Rookie has to do less

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

Sam Mitchell wants rookie Rafael Araujo to count to three. No more, no less.

Five is right out. And six? Don't even think about it.

Mitchell practically was quoting from that famous scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, when the instructions for the holy hand grenade were being read aloud.

"(Araujo) has to understand the three things we want him to do: Play defence. Set screens. Rebound," Mitchell, the Raptors coach, said as training camp continued yesterday at Brock University in St. Catharines.

"He's having a hard time understanding those three things, because he wants to do six things. We're not going to ask him to do six things. We're not going to let him do six things. Until he accepts those three things, he's going to struggle."

Araujo is a 24-year-old native of Brazil who is nicknamed Hoffa, which is a variation on the correct pronunciation of Rafael, rather than a tribute to the famous union leader. When Araujo was selected by the Raptors with the eighth overall pick in the draft last June, the club thought he was about as NBA-ready as he ever would be, following a full four years or college basketball.

But the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Araujo still has some huge adjustments to make.

"We have a lot of superstars on the team," said Araujo, who, believe it or not, was talking about the Raptors.

"The veterans, like Vince Carter and Jalen Rose, are helping me a lot, telling me what to do, what to watch out for. But I'm playing against the best players every day. It's not like in college, when you work out with your teammates but you're the best big man on your team."

Mitchell wondered yesterday why he was getting so many questions about Araujo. Well, Hoffa is the top draft pick on a team that didn't make many changes to its roster.

"Lost," Mitchell said bluntly when asked how Araujo has looked during the past two days. "But that's always the way with rookies. And it's a bigger adjustment for big guys. He'll be okay. It's just going to take some time.

"We're not going to retard the growth of the team for one guy. It's not that we're throwing a lot of things at him. We're trying to keep it simple. We know he's going to have a difficult time. That's why we're asking him to do only three things."

And those three things all have something in common.

"If you think about it, they're all hard-work things," Mitchell said. "He's going to get it. How long it takes is up to him. But we're not going to change from what we're asking him.

"And eventually, we're going to win. He just has to figure that out. He hasn't figured that out yet. But it's normal. It takes rookies a little while to figure it out."

Araujo has to walk the fine line between doing enough and doing too much.

"In college the plays all were run for me," Araujo said. "Now we run plays for Rose, for Vince, for Chris Bosh. I'm just here to help, doing a good screen, make somebody open.

"But I'm sure I'll be open, too. They're always going to double Vince, they're going to double Chris, so if they double them, I'll be open and I'm going to have easy layups. When the season starts, the points, the stuff, it just comes, it just flows, you know?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Hoffa. Did you just mention something about layups and points? Scoring is not on your list.

Play defence. Set screens. Rebound. Three shall be the number of the counting, and the number of the counting shall be three.

'Tis the path to the Holy Grail.


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