Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell challenged his squad yesterday to dump the losing attitude of the past two seasons and start believing in themselves. Many have predicted that Mitchell's team, which opens the NBA regular season on Wednesday, are destined for another losing season.
But the coach doesn't buy that, and wants his troops to think accordingly.
"I personally like when people tell me we can't do something because it should fuel you to work that much harder and to prove them wrong and I hope our guys develop that mentality," Mitchell said last night after the Raptors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-92 at the Air Canada Centre in the club's final pre-season game in front of a crowd of 13,730.
"It's just my hope that somebody in the locker room grabs our players and makes them understand that we can be a lot better than what people think," the coach said.
"That's something that is going to have to come from the players.
"It doesn't have to be the same guy every night, but at some point one or two guys, or a collection of guys, have to come together and drag the rest of them along."
Mitchell acknowledged that after two seasons of missing the playoffs, there may be a defeatist attitude in the dressing room.
"That could very well be it," he said. "When you haven't won in a while and games are close or tough, you can't think in the back of your mind, 'here we go again.' At some point, the guys are going have to try to erase that. They have to understand it's a new year.
"Hopefully at some point in the season the light will come on and (the guys will think), 'hey, we can be a pretty good NBA team.' "
Forward Jalen Rose is not bothered by the dire predictions of such magazines as Sports Illustrated, which predicted the Raptors to finish 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. He believes the Raps can work that to their advantage.
"We have to get out there and defy the odds," he said. "If we are underdogs, so be it.
"We should embrace that role, accept that challenge and go out and play like we have something to prove."
Vince Carter, back in the lineup after missing games in Denver and Portland last week as he had to make a court appearance in Columbia, S.C., to defend himself in a lawsuit against his former agent Tank Black, scored 20 points.
The win improved Toronto's pre-season record to 2-5 against NBA competition.
Forward Donyell Marshall, coming off the bench, added a double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds).
Robert (Tractor) Traylor led Cleveland's attack with 30, and fell on Carter's ankle at one point.
Carter was okay.