Heading into a daunting six-game West Coast swing, the perceived battle for the Raptors' backup point guard job seems to be non-existent.
Milt Palacio has stepped up and firmly established himself as the backup to impressive Rafer Alston, leaving Roger Mason Jr. on the bench for every minute so far this season.
Expected point guard concerns have not materialized for the surprising Raptors (3-0), who practised in Sacramento yesterday to prepare for their game against the Kings tonight. While Alston has turned heads with his up-tempo offensive leadership and an improved shot, Palacio quietly has done good things with the Raptors' red-hot second unit.
"We're fine (at point guard). I don't listen to what people say about us having point guard problems," Palacio, in his sixth NBA season, said. "Coming into camp, I knew we never would have point guard problems ... having (the injured) Alvin (Williams), Skip (Alston) and myself."
Like Alston, Palacio appears to be a good fit for the fast-paced offensive approach employed by new coach Sam Mitchell. Alston has turned the ball over just twice in three games, during which he has averaged 14 minutes. He is averaging 6.7 points per game, up from 4.4 last season.
When asked if he enjoys Mitchell's system, Palacio said, "I do a lot, because I can just go out there and not have to think. I don't have to go out there and be worried about what to do, who to throw the ball to. I just can just play basketball and I think that's the biggest thing."
It's the same way Palacio played as a teenager in Los Angeles.
"Being one of the smallest guys on the court, I knew the only way I could score is if I could out-run everybody," he said. "I'm just trying to get the tempo going."
While shooting never has been Palacio's specialty, he has worked hard on his shot after practices and is seven-for-16 from the field this season for a .438 percentage, well ahead of his .349 from last year. But Palacio is the first to admit he doesn't shoot as well as Alston, meaning he has to find other ways to put the ball in the hoop.
DOWN AND DIRTY
"(Alston) has more of the flair and he shoots the long ball a lot better than I do," Palacio said. "But I'm more of the guy that gets to the basket and does the dirty work. The quickness is the same and we both try to keep the tempo of the game up."
With six gruelling road games in the next nine days, it will be interesting to see whether Palacio and Alston can keep the Raptors running effectively.
"Me and Skip are just trying to play tough and run the team," Palacio said. "That's the biggest thing and if our shots come, we'll take it."