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Kelly Dwyer

Chris Bosh returns to Toronto

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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The Basketball Jones sage and Raptors superfan Tas Melas pointed out that "he is going to get lambasted with 19,000 boos."

The Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk predicts that "almost every soul in the seats will heartily boo" him.

"He" is Chris Bosh(notes). And on Wednesday night, he'll play his first game in Toronto as a member of the Miami Heat. And he will be booed, lustily.

But, as the two kindly souls I quoted above will be the first to tell you, those boos will ring hollow at their core. Yes, Bosh will be booed quite a bit. But Raptor fans -- most of them -- know what's up. Bosh was never a franchise player, and while he could have handled his move to Miami better, you can't blame the guy for leaving these Raptors for that crew of MVP talents down in South Beach.

This doesn't mean Wednesday night's ticket won't be the most sought-after game in Toronto's season. They've done this before, going off on Vince Carter(notes) most prominently, but also to Damon Stoudamire (after he forced a trade out of Toronto back in 1998) and Tracy McGrady(notes) (after he moved to his home state to play with Grant Hill(notes) in 2000). All three, along with Bosh, could have handled the move better. Vince Carter, for one, didn't have to take off the first month of the 2004-05 season, his last with Toronto.

And Wednesday night, with the Raptors last in the Atlantic Division and on pace for 23 wins, a good chunk of the team's fandom will take out their frustrations on Bosh as his Southeast Division-leading Heat roll into town. It's not unlike LeBron James'(notes) trip to Cleveland last December, to take on his former Cavaliers teammates. With the unfortunate caveat being that the Cavaliers were a respectable 7-10 upon warmly allowing James and the Heat into their home. These Raptors are 15-40 and, as I pointed out Tuesday, not going anywhere anytime soon.

Making things a bit more complicated is Bosh's play while in Toronto. In short, it was terrific.

No, he wasn't the type to bring down a rim with a two-handed stuff, and he wasn't ever going to change many games defensively, but he gave a great effort nearly every game throughout his time in Toronto. With that wispy frame and soft touch, Bosh worked to the peak of his abilities in Toronto, with the lone caveat pointing out that, no, he did not play with the same fire and gusto in his last couple of months with the team during 2009-10.

But even with that minor slide, Bosh still averaged 24 points and nearly 11 rebounds in his last season as a Raptor, shooting almost 52 percent. His Player Efficiency Rating of 25 led all power forwards last season. He didn't look the same late last season because he wasn't playing the same, but that was only in reference to the near-MVP level he played at for the first 75 percent of his season. That, to me, doesn't really say many terrible things about a person's character. Sometimes you come in to work on a Sunday so that you can leave early on a Friday afternoon.

What happened next is less inspiring. He tweeted about his potential free agency while he was still under contract to the Raptors, even if Toronto wasn't playing at the time (the first round of the playoffs). Whether this is his fault or not, he looked like a bit of a third wheel as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade(notes) went down to Miami. Kevin Durant(notes) called him a "fake tough guy." The oddly hilarious photoshoot he came through with for Maxim was widely ridiculed. He's a bit of a punch line in Toronto and out of it.

Bosh doesn't get away with the same sort of "look-at-me" exercises that James and Wade do, not only because he isn't as individually accomplished as them, but also because he's a bit of a dork. And as the King of All Dorks, I don't say that unkindly. He tries to keep up with what James and Wade think is cool and fails just as miserably as those two, but leaves himself more prone to ridicule because his brand on insincerity and narcissism seem worlds away from James' and Wade's. This isn't a bad thing.

And the Raptors fans are right to boo. At the end of Chris' Toronto Story, he left the team. There were good and even great reasons to leave the Toronto Raptors last summer, but he still left the team to go play for another. And in the world of sports, that's a boo-able offense.

But it won't get ugly. It will be clever, it will be spirited, and there will be a lot of people there. That's the Toronto way, coming from someone who's never been in the city.

And, as it is with all on-court things that Bosh and the Heat have given us this year, it will be worth tuning into.

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