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Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh, left, drives against Sacramento Kings defender Donte Greene during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, February 7, 2010.


Chris Bosh ambled through a darkened hallway and disappeared behind a set of elevator doors. The Toronto Raptors were still practising, the NBA's trade deadline was fast approaching and it was soon revealed that Bosh, Toronto's unquestioned star, would not be playing in the team's next game.

He had not been traded, though, just injured. The 25-year-old suffered a mild sprain in his left ankle while blocking a shot in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and was headed off to see the doctor while his general manager saw what was available at the deadline.

Bryan Colangelo opted not to make a move by the 3 p.m. ET cut-off, leaving his resurgent team untouched, and allowing the speculation to circle around Bosh, who is set to become a free agent this summer.

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"Right now, I think Chris is playing very good basketball, and he's a big part of this team," Raptors coach Jay Triano said after Thursday's practice. "My job is to make him want to stay, because we're going to be pretty darn good."

Bosh, who just returned from his fifth straight appearance at the NBA's all-star game, will be part of an eye-popping crop of free agents that includes Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. In contrast to, say, an unrestricted free agent in hockey, the Raptors are not in danger of losing Bosh for nothing.

"It's a bit of a gamble, but we also have another card to play in this if we don't deal him now - which we're not trying to do," Triano said. "If, at the end of the year he wants to go somewhere else, we're the team that can offer him the most money. And if he's leaving somewhere for the money, then it would be a sign-and-trade situation."

Bosh's immediate future is clearer: He did not accompany the team on its trip to New Jersey, and he will not be in the lineup when the Raptors visit the Nets on Friday. It will be the first game the six-foot-10 power forward has missed this season.

And the Raptors have been on a roll with Bosh in the lineup, quashing most of the trade speculation that had been sparked by the team's slow start to the season. Toronto had won 13 of its previous 18 games before Wednesday's loss, which snapped an eight-game home winning streak.

"I think the team, we can improve even more," Raptors guard Jose Calderon said. "If something's coming to make us better, you've got to accept that. But we feel pretty comfortable out here."

A former Raptor was involved in one of the more notable deadline-day deals, with the New York Knicks acquiring Tracy McGrady in a three-team trade with the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings. McGrady has an expiring contract worth US$23-million.

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Houston picked up guard Kevin Martin, among others, while Sacramento got guard Larry Hughes as its marquee player in the transaction.

Bosh had never requested a trade, and Colangelo, not surprisingly, had never spoken of plans to contradict the player's wishes. Bosh is midway through his seventh season in Toronto, the only NBA home he has ever known.

"I think we have all the help we need in the locker room right now," Toronto guard Jarrett Jack said. "And, pushing forward, we've just got to come up with a better focus and be ready to play."

Colangelo did not address the media after practice.

"I think, with the salary cap the way it is, it's very difficult to make trades," Triano said. "Things have to match. There has been a lot of action in the NBA this year - more so than in other years, I think - and Raptors TV will have it covered."

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