Sports in Toronto comes loaded with a bit of an inferiority complex, with a few exceptions to root for a team in Hogtown you need a little paranoia mixed with conspiracy theories and a whole lot of skepticism. It's not necessarily found in other Canadian cities but then again it's because Toronto is in a unique position with regards to professional sports in this country, and that's the heavy involvement in so many North American wide leagues.
While Vancouver got a fresh taste of it with Steve Francis' refusal to play in Vancouver, followed up by the loss of the entire Grizzlies franchise altogether, and Montreal also felt the brunt with the loss of the Expos, Toronto has the unenviable task of worrying about itself on a daily basis. And nowhere is this more pronounced, and maybe even a cause that has further enhanced the city's self esteem issues, than in the world of NBA basketball.
While spending a day at Woodbine Racetracks yesterday Chris Bosh was aproached by reporters and, surprise surprise, questioned about summer contract talks while at the race track (didn't see that one coming!). To these questions Bosh replied that things were being put on hold for now, as in for the entire summer, and while not stating it implied he would test the Free Agent market next year.
For the always cautious sporting Torontonian the skepticism kicked into full gear, while for the basketball fans in town - who have been discussing who Bosh can be traded for, and Shawn Marion signed-and-traded for, fo quite some time already - the words from Bosh just legitimized their concerns about Bosh.
Certainly as Vince Carter proved there's no way a player in their contract year would stay in Toronto when there are far more intriguing markets around the United States to play basketball. Honestly unless it's hockey the Toronto sports fan has little faith in any of their teams to not only attract but attract and then secure marquee players. Always on the defensive of criticism from Americans and fellow Canadians alike Toronto's sports scene needs to check into therapy and soon! Because the fact of the matter is just because the man wants to test the waters, it does not mean he's instantly leaving town.
There are some optimists out there such as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star who have asserted time and time again that if Toronto puts a winning product on the Court in 2009 then all signs point to Bosh resigning in 2010, regardless of all the hype surrounding the Free Agent class. The fact that Toronto can pay him more than any other team backs up this theory. A player like Chris Bosh is not one who broadcasts himself as a prima donna, in fact he projects loyalty above sponsorships and scenes. He has made it clear that he wants top dollar for his services but as a four time all star and one of the most touted names in next year's open market it seems more of a smart business move than act of arrogance.
It was reported earlier in the week that Bosh said keeping Shawn Marion would make him happy as he feels that with Marion in place as he was down the stretch the Raptors would produce a winning product. There are still pieces to fall into place, right now the biggest uncertainty is the Shooting Guard position (presently no one has been named to start), and this Raptors team is not a Championship calibe team more moves do need to happen.
But to re-sign Marion, a player who has played and lived in Phoenix and Miami and made it well known his extreme displeasure with colder climates, to the lone Canadian team in the NBA would be a good sign to players wary of coming to Canada (read: all NBA players who are NOT European or Canadian). It would not only help the club on the court but in terms of PR as well, and if the team wins maybe with the Bosh sweepstakes as well. And maybe, just maybe, help the Toronto sports fan to relax just a little bit.
Should Chris Bosh leave next summer the sport psyche in the city will likely take another hit. Even if it works out that the loss of Bosh actually improves the team (which could very well happen for, as talented as Bosh may be, there are holes apparent in his game), the fans -and more importantly the casual basketball fans - will certainly notice the departure of one of the top Free Agents in the NBA.
Nobody wants to be that person always waiting for the perfect match and in a way it's hard for Torontonians to not feel like that consistent bridesmaid of the basketball world. But before everyone jumps off the cliff there is still time to go and games to be played. The Raptors didn't meet expectations last season and if it happens again it will cost them, Bosh and maybe even GM Bryan Colangelo. According to Tim Micallef's Twitter entry after interviewing Bosh and Marion on The Score earlier he said not to worry, Bosh likes it here in Toronto likes the people and just has to work some things out. Hopefully Toronto can handle what happens, whatever the final outcome.
Bosh won't extend deal before 2010 (ESPN)
Bosh may seek to opt out in 2010 (National Post)