Vince choked

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Strolling out of the Los Angeles Southwest College gymnasium yesterday, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell confessed that he had just finished choking his star player, Vince Carter.

"I'm suing," Carter replied, when cornered about the alleged incident.

Turns out, the choke was a joke, the two were having some fun with the media. But while Mitchell and Carter kidded around, all is not fun and games between the two.

Mitchell sat Carter late in the game in a dramatic, 104-95 victory over Utah last Wednesday and anchored his star to the bench in the heartbreaking 105-102 loss in Portland on Saturday. On top of that, the coach is contemplating some changes to his starting lineup for tonight's matchup against the L.A. Clippers (4-3) at the Staples Center.

Carter is not playing particularly well, lagging behind the other starters in most offensive categories. In seven games, he has averaged only 29.6 minutes, well behind the 38.2 mpg of last season. He also averaging just 14.3 points. Last year, he ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring (22.5).

Mitchell is down on Carter and to some degree Jalen Rose for their slow starts this season, but denied that he sat Carter for personal reasons.

Toronto's second unit, mainly Lamond Murray, Morris Peterson and Matt Bonner, have played well while Carter and Rose have been inconsistent.

"The thing that's blowing my mind is the first group played so well in the pre-season," Mitchell said. "I just want my guys to play better. That would make my life a whole lot easier. We're getting such production off our bench. I just need my starters (to do that). But they just haven't jelled."

For his part, Carter denied that there is a problem between he and his coach, adding that he has no idea why Mitchell has made his sit during key periods of some games.

"You're asking the wrong person. The coach makes the decisions, I didn't say, 'Coach, sit me on the bench because I don't want to play,'" he said. "I've only played seven games with Sam Mitchell. I'm just learning him as well. I don't know why he sat me. He has his reasons. We'll sit and talk about it one day, but I'm not going to bitch and make a big deal about it. Yeah, we lost two games in a row, but we're playing well. You guys (the media) are trying to start some stupid stuff."

Carter said that his days of scoring 20-25 points a game are over under Mitchell, who has implemented an uptempo style, adding that he is happy as long as the Raptors (4-3) win.

"I don't care about numbers," Carter said. "I never, ever cared about numbers. I'm trying to get this team to the playoffs, and get deep into the playoffs."


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