Raptors 'good as anybody'

Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors open the NBA season Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers....

Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors open the NBA season Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Dave Abel/Sun Media)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

TORONTO -- Teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference should heed the words of Hedo Turkoglu.

While players were asked for predictions on the coming season, which begins Wednesday for the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, Turkoglu suggested that anyone who believes his club will not succeed is misinformed.

“We are as good as anybody out there right now,” said Turkoglu, whom GM Bryan Colangelo brought over from the Orlando Magic in July. “We don’t get a lot of credit, even to make the playoffs. But we really don’t care. I’m very confident about myself and my teammates.”

Perhaps it’s Turkoglu who is wearing the rose-coloured contact lenses.

Most basketball publications pick the Raptors, who finished 33-49 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, to finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the East.

But to a man at the Raptors practice facility yesterday, nobody wanted to hear what the big publications and networks had to say. Chris Bosh said the bottom line is simple. If they play hard, they’ll do well. If they don’t play all-out, every game, they won’t. What he didn’t add was, if they don’t play well and don’t make the playoffs, he’ll probably play elsewhere next season.

“I see a lot of potential. We can be either good or bad, it depends on us,” Bosh said. “I think we’re going to be good. But we’re only going to be as good as we want to be. We have to believe in ourselves, first and foremost. But we have to put in the work to be good. It’s easier said than done. But that’s the lovely thing about the NBA, nothing’s easy and you have to work for (everything).”

Point guard Jose Calderon, one of three core players returning from last season (along with Bosh and forward Andrea Bargnani), said there is no point setting a limit on where they might finish.

“I want to be first,” Calderon said. “Why would I put limits on us when the season is just going to start? Why say we’ll be sixth or seventh if we can be a little bit better?”

The consensus is that the Cavaliers, who hosted Boston last night, will emerge as the beasts of the East, with the Celtics and Magic close behind. After that, it’s a turkey shoot, with Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami all in the mix to make the playoffs.

“But all of that really doesn’t matter,” Bosh said. “How many prediction polls have really been correct in the last 10 years? I’m sure nobody picked the Magic to be the Eastern Conference champs last year. We just take all that as motivation and move on.”

The worry is Raptorland — although nobody officially admits to as much — is that because the team is so new and the start of the schedule such a difficult one, the club might be slow getting out of the gate and that could affect morale. But Jay Triano, who is starting his first full season as head coach, said he will do all he can to keep the ship on an even keel.

“The players are ready and we feel good,” said Triano, while admitting that he would have liked to have had a little more time preparing his revamped squad. “Yeah, like three years. We’ve kind of cleaned house, but we’ve got very quality people in here.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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