The Toronto Raptors filed in one by one for their annual meet-and-greet with reporters Monday at the Air Canada Centre, but before they could meet with the media, they had to meet each other.
The Raptors' training camp opens Tuesday in Ottawa with nine new faces on the roster following a massive off-season overhaul.
A big factor in the team's success this season could be just how quickly the players get to know each other.
"I think there's a lot of speculation that we are a lot better, but if we don't play as a team, there's going to be a lot of individual talent that's going to be wasted," said Raptors head coach Jay Triano, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont. "Our job as coaches and the job of the players is going to be to get to know each other really quick and I think that's one of the advantages of going away to training camp and getting away from the city a little bit and having our guys learn a lot about each other."
Unfortunately, one of the key pieces — four-time all-star Chris Bosh — will be late to join his teammates on the practice court after suffering a moderate strain in his left hamstring running sprints at home last week in Dallas.
And Hedo Turkoglu, acquired from the Orlando Magic in a blockbuster four-team trade in the off-season, will take it easy through camp after playing for Turkey for most of the summer.
"They're going to find a way to integrate us, believe me," Bosh said, laughing. "We're going to have to work some things out as far as chemistry is concerned but hopefully, that will come along quickly. It's up to us to see how fast it will come along."
Bosh, one of three players back from last year's training camp — Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are the others — said his injury isn't serious but that he'll likely spend much of training camp in the physio room or riding the stationary bike.
"Hopefully, maybe I can do something by the end of the week and maybe after the next week or so," Bosh said.
Keeping him off the court is more of a precautionary measure, especially coming off a season that saw Calderon, the team's starting point guard, sidelined for a good chunk of the year with a hamstring injury.
"There's so much to be said about hamstrings and it's a very delicate injury so we want to make sure we do it the right way," Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "We're not going to win any championships in October.
"But we want to make sure we put the team out there and have some continuity and time to practise together before we start the actual season. But it's important we get Chris healthy before we try to force him out there."
Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo so revamped the roster this off-season that only three regulars remain: Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon. Late-season acquisitions Quincy Douby (7 games) and Patrick O'Bryant (13 games) are back, too. But Marcus Banks is trade bait and headed out.
"With all the new faces it is going to be a challenge. But we really did want to make some changes. We have accomplished it on paper and now we have to put it all together." — Raptors prez & GM Bryan Colangelo
'I had high hopes'
Last year at this time, Bosh was coming off a gold medal for the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics and predicting big things for the Raptors.
Toronto finished a dismal 33-49 so, this year, he's not predicting anything.
"Everything was going to be better," Bosh said. "I had high hopes but it just didn't happen that way.
"Some things just don't work out. Now, I just want to work to where we want to go and then enjoy fruits of labour later."
The Raptors have to hope there is, indeed, something to enjoy at season's end if they want to keep the 25-year-old in Toronto.
Bosh could be playing his final season as a Raptor — he can opt out of his contract this off-season.
When asked about what kind of team he sees himself playing for in the future, Bosh didn't hesitate.
"A championship contender, nothing less than that," he said. "If you ask every player that wants to be good what you thought about playing as a little kid, you thought about winning championships.
"That's all I think about now. I just want to be on a contender — hopefully, this team this year.
"We're starting to talk about it. We're changing our focus this year.
"Hopefully, we can be one of those contenders. But we have a lot of work to do."
'It was a radical makeover'
Colangelo did plenty of work in the summer, acquiring Turkoglu in the deal that sent Shawn Marion to Dallas, freeing up some financial room to manoeuvre.
His first piece of business was signing Triano, who was the interim head coach after Sam Mitchell was fired, to a long-term deal.
He then addressed the team's lack of toughness by acquiring hard-nosed forward Reggie Evans.
"And then everything else started to fall into place," Colangelo said. "It was a radical makeover.
"But everything was systematically thought through. Everything was looked at with a fine-toothed comb."
Triano knows the best way to keep Bosh in Toronto, if the Raptors have any say, is to simply be a better basketball team.
"Make it a situation where he wants to stay here," Triano said. "Arguably, five of our top six players are here for the next four or five years.
"It's a great group to go forward with. Hopefully, we create the type of environment that makes Chris Bosh want to stay here for those four or five years with his teammates."
'Failed miserably last year'
Colangelo said that after the disappointment of last season, nothing less than a major roster revamp would do.
"Any time you fail, you have to look at yourself and try to figure out what you can do to get better," he said. "The team failed miserably last year [and] there was no-one more embarrassed than me."
Triano himself is in a way new this season, considering he wasn't the head coach at camp last year.
"It's my first training camp," Triano said. "Things will be different as far as the messages we're trying to deliver to the players.
"We're going to be doing a lot more classroom work than has probably ever been done in the past. But there's so many guys that we need to get on the same page and so many guys that have to learn what we're trying to instill in them."
The Raptors will hold two-a-days throughout the week at Carleton University before playing an intra-squad game Saturday and returning home Sunday.