Chris Boucher’s emergence a positive sign for Raptors, Canada Basketball

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) makes the basket as Orlando Magic centre Mo Bamba looks on (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – Chris Boucher isn’t one to hide his intentions.

Take Wednesday night’s 113-97 Toronto Raptors victory over the Orlando Magic, for example. As soon as Boucher checked into the game, everyone in the building knew what the 26-year-old was looking to do: Provide energy in any way possible.

“I kind of figured out that all I need to do is rebound, block shots, protect the paint, the game comes a lot easier when you think about that stuff,” said Boucher after Wednesday’s contest. “… With hard work I feel like I can take care of these things.”

And Boucher did just that, arguably playing his best NBA game yet against the Magic as he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and one block on 5-of-10 shooting in about 20 minutes played.

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Wednesday was just the latest in a strong run of games for Boucher that began in Los Angeles against both the Lakers and Clippers during which he’s averaged 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on 50 per cent shooting.

The key to all of this, apparently, has been Boucher just allowing his own natural basketball intuition to take over.

“Sometimes we’ve got to get him to quit thinking so much and just let him play with his instincts and chase the ball,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse of Boucher.

This has particularly been the case most recently in regards to Boucher’s offensive rebounding. Six of Boucher’s 11 boards Wednesday came from the offensive glass, and on Monday, against the Charlotte Hornets, seven of Boucher’s 11 rebounds in that game were offensive.

“I think the key to that is you go consistently, no matter where you are, and you see a shot going up you just take off flying and you go in there,” said Nurse. “Say you go in there nine times in a row, you’re going to probably tip a couple in because he’s flying hard, he’s got length, he’s got some speed to use to get up in the air. He works at that a little bit.”

Nurse has spoken glowingly of Boucher’s work ethic all this week and the fruits of that labour are now beginning to emerge, something that’s paying dividends for the Raptors coach now and could potentially do so down the road, even with Serge Ibaka possibly making his return to the lineup as early as this Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks.

And these benefits don’t just apply to Nurse’s NBA gig, either.

A Montreal native, Boucher’s emergence isn’t just a positive sign for the Raptors, it’s good news for Canada Basketball as well.

Last week, it was announced that Canada Basketball had won a bid to host one of four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Victoria, B.C., and if Boucher keeps trending the way he has with the Raptors, there’s a chance he’ll also be seeing Nurse with the national team in June.

At the very least, Boucher’s going to do what he can during this season to try to prove to Nurse that he deserves to be in Victoria as he says he wants to suit up for Team Canada.

“For sure,” Boucher said earlier this week of possibly playing in the OQT. “If I get the invite, I’ll be there.”

Playing in the OQT would give Boucher a chance to do something he, unfortunately, was unable to do in the summer during the World Cup. As he’s previously explained, Boucher was forced to drop out of Team Canada’ FIBA World Cup training camp due to family issues he needed to take care of ahead of this season.

That’s all been taken care of and it’s shown. Boucher is playing the best basketball of his career at the moment and will be looking to carry this momentum he’s captured through to the rest of the season and maybe even into the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Yeah, for sure,” Boucher said of his desire to play in the Olympics. “Now everything is good, so that would be a good thing for sure.”

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