Red's turning heads

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

When Raptors rookie Matt Bonner arrived in Toronto last summer, he was hardly noticed on the subways and streetcars around town.

The sharp-shooting power forward still uses public transit to get from his downtown residence to the Air Canada Centre, but he can no longer move about with complete anonymity.

"Now, it's funny," the friendly redhead said this week during a stop in Los Angeles to play the Clippers. "After a game, I'm walking through the subway station. I'll stop at Mr. Sub and people behind me are looking at me and saying: 'I can't believe it. What are you doing here?' I'm like: 'Catching the subway back to the hotel.' "

The reason for Bonner's increased popularity is the fact that the second-round draft pick, who toiled with Sicilia of the Italian League last season, has played well off the bench and brings energy and physical play to games.

Coach Sam Mitchell has placed the Concord, N.H., native in his regular rotation and Bonner has responded by scoring 6.5 per game, leading the team with a field goal percentage of 59% and sacrificing his body against the other team's big men at every opportunity.

"He's a pleasant surprise," forward Jalen Rose said of his new teammate. "You put him in the game, you're pretty sure he's not on the other team's scouting report, until he pops a couple of jumpers."

The Raps were determined to keep Bonner this season, even if he was slow to develop, because he is a physical presence with a good long-range shot.

"I know I'm not the biggest, most athletic player on the court, but what I can control is going out and playing hard and being physical and leaving it all out on the court every time I get minutes," he said.

But while Bonner has turned heads during his short time in a Raptors uniform, the same can't be said for rookie centre Rafael Araujo, drafted eighth overall this year.

The 6-foot-11, 280-pound Brazilian is averaging only seven minutes with 1.4 rebounds and has looked lost and nervous on the court. Most of the time, he sits.

"I'm sure he is frustrated," Mitchell said. "But he had better get in a long lineup. There's a lot of people frustrated in this league. He just has to keep continuing to work, keep his head and understand, nothing is given to you. I've been telling him this since summer league -- defend, rebound and set picks. And until those three things become the first three things in his mind when he comes into a game, it's going to be tough for him."


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