PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G José Calderón, F Jorge Garbajosa, G Carlos Delfino*, CRasho Nesterovic, F Joey Graham *New acquisition
Record: 47-35(4th in East) Points scored: 99.5 (11th in NBA) Points allowed: 98.5 (16th)Coach: Sam Mitchell (fourth season with Raptors)
Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa is a man of few words, at least when it comesto his healing left leg. When asked how his wheel, which he broke in a gruesomefall while trying to defend a breakaway dunk against Boston last March, feltgoing into training camp, Garbajosa responded, "Pain-free." And at lastmonth's European Championships, at which he helped Spain to a second-placefinish? "Pain-free," he said. And as for why he decided against havingsurgery, an option Toronto encouraged him to take in August? "Because I'mpain-free," insisted Garbajosa. "I feel completely healthy."
The Raptorscertainly hope so. Before his injury the 29-year-old former Euroleague standoutwas a Rookie of the Year candidate, averaging 8.5¬†points, 4.9 rebounds and1.9¬†assists at small forward. More important, Toronto--the surprise winnerof the Atlantic Division--missed his toughness and interior muscle in thepostseason, when the Raptors were bounced in the first round by the Nets."We had worked for a long time to do well," says Garbajosa. "It wastough to watch because I knew we were good enough to go to the nextround."
AlthoughGarbajosa is showing no ill effects from the injury--he averaged 7.8 points in21¬†minutes per game at the European Championships--Toronto will remaincautious. The team has an insurance policy through November that covers theremaining $8.5¬†million on Garbajosa's contract, and coach Sam Mitchelldeclared an open competition at starting small forward between Garbajosa, JoeyGraham and Jason Kapono, a free agent who signed a four-year, $24¬†millioncontract with the Raptors in the off-season.
Starter or not,Garbajosa is happy he can get back on the floor. "I'm not worried aboutstarting," he says, "and I never think about minutes. I just want to beuseful."
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Raptors
The Raptors'identity as a team was founded on the strength of Chris Bosh and their twoexcellent point guards, T.J. Ford and José Calderón. . . . Bosh is one of thebest young players in the league and also one of the best character guys. . . .You pair him up front with Andrea Bargnani, and you're really on to something.He and Bosh can complement each other offensively and space the floor, whichprevents opposing big men from playing centerfield around the basket. . . . Idon't trust coach Sam Mitchell as a tactician. His energy and passion are hisstrengths, and it's to his benefit that he keeps things simple. . . . AddingEuroleague veteran Anthony Parker was their most underrated move last year. Hehelped change the team dynamic by bringing toughness and a winning attitudethat Toronto had lacked. . . . My only worry is that Bosh has suffered fromnagging injuries. If he goes down for an extended time, the Raptors will becomea cellar team.
The Raptors hadthe best bench production in the East last season with a franchise-high36.3¬†points per game. That output, second in the NBA behind the Spurs'reserves, was an increase of seven points per game from '05-06.
RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BODYWORK A healthy Garbajosa gives Toronto toughness and grit on defense.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH