... He seemed very in touch with what was going on. He said he didn't like his body and wanted to get stronger. He just seems really motivated right now, and he has brought that to the team."
Triano added that his only concern about his team captain at this point is his conditioning, as Bosh missed some training camp with a sore hamstring.
Bosh said that he worked hard in the off-season to build muscle because he does not want to get pushed around by the likes of Shaq, Howard and Garnett.
"Those are the guys really I was thinking about when I was working out," he said. "Big guys like that ... that was a lot of inspiration and motivation for me to work hard this summer. Because I want to be the best."