Revamped Raptors Look Tougher, Deeper

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Mike Ulmer -

September 28, 2009 - When last seen in these parts, the Toronto Raptors were a sorry sight.

Now, an eventful summer removed from a disappointing 33-49, the Raptors are retooled with hopes bigger than Chris Boshs reconfigured biceps.

Ive been working so hard, Bosh said. I am ready to test everything out. I think the extra weight (15 pounds, easy) will affect my aggression level, my defense, everything.

Despite Boshs tweaked hamstring, the Raptors look more like the guy who kicks the sand than the guy who gets it stuck between his teeth

I wont get thrown around down low, Bosh said.

That was something I felt was lacking in my game: strength.

The Raptors are more muscular in all sorts of ways. The addition of guard Jarrett Jack and defensive forward Antoine Wright as well as power forward Reggie Evans gives the team a whole lot more grizzle.

And the free ride for a position going into camp has finally ended. With 12 new faces from last years training camp and more depth all around, the Raptors should benefit from more internal competition. If a guy takes a couple of days off hes going to be left behind, coach Jay Triano said. Competition really bodes well for our team. As competitive as you can be in practice, thats going to make you competitive on the floor.

Roster fights. There are scads of them.

Jose Calderon returns as the clubs point guard. The versatile Jack might yet rival Calderon at the point. Quincy Douby and Marcus Banks are fighting for whatever scraps may be left with Douby enjoying the advantage by virtue of his ability to play either guard position.

At two guard, Jack and rookie DeMar DeRozan will vie for playing time. Marco Belinelli, imported from Golden State, provides a bit more outside shooting.

The small forward spot belongs to newly-signed free agent Hedo Turkoglu, but the line behind him includes Amir Johnson and Antoine Wright, two young players looking to emerge as regulars.

Likewise the four belongs to star forward Chris Bosh but defensive stopper Reggie Evans and seven-footer Patrick OBryant are also somewhere in the mix.

Finally, the centre position will be worked as a tandem with the emerging Andrea Bargnani holding down the starting job. He will be backed up by Rasho Nesterovic.

It makes for an interesting camp, conducted this week at Ottawas Carleton University.

This is why you have training camp, Triano said. This why you have the pre-season. You have a clean slate. Guys want to prove who they are and what they can do. We let that happen and then we find out how that fits in with making us a better basketball team.

Calderon, perpetually positive, is sure it will work out.

I think were going to have a great year, he said. I like all the new faces. Were a depth team. I like it.