The Toronto Raptors saw Chris Bosh, their most brand-name player, decamp for the Miami Heat through free agency this summer.

But it's had no appreciable effect on the club's record -- or fan support.

"I think the team's doing a lot better without him," said visitor Jamie Price from Newfoundland, in Toronto for a recent game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

'A lot better' might be overstating the case.

After 29 games, the Raptors' record is 10-19,  slightly worse than the club's 12-17 standing at this point in the 2009-10 campaign.

Chris Bosh, on the other hand, may yet realize his dream of playing for a championship contender.

The Heat, while stumbling out of the gate, has been firing on all cylinders in December. They are second only to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Only four other teams have a higher winning percentage than the Heat.

To get to its currently lofty position, the Miami club wrote big cheques during the offseason.

In the most stunning move of the NBA's off-season, both centre-forward Bosh and strong forward LeBron James (ex of the Cleveland Cavaliers) joined the Heat, which already had superstar guard Dwyane Wade.

There are some hard feelings among Raptors fans, as Bosh seemed to be gloating about his options, said TSN's James Cybulski about the summer departure.

"It was the idea of 'Hey, I'm here today being wined and dined,'" he said, referring to Bosh's habit of issuing updates through the Twitter social messaging service.

Raptors fans won't get a chance to express their feelings in person until the Heat appear here on Feb. 16.

But at the Lakers game, almost no one said they missed Bosh -- although many said they appreciated his efforts for the club.

Raptors fan Michael Davis said the offence used to run through Bosh, where as now the club is playing more of a running-style team game -- something echoed by fellow fans Dave McGuinty and Lisa Uggenti.

"I wasn't a great fan of him," Rob Vergura said of Bosh, saying he wasn't an electrifying player when compared to someone like the Lakers' Kobe Bryant. "I much more enjoy the team this year."

Rebuilding the Raptors

The Raptors made no significant single acquisition to counter Bosh's departure, who averaged 24 points per game and almost 11 rebounds in his final season. General manager Bryan Colangelo is trying to build a team around a core of unheralded younger players.

However, Andrea Bargnani has emerged as the team's top scorer, averaging about 21 points per game so far.

One reason the Raptors are about where they were last year is because the middle teams of the Eastern Conference are all relatively mediocre. This means the Raptors could yet make the playoffs if they go on a roll (they missed out to the Chicago Bulls on the last day of last season).

You could say that Bosh is having a sub-par year. He's averaging about 18 points per game and eight rebounds. "I don't know what happened to his game when he went to Miami," said fan Ravi Hansra of Brampton.

But Cybulski said Bosh has a different role in Miami.

"The sense among basketball experts is that Bosh is a great complementary player, not necessarily the franchise player," he said.

"To win in basketball, it's not just about one star player any more. You need at least two star players and a strong supporting cast."

New star needed

For the Raptors, they have Bargnani, who ranks 17th in the league in terms of average points per game as of Dec. 23. He is the only Raptor in the top 30. Bosh was 29th.

No one else on the Raptors appears ready to blossom into a starring role just yet -- and there was the fear when Bosh left that Toronto was seen as a dead end by U.S.-born players.

Cybulski said American players fear a loss of exposure by playing in Canada -- plus they face a much bigger tax hit here.

And many free agents might look at the Raptors and reach the same conclusion that Bosh did – if you want to win a championship, Toronto isn't where you want to be.

The Raptors need to draft a young star in a lottery pick and build around him as they did with Bosh and Vince Carter, he said.

"But what they also need to do is have a successful follow-up draft and land another complementary young player."

During the salad days of Carter's six-year stay with the Raptors, the club made the playoffs for three years straight. In that time, the Raptors did lure players such as Charles Oakley, Antonio Davis and Hakeem Alajuwan northward, Cybulski said.

The Raptors will have a lot of cap room in the 2011-12 season, and if the team misses the playoffs, it could be in position for a lottery pick in the draft, he said.

Bargnani was the last number-one pick of the Raptors, and has developed into a good NBA player.

"But boy, you think of what situation this franchise would be in with a Dwight Howard or a LeBron James. You're talking about elite game-changers," Cybulski said.

As it stands now, however, the Raptors just have Bargnani. And the Heat has Bosh.

But that's okay for some. Nine-year-old fan Andrew Bessling once had a Bosh Raptors jersey, "but it doesn't fit anymore."