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Original Issue

Canada Bye?

With the Raptors in disarray, Chris Bosh may be moving on from Toronto next summer—if not sooner

It was a discouraging sight for Toronto basketball fans. There was Chris Bosh, on the way to another loss, lying doubled over on Boston's TD Garden floor last Friday after catching a Paul Pierce knee in the midsection while attempting to block a fourth-quarter dunk. Perhaps even more unsettling to those fans was what they didn't see: a single Raptors teammate coming to the defense of the franchise's biggest star as Pierce hovered over Bosh, glaring down and flexing his biceps. The three Raptors closest to the play—Hedo Turkoglu, Rasho Nesterovic and Jarrett Jack—barely glanced in Pierce's direction before turning and heading downcourt. "It's bull----," says swingman Antoine Wright, who was on the bench at the time. "I played with Cliff Robinson and Jerry Stackhouse. Neither of those guys would have stood for that s---. But it's accepted around here."

Such pusillanimous support has fueled talk that a divorce between Bosh and the Raptors is inevitable. Bosh, who at week's end was averaging career highs of 25.4 points and 12.2 rebounds, says he will wait and see before committing long term. "It's important to evaluate your own team going into free agency," says the 25-year-old forward. Right now his Raptors feature a capped-out roster filled with misplaced parts.

Toronto spent aggressively last summer, bringing in free agents Turkoglu (five years, $53 million) and Jack (four years, $20 million) while giving center Andrea Bargnani a five-year, $50 million extension. The early returns on the investments are not encouraging. At week's end the Raptors (7--11) ranked 26th in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage (47.9) and 29th in points allowed (109.3). Turkoglu has been an effective scorer (13.9), but Jack has struggled with his shot (a career-low 41.6%). Bargnani, who prefers the perimeter, has not offered an interior presence. "You go to the basket and you are going to score," says an Eastern Conference scout. "They just don't have guys who want to stop you."

Toronto executives might choose not to wait for Bosh to make his off-season evaluation. League sources believe that Toronto, which has not won a playoff series since the Bosh era began in 2003, will eventually make him available for a trade. Houston is expected to pursue Bosh and can offer Toronto enormous salary-cap relief in the form of Tracy McGrady's $23.2 million expiring contract. Miami is a destination in which Bosh is "very interested," according to a source close to him, but the Heat is unlikely to give up young players in a trade if it believes it can wait and land Bosh in free agency.

Following the 13-point loss to Boston, several Raptors were laughing and cracking jokes in the locker room, while Bosh dressed quietly in the corner. If the determining factor in his future is his team's potential to win, right now Toronto doesn't measure up.

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Frank Talk

On Lawrence Frank's dismissal as coach of the Nets on Sunday after the team's 0--16 start:

This was a move to make a move, because no coach can win with that team. New Jersey has been beaten up with injuries to Devin Harris,Yi Jianlian and Courtney Lee—that's three starters from a team that needs to be 100% healthy to win any games. Even with the injuries, they were playing hard for Lawrence (below). The [trouble signs] you look for—grumbling on the court, blowing off plays and not hustling—weren't there. I don't think any coach in the league could have done any better than he did. The Nets might improve, but that's only because players are getting healthy. Lawrence wasn't the problem.



MISSING LINKS Bosh's lack of support from his teammates was sadly visible in Toronto's 13-point loss at Boston.