Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bosh’

Chris Bosh probably anticipated the occasional bump in the road when he embarked on his new basketball journey with the Miami Heat however I find it highly unlikely he could have foreseen this much negative reaction over his first nine games in South Beach.  I have already discussed and given my opinions on Chris Bosh and how the Miami Heat will soon learn they are inheriting a solid big man but also one who may not compliment the talented wing combination of D.Wade and Lebron James.

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports recently wrote a scathing review of Chris Bosh so far in a Heat jersey and basically stated if he hasn’t already, Pat Riley should be looking to move Bosh for a “goon” – a player with toughness, rebounding and tenacity.  Basically he worries the Heat won’t be able to compete in the playoffs with a softy like Bosh leading their frontcourt.  He doesn’t think it will work and he goes on to say the “Big Three” should be replaced by the “Big Two” along with a Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman type – or in today’s game a Anderson Varejao or Luis Scola.

Since deciding to leave the Raptors after seven successful individual season he has been called a third wheel, a luggage carrier, a front runner and even a quitter by his former GM Bryan Colangelo.  Carmelo Anthony was just recently quoted as saying “I’m not Chris Bosh” referring to the latter’s hanging out the Toronto Raptors organization to dry during his departure with his immature twitter-filled escapades.

Bosh went from one of the (if not the) best power forwards in the game with a still bright future to an also-ran, a target for all physical big men in the NBA to devour under the glass, a whipping boy.  Bosh averaged an impressive 24 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and attempted 16.5 shots in approximately 36 minutes a night for the Toronto Raptors in 2009/10.

In only 9 games thus far into the new season Bosh is averaging 14.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist and attempts 11 shots a night for the Heat.  The drop in scoring and rebounding was to be expected but perhaps not to this extent.  Playing under the microscope the new Miami team has created will only intensify as the season progresses and especially if the Heat continue to underachieve.

Chris Bosh was the man in Toronto, he had the limelight and he was beloved in Toronto especially after taking over the franchise player role when the apathetic Vince Carter was shipped out of town.  He could’ve continued his ascension up the ranks of the greatest power forwards of all time on a pure numbers basis with the 24/10 he was putting up night in and night out. 

When Bosh was firmly planted on the Heat bench for basically the entire fourth quarter versus his former mates in Toronto I couldn’t help but wonder if he was feeling a bit of regret for the decision he made and the role he has been given on his new team.  I wonder if the feeling for the Miami Heat is mutual and they are starting to get some buyer’s remorse with their max contract power forward.

Bosh has looked lost when on the court and a bit depressed off the court and in interviews he has given.  He detests the “third wheel” tag and the fact that his game is no longer being well respected across the league by most media outlets.  This is the decision he must live with for the next five or so seasons barring a surprise trade, do you think the Heat would accept an offer of Reggie Evans for Bosh?  Hey, I had to ask! 

Maybe it is still too early to deem Bosh a bust with Miami and chances are he will start to pick his game up but come playoff time when the play down low is more physical and intense if Bosh will whilt under the pressure and be exposed by Kevin Garnett, Shaquille (and Jermaine) O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins if the Heat face the Celtics at some point in crucial playoff games.

One thing I know for sure, I can’t imagine this is the type of start he envisioned.

Depth is often a critical factor in creating a winning team in most sports and while it is obviously preferable in the NBA and basketball in general it isn’t necessarily as important or vital when compared to hockey, football and baseball.  A winning basketball team can thrive with a six to seven man rotation and often times I’d venture to say it is problematic or a waste of asset distribution to have too deep of a ball club when considering where most pundits or experts feel this team will ultimately finish this season.

Case in point, look at these two squads:

Team A Team B
PG – Jose Calderon PG – Jarrett Jack
SG – Demar Derozan SG – Leandro Barbosa
SF – Linus Kleiza SF – Sonny Weems
PF – Reggie Evans PF – Amir Johnson
C – Andrea Bargnani C – David Andersen

 

Team A is the projected Toronto Raptors starting five while Team B is of course the projected second unit give or take a player.  If these two teams did battle in a seven game set my guess is it would be a knock-em-down, drag-em-out war that might not ever end given the parity between the two sides.  Some might see this as a positive given the roster depth but taking a closer look it is actually almost a negative.

The Raptors do possess a relatively deep roster overall however it is also a team filled with potentially only one legitimate NBA starter in smooth shooting (and much maligned) big man Andrea Bargnani.  The Raptors have stuffed their salary cap and roster full of mediocre roster filler for the most part and obviously lack the top end talent in the wake of losing Chris Bosh.

The Raptors would love to shed the salaries of Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks as all four would likely be bench options at best on most current contending rosters.  They are in tough situations with Demar Derozan and Sonny Weems as while both have promise neither has shown they are going to be definite prime time producers yet both are going to be up for raises on longer term contracts in the next 1-2 seasons, like Amir Johnson last year.

They have added veteran bench and depth pieces in Linus Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa but they will both be long gone (at least their best games will) by the time the Raptors are ready to compete on a regular basis and are just receiving a big pay cheque and empty minutes at this point.  At some point Andrea Bargnani will have to either step up his overall game to earn his massive new payday or be moved out to expedite the rebuilding process.

Make no mistake this is not a retooling, at least it shouldn’t be viewed as such given the dearth of quality legitimate NBA producers on the current roster.  This one feels like it should be a complete overhaul with a tear it down and start it over mentality, immediately.  The man in charge is Bryan Colangelo who is a smart basketball mind and has shown a quick trigger when admitted mistakes go awry but he is also fighting for a contract extension and it is doubtful he is willing to go this route when the folks at MLSE are hoping to fill the ACC on a nightly basis but this is something the fan base should be screaming for, loud and clear.

Why a Linus Kleiza was brought in on a four year contract is beyond me, Kleiza is a fine role player no doubt but a guy you bring in when trying to bridge the gap or play to a potential opponent’s specific strength.  For example the Los Angeles Lakers bringing in Ron Artest last season and Matt Barnes this year and this type of move would have looked a lot better last season.

Now he gets a slight reprieve considering the roster might have looked a tad better with the additions of Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Matt Barnes while simultaneously subtracting two bloated salaries in Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans.  But realistically what was the best result that particular group would have achieved, a possible late seeded playoff berth?  I think it’s time to shift that philosophy now that our supposed franchise player has left the building.

I am not suggesting “tank nation” in hopes of landing a top lottery selection as you never know where the ping pong balls will fall but instead I am saying tear it down, let all of our potential “keepers” play and give them a season long audition with heavy minutes.  Demar Derozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Solomon Alobi and Joey Dorsey should be the main rotation and guys like Reggie Evans, Linus Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa shouldn’t steal minutes from players who could potentially help us in the next few years let alone have been brought in at all. 

In closing we need a clear vision from management as to where this franchise is heading and the fans will appreciate some honesty and forward thinking knowing the team is at least moving in the right (or any) direction.  If you want to try and win now with this lackluster group than fine, use the trade exemption along with expiring contracts to bring in the Tyson Chandler/Boris Diaw types, it is a futile effort and waste of assets (not to mention one year too late) but at least it is a plan.  How do we intend to compete with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics for the next decade, what is our action plan, and I hope it doesn’t involve signing a guy like Erick Dampier

I contend it is time to start over, again.  This is a deep year in the upcoming draft at the point guard spot, a position the Raptors have been dreadfully inadequate for quite some time and looking at the past crop of young, exciting point guards that have come into the NBA in recent years it seems as good a year as any to finish in the bottom three to five teams.  I don’t want this to be a lost season or a waste of a calendar year in a potential rebuild, let’s get to it now. 

Clear valuable cap space whether it can be used immediately or not, jettison our redundant veteran pieces (Kleiza, Barbosa, Jack, Calderon, Evans etc) while letting the youth play to get a good idea of what we have while adding a top pick (preferably point guard, but best available) in the offseason.  That should be the only goal of the 2010/11 season and looking at our roster it wouldn’t take much to make that happen.

All sports fans love to reminisce to the good old days, maybe it was a better period or span of time for their favourite or local team or quite possibly it was just a simpler and more carefree time in their own lives.  Whatever the reasons nothing gets the argumentative juices flowing like a good old-fashioned ‘All-Time Top 5’ list – let’s get our own going.

I decided to embark on a new five-part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’.  Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.

Part I – Top 5 Maple Leafs of all time

Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time

Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time

Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time

Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes

Let’s get to the fun.

Part II – Top Five All-Time Toronto Raptors

The junior franchise among the majors in Toronto, the Raptors have none the less given Toronto sports fans a lot of good/bad times, meaningful basketball mixed with some pretty obsolete seasons and boasts a pretty solid resume of basketball talent that has come and gone.  The team was established in 1995 and played their original seasons (and three more seasons) at the cavernous Skydome (aka Rogers Centre). 

The team has gone through a lot over the past 15 years including a monumental (for us) upset against the Chicago Bulls (during the Bulls run to another title and the 72-10 win-loss season), let’s just assume the Bulls had a great night on the town before playing that game, score an assist to the Toronto night life for that one!  Vin-sanity’s rise and fall, Chris Bosh and Bryan Colangelo, and the ever-growing record three-point field goal record.  The Raptors have been a very solid drafting team and can boast 8 First team “All-rookies” in Damon Stoudemire (1996), Marcus Camby (1997), Vince Carter (1999), Morris Peterson (2001), Chris Bosh (2004), Charlie Villanueva (2006), Andre Bargnani (2007) and Jorge Garbajosa  (2007).

Let’s just say the Toronto Raptors have had a tumultuous fifteen plus seasons and with the recent departure of Chris Bosh, a whole new franchise game plan is about to be implemented.  Let’s take a look at the five greatest Toronto Raptors contributors since the year 1995:

#5 – PG Damon Stoudamire, born September 3rd, 1973 in Portland, Oregon.  Ranks #7 in Raptors scoring, #3 in assists (2.5 seasons, 271 games, 5142 points, 2341 assists).

Potentially a strange inclusion on an all-time list consider the player was only with the Raptors for 2.5 seasons, but the impact felt by ‘Mighty Mouse’ still resonates and outside of Vince Carter was the most exciting Raptor of all time.  The former Arizona Wildcat standout was drafted with the first ever Toronto Raptors draft selection (7th overall) by GM Isiah Thomas who was enamoured with the quick but slight point guard.  Stoudamire had an outstanding rookie campaign for the Raps setting the record for three-point field goals made by a rookie with 133 (record since broken), ranked third in NBA history for assists per game by a rookie (9.3). 

Stoudamire went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year (the shortest man to ever do so) and the team appeared to be in the right hands for a resurgence and hopeful quick rise to prominence for the expansion franchise.  In his next season, Stoudamire played a Raptors record (to this day) 3311 minutes and averaged 20.2 PPG, 8.8 APG and 4.1 RPG and still holds Raptors records for most assists in a season (709), assist per game (8.8) and minutes per game (41).

Tired of the constant losing, the final straw for Stoudamire was when Isiah Thomas had a falling out with ownership after a failed power play to gain controlling interest in the budding franchise, Stoudamire was shipped out on February 13th, 2010 to the Portland Trail Blazers for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, two 1st round draft picks, a 2nd round draft pick and cash.  Things quickly went south for Mighty Mouse and his career spiraled downwards after departing Toronto, run-ins with the law for a marijuana charge and plummeting overall stats, Stoudamire even admitted that leaving Toronto in hindsight was probably a mistake.

A spoiled brat upon his departure? Yes. But one of the most impactful Raptors in franchise history, even with only 2.5 years? As a day one Raptors fan, I say yes. Based on overall impact on the franchise (and assets we received in return) he just beats out potential top-fivers Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams, Tracy McGrady and Charles Oakley.

#4 – PG Jose Calderon, born September 28th, 1981 in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain.  All-time franchise leader in assists (5 seasons, 359 G, 2364 assists) and amazing 4.1 assist/turnover ratio.

I can already feel the eye rolls and sarcastic remarks as you wonder how this ‘overpaid bum’ could ever rank on a greatest all-time Toronto Raptors piece, but fact is, Calderon has put up five pretty impressive seasons as the Raptors main point or backup point guard.  The franchise’s all-time leader in assists and assist/turnover ratio Calderon’s career averages (all with the Raptors) as a starter have been even more impressive (33.3 MPG, 12.2 PPG/8.3 APG/3.0 RPG), he is currently the 8th leading scorer in Raptor’s franchise history also.

Calderon, standing 6’3″ and weighing 210 pounds played six season as a professional in Europe and was signed by the infamous Rob Babcock on August 3rd, 2005.  Known as a pass-first, low-turnover playmaker, Calderon has also proved to be an effective overall shooter (49.6% FG), solid range (38.7 3P%) and of course one of the best free-throw shooters in the game (87.8% FG) having set an NBA record for free-throw shooting (98.1%) in 2008/2009.

Injuries have taken their toll on the Raptors efficient Spaniard point-guard (a curse of the Raptors) and his lacklustre on the ball defense has been much maligned, but fact is for a relatively baby franchise, a player who is the all-time assist leader and in the top eight in scoring all the while being a great teammate and unselfish ballplayer, Jose Calderon belongs on this list.  How much longer he actually remains in Toronto of course remains to be seen as a rumoured deal sending Calderon to Charlotte fell through in the much discussed fiasco involving Michael Jordan and the Bobcats.

#3 – SF Morris Peterson, August 26th, 1977 in Flint, Michigan.  Currently ranks #1 in all-time games played, #2 in minutes, #3 in all-time scoring and #4 in all-time rebounding (7 seasons, 544 games, 6500 points, 2064 rebounds).

Playing at the basketball crazy factory known as Michigan St under legendary head coach Tom Izzo, “MoPete” helped the Spartans [Mich St] win a National Championship in 2000  leading the team in scoring, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage and was subsequently selected 21st overall in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors.  Peterson quickly became a Raptors fan favourite for his gritty workman like style (371 consecutive games played between February 12th, 2002 and November 22nd, 2006) and all-around effective style.

Peterson is all over the Raptors all-time rankings as we noted, to summarize he ranks #1 in games, #2 in minutes, #3 in points scored and #4 in rebounding.  Peterson had a penchant for big-time shots at crucial times and he was always good for ridiculous half court heaves from time to time.  He made the NBA All-Rookie team in 2001 and #24 remains a popular player in the Toronto basketball scene.  It would seem ludicrous for MoPete not to be on this list and his overall game, longevity and numbers places him firmly amongst the Raptors greatest in my opinion.

#2 – PF Chris Bosh, born March 24th, 1984 in Dallas, Texas.  Basically re-wrote the Raptors record books, the franchise’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and minutes.

Drafted 4th overall in 2003 by the Toronto Raptors in what some call the greatest NBA draft class of all-time featuring Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony Bosh took his lanky and long frame to Canada’s lone franchise and would eventually establish records for essentially every major statistical category.  For his rookie season, Bosh averaged 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 33.5 minutes in 75 games leading all rookies in rebounding and blocked shots and was named to the All-Rookie team.

Bosh also helped fans forget about the ugly divorce between then hero Vince Carter and the team and was anointed the new face of the franchise and really, Chris never looked back taking the reigns and putting up huge individual numbers though outside of a division title in 2006/2007 never could lead the team to the next level in the post-season.  A five-time all-star Bosh is the all-time franchise leader in points scored, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, total rebounds and RPG, blocks, free-throws made and double-double’s.

More discussion on Bosh located here, for whatever reason and whomever the Raptors brought into town (Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkuglu, TJ Ford, Jason Kapono, Jarret Jack) it just never seemed to click with Bosh as the franchise player and he eventually opted out of his contract and ended up with the Miami Heat where both Dwayne Wade and Lebron James are members of the now infamous and hated team in South Beach.

So how could the all-time leader in basically everything Raptors not be its top all-time player?  Because the man at the top of the list was simply the best player to ever don the uniform and essentially put Toronto basketball on the map and at one point was considered among the games best players and a guy who fans will never ever forget.

#1 – SG Vince Carter, born January 26th, 1977 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  4th all-time in games played, 3rd all-time in minutes, 2nd in scoring, highest point-per-game and highest PPG in a season (actually owns the top three in that category).

Vincent Lamar Carter, aka Vin-sanity had the entire city of Toronto at his feet beginning in 1998 after being drafted 5th overall by the Golden State Warriors and quickly flipped to the Raptors for the 4th overall pick Antawn Jamison.   Carter’s rookie season was shortened by the NBA lock-out in 1999 and Vince started basically every game for head coach Butch Carter averaging 18.3 points per game and eventually won the NBA Rookie of the Year award. 

The very next year Carter was selected to the All-Star team and averaged 25.7 ppg, made the 3rd team All-NBA team and captivated the entire world after winning the greatest NBA Slam Dunk contest in history at the 2000 All-Star game with an array of high-flying, gravity defying throw-downs.  In 2000/2001 Carter averaged a career high 27.6 ppg, made the All-Star team and was voted to the 2nd team All-NBA team all the while leading the Raptors to its greatest season with 47 regular season wins.

In the playoffs, the Raptors beat the New York Knicks (3-2) and advanced the Eastern Conference Sem-Final, where they took the Philadelphia 76ers to a decisive seventh game, the same day Vince decided to attend his North Carolina university graduation ceremony and after missing a game-winning shot with 2 seconds remaining was heavily criticized by the ultra tough Toronto media on his decision to attend the ceremony.

However, the team was doing well on the court and raking it in off the court with the NBAs top draw and most exciting player Vince Carter firmly in tow, and the team rewarded Carter in the summer of 2001 with a MAX 94 million/six-year contract extension to what both parties hoped would be a successful marriage.  One could say that this was the proverbial beginning of the end for both Carter and the franchise and the next few years would prove painful (literally) for the team and the injury prone shooting guard.

Over the next three seasons Carter played 60, 43 and 73 games respectively and the chinks in the once bullet-proof Carter were starting to become very apparent in Raptor land.  Questions arose about his toughness, hustle and bad defense league wide and it all came to a head in 2004 when Carter became disenchanted with the direction of the franchise and in the 2004/2005 season suddenly stopped driving the hoop, swore off dunking and basically played like a sieve, giving up on the team.  Carter averaged 15.9 points in 30.4 minutes for the Raptors and upon being dealt to the New Jersey Nets on December 17th, 2004 (for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two future 1st round picks) went on to average 27.5 points in 38.9 minutes per game, a pretty stark difference.

Carter even reference the marked difference in his play after the trade in an early January interview with TNTs John Thompson that he didn’t always push himself in Toronto.  The fan base in Toronto felt betrayed and letdown and considering the team didn’t add a single tangible asset for the greatest player in its history, it also set the franchise back several years.  Carter is still roundly booed upon his return to the ACC.

So why Carter?  As painful as it is to admit, Vince Carter was Toronto basketball, the team never had more success than during the Vin-sanity tenure and individually Vince was the greatest player to ever play for the team, period.  During the height of his popularity, people often included Carter in talks for the games greatest player, and on countless occasions Vince literally put the team on his back and was almost single-handedly responsible for some of the best Raptors basketball in team history, and for those reasons I have to rank Vince Carter as the greatest Toronto Raptor of all time.

Losing a player with the abilities and talents of Chris Bosh is a tough pill to swallow.  Bosh was a gamer and a highly skilled player who was also fiercely competitive, his 24 ppg and 10 rpg is something you do not simply replace.  Chris Bosh was a star player, and in the NBA that means a few things.  First, you get calls (even marginal) and that will send you to the free-throw line, a lot, Bosh had a career high in FTA and FTM last season.  Second, you draw attention and the extra man, which frees up teammates and allows them to get into open space and hopefully take advantage offensively. 

Chris Bosh was also a facilitator, he often had plays run through him and he was excellent at reading the double team and finding the proper outlet, a skill that simply takes years to hone.  How often do you see a newbie big man dribble himself into trouble or turn the ball over repeatedly as they just do not have the court vision or awareness that year’s in the league brings.  Chris Bosh was also a solid teammate and an above average defensive rebounder given his relatively slight frame for the power forward position.  Bosh really stepped up his hustle game and made sure he was consistently attacking the basketball – that is all that makes a league average rebounder, hustle.

However, Chris Bosh was not without his weak points also.  Bosh was not a dominant low post player, he has shown he can be easily pushed around by a stronger big man and in all of the years he was with Toronto he could never quite carry them to the next level for any real extended periods of time.  His supporting cast, while not legendary was never completely horrendous.  Another worry for me with Bosh long term is the wonky knee, have you seen the size of that knee brace?  Images of a Jermaine O’Neal type decline just cannot escape my mind and I think he has already shown some signs that he just might be beginning to slowly break down. 

Bosh has improved his physique over the years which will bode well for the coming battles with Dwight Howard, but the Miami Heat better hope they pick up some much needed size and physicality to match up against some of the other bigger Eastern teams or they will get pounded down low.  I foresee some extremely intense battles in the coming season against the Celtics and Shaquille O’Neal, even if he doesn’t guard O’Neal, it appears O’Neal has a grudge against Bosh in some shape or form (think RuPaul)  so the bodies and elbows might be flying and that is a battle Bosh simply cannot win.

The biggest question remains how will the Raptors manage without their franchise star forward?  It appears they want to play an extremely up-tempo offensive game and they have even reworked their roster to be a little more defensively aware.  It’s hard to blame Bryan Colangelo for the Bobcat trade being reneged (would have landed them a solid centre in Tyson Chandler and swingman Boris Diaw while also disposing of the terrible Jose Calderon contract), he has proven to be a mover and a shaker and I think the team is still in great hands and in fact I think the franchise will be better sans Bosh going forward. 

The question was asked internally and will probably be questioned by his current employer in a few years, is Chris Bosh really worthy of being a MAX guy?  Even with Bosh’s weaknesses and drawbacks you just don’t simply replace the man you decided was your franchise player and the 24&10 that accompanied him on a nightly basis.  But we have discussed Chris Bosh ad nauseum and it’s time for all to move on and set our sights on the future, which certainly isn’t as bleak as most think. 

For any immediate success the Raptors will have to see some serious internal development year over year and two prime candidates for breakout seasons have to be the new power forward Andrea Bargnani and our 1st round pick from last season shooting guard Demar Derozan.  With Bargnani sliding into his natural position (or best suited) I think the best is yet to come with the silky smooth 7’0” Italian born shooter.  With improved strength and increased overall confidence I think Bargnani will definitely average 20+ points per game and with a little extra hustle (the key ingredient to a successful rebounder) could bump his rebound totals to 8-9 a game.  In short, I think Bargnani will take his game to a much higher level this season.

Demar Derozan was the talk of the latest NBA Summer League as he basically dominated each game from beginning to end, which was the reasoning behind sending him.  When I watched Derozan he reminded me of a young Tracy McGrady in terms of raw athleticism and natural ability.  If Derozan takes a big step forward in his development this season, that could go a very long way in helping to replace the 24 points coming off the books [Chris Bosh departing].  He has packed on some additional muscle and with the increased strength should come an even more explosive attack the rim style.

Another player I am extremely excited to watch game in and game out is the “Brazilian Blur” Leandro Barbosa.  Although he has battled injuries the past few seasons he has the ability to be an impact scorer (he averaged 18 PPG off the bench in Phoenix only a couple seasons ago) and it will be interesting to see how Jay Triano utilizes his new guard.  Will he save him for the second unit and the first man off the bench to hopefully punish the opposition guards (and wear them out) or will Barbosa find himself in the starting unit for basically the first time in his career? 

Small forward Linus Kleiza brings more of an edge and can be a fairly reliable bench scorer and possible starter.  Everybody remembers the baseline dunks that he will showcase from time to time and he brings the toughness and grit that we have been seriously lackingSonny Weems shouldn’t be underestimated and he has a lot of reasons to improve his overall game, money being the primary motivator after seeing his good buddy Amir Johnson sign a shiny new contract don’t think Weems doesn’t want to get his.  Weems has all the tools and raw athletic ability you could ask for but he needs to continue to develop that mid-range jumper and overall consistency to his game.

Speaking of Amir Johnson I have to admit I am a huge fan of his game, the guy gets up and down the court, is an outstanding rebounder and I believe has untapped offensive abilities but does not dominate the ball or require plays run through him to be an effective scorer.  Foul trouble has haunted him over his career but something tells me we are going to see a much improved and matured version of Johnson over the life of his contract, his best basketball is still to come.

It appears now that the chances of trading Jose Calderon are slim to none and our point guard situation will again be the two-headed monster of Calderon and Jarrett Jack, which isn’t the best duo in the league but teams could do worse.  Calderon for all the criticism has been a fairly consistent offensive player for most of his Raptors career, he is extremely efficient running the team’s offense and if a defensive scheme or system can be put in place to lessen the impact of his woeful on the ball defence the Raptors would still get plenty of value out of Calderon.

Wildcards for this season include Julian Wright (6’8” swingman who is an athletic defender) and Ed Davis (undersized but very athletic rebounder and strong defender).  Hopefully there is some available playing time for them to develop.  Joey Dorsey (likely NBADL bound)honestly has the physique of Dwight Howard and he looked liked an absolute monster in the summer league, he obviously isn’t even close to the same type of super-athlete that Howard is, but man that body.  Solomon Alabi is another intriguing big man who will likely see limited minutes and opportunities in a suddenly relatively deep pool of big men.

The Raptors have the trade exemption still firmly in hand, and with a few teams looking to unload, this could prove to be a valuable chip.  We also have more long term financial flexibility and what I feel is at least the beginning of a stronger team overall given the system we wish to employ.  Although though they are criticized for being too Euro-centric in their draft/sign strategy, I am afraid this will have to likely continue as it has become abundantly (and loudly) clear that American born African-American ballers just do not see Toronto as a serious and viable market for their tastes. 

Most will agree and some players have gone on record saying TO is the spot to visit for road trips (almost all the NBA ballers hit up Caribana annually) and even Sir Charles Barkley recently called Toronto “One of the ten best cities in the world” but whether it be the cultural differences, hockey mania, higher taxes or just the fact they do not get the desired American TV exposure (and the potential for milk moustaches) they do not want to commit their prime playing years to this city and scene.

Still, fact is, money talks and the Raptors will have some to spend in the coming years, and lets be real outside of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, is there really a better all-around city in North America to spend prolonged time in than Toronto?  We will still continue to bring in talent, as we always have, this time we need to add the missing equation – sustained meaningful and winning basketball. 

What’s the old adage, if you build it, they will come?

This is the re-write, the first read very harsh and abrasive towards Chris Bosh and the way he ended his tenure, I think the word RuPaul was fairly prominent.  I have come to realize I will miss Chris Bosh but perhaps not as much as he might end up missing Toronto, where he was without question the main attraction.  In the end, life goes on, enjoy.

To discuss Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors, follow me on TWITTER!  @tdotsports1

*UPDATE – May 24/2011* Lebron James showing the NBA why he is the best player of all time, why the Miami Heat will beat the Chicago Bulls and make it to the NBA finals in their first season together.

Based solely on numbers it is hard to argue that Chris Bosh wasn’t the best Raptor player in franchise history.  If Vince Carter though enigmatic at times was the most talented then Chris Bosh was the most productive.  However I have a feeling Chris Bosh will be the easier of the two to get over and slowly forgotten, something that cannot be said for Vin-sanity.  Make no mistake Bosh will be booed heavily upon his return, that you can guarantee, and the first game back will be genuine ‘from the heart’ boo’s, but after that, they will boo because they feel they have to, not because they really deep down ‘Vince Carter hatred’ want to boo. 

During last night’s interview with ‘Sportsnet’ (a pretty weak effort I must add, not exactly a tough line of questioning) Bosh said he does not regret the past seven years and what was accomplished with the team.  I tried to do the math in my head quickly to try and comprehend the fact that Chris Bosh was a Raptor for seven years, it seemed like a lot less.  For one, he had an NBA body for maybe two of them with a few meaningful games mixed into a mostly unremarkable tenure, even forgettable.  Fact is trade Bosh for Lebron James in Toronto last season and the Raptors are making a deep playoff run.

Just like basketball fans across the world have already forgotten about Chris Bosh, as Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are the two big ticket items in Miami.  Legendary figures Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan didn’t even as much make mention of Chris Bosh when they weighed in on Lebron’s decision to ‘take his talents’ to South Beach.  Chris Bosh can say (and tweet) all the right things and act like it doesn’t bother him, but I can almost guarantee that if he would have known Lebron James was going to ride into town and essentially make Chris Bosh the forgotten and dreaded third wheel almost immediately he might have chosen a different team, maybe even Toronto.

Chris Bosh is a very solid basketball player, but his game has excelled the past few seasons because the ball has been in his hands and he has been counted upon to be a playmaker.  Bosh is not great off the ball, he does not possess the size or strength needed to push his way onto the block or get great position down low.  He gets the ball from 15-feet with his strong face-up game and punishes the normally bigger and slower defender.  As the third option, his numbers will plummet, and the things that the third option normally do (rebound, shot block, hustle, lockdown D) are the things we as Raptors fans know he does not excel at. 

Bosh was our go-to scorer, for better or worse, but he was anything but a clutch rebounder, big time hustle guy or lockdown defender.  You cannot blame one man for a team wide problem but when your power forward is not a huge body or a solid defensive rebounder, it shows, and how many nights Raptor fans were frustrated when the other team just killed us on the glass.  Bosh lacks that toughness, that intestinal fortitude that screams “SPARTA!!!!” 

Chris Bosh will still get his touches and a chance to chip in offensively, but one has to look no further than the defending champions in Boston to realize that for Bosh to contribute to the Heat in a meaningful way, he is going to have to make an effort to adopt the role Kevin Garnett has with the Celtics. 

KG’s PPG dropped from his career high of 24.2 (2003/2004) to 18.8 in his first season with the Celtics.  While Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will never be confused as pass first players, I’d venture to say Lebron James (20 attempts a night, 29.7 PPG last season) and Dwyane Wade (20 attempts, 26.6 PPG) dominate the ball a great deal more than the Celtics duo.  For their careers, Allen has averaged 15.9 attempts per game (12.2 in 2010) and Pierce 16.6 (12.2 in 2010).

What made the Celtics great was Garnett did everything the other two would not.  He was completely selfless as he set screens, hustled down every loose ball, rebounded with reckless abandon and played with an in your face toughness that dared a defender to drive the lane on him.  The Celtics MVP might have been Paul Pierce, but everybody knew who made that team tick, it was a healthy Kevin Garnett.  Chris Bosh is not on KG’s level in any of those categories, this isn’t to slam Bosh as a player but it’s just not what he developed into and what made him so valuable to the Toronto Raptors.

Like I mentioned above, nobody for better or worse will ever forget Vince Carter.  Carter was silky smooth out of the basketball hotbed of North Carolina, we felt lucky to have him and during his peak I think the feeling was mutual.  Bosh was goofy, almost nerdy, with his Kenyan marathon runners build and tiny head perched on top of that long body.  He was tech savvy long before it was trendy, he made funny ‘You-tube’ videos but didn’t convey (and still doesn’t) the ‘South Beach’ style.  Seriously, can you even picture Chris Bosh at a bar or club? 

During the latest interview Bosh awkwardly mentioned Toronto was “different”, again.  This time his defence was the metric system, “You hit the freeway and you see 40 KM per hour and you just know something is different”, relax it’s called the metric system and the speedometer on your Range Rover supports both.  He stated prior that Toronto “even smelled different”, yeah fresh air (compared to Miami) does smell different Chris, you’re right.  He could have mentioned in a country (USA) with a sky-high murder rate Miami (according to recent data) has 2.5 times the National murder rate – that’s different.  Ok, I have wandered off topic.

We’ll have to wait and see how Bosh handles being the forgotten man on the most unforgettable team ever assembled and whether the game and style he brings will mesh well with LBJ and Wade.  He likely envisioned playing second fiddle to Wade but still being highly utilized for the next five or six seasons but that is unlikely now and Bosh and his wonky knee will have to hope his body can grind out the type of work the Miami Heat are going to need out of him to be successful, because it certainly isn’t the 18-foot jump shots he is accustomed to taking.

The sobering reality is they just don’t make enough Roy Halladay’s, one of the greatest athletes to ever play in Toronto, hardworking and classy to the very end.  How did Roy end his time in Toronto, he sincerely thanked the fans, he took out a full page ad in a Toronto newspaper and more importantly did not call us “weird” as Bosh essentially has with his odd and awkward statements. 

Halladay is a CY Young winner, the very best at his position in all of baseball.  Not some skinny, injury prone, undersized power forward who gave us one shallow division title (before the Celtics were re-born) and no playoff success. 

Toronto fans are hoping the next chapter of the Raptors without Chris Bosh is also ‘different’, with sustained winning and meaningful basketball being that missing ingredient.