Rose's mind on presents and future

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

On the night before Christmas, there were no visions of sugar plums dancing through Jalen Rose's head. More like visions of him getting on an airplane and flying off to another team. The Raptors' veteran swingman admitted that he spent a lot of time during the Christmas holidays wondering about his place with the team, and whether he wants to remain in Toronto as a non-starter.

"That was the talk, just as much as presents," Rose said yesterday, after the Raptors' morning shootaround at the America West Arena in Phoenix. "Obviously, the situation I'm in, I feel like something's got to give. (But) it's not up to me to determine what or when."

In the Raptors' final game before Christmas last Wednesday, a 98-86 victory over the Utah Jazz, head coach Sam Mitchell elected to start newcomer Eric Williams in place of Rose at small forward.

To a guy who has started almost his entire 11-year NBA career, that was a bitter pill to swallow. And it still is, particularly given the fact that Mitchell plans to forge ahead with the revamped starting lineup, with Williams and Chris Bosh at forward, Loren Woods at centre, Rafer Alston at the point and Morris Peterson at shooting guard.

"Why would we change it?" a defiant Mitchell said yesterday. "Whether we won or lost (against Utah) had nothing to do with it. We changed the lineup because we wanted to bring a different element to the starting lineup. We're trying to get more rebounding, more defence. We're last, or next to last, in both of those categories."

Rose has handled the demotion with a professional attitude, refusing to request a trade like his former teammate Vince Carter, although there is more than a hint of disappointment in his voice.

"One of the reasons I didn't sit out a pre-season game is that I like to hear my name being called, that's one of the great things about playing in the (NBA)," he said.

"I've been through a lot in my career and my life, and I've never been the kind of person who's had the red carpet treatment in any situation. I don't know if people see me as blue collar, but I think I'm as blue collar as they come in my life," added Rose, who makes $14.5 million US a season. "So, it's going to make me stronger and yes, a better person. It will make me more hungry, more thirsty. And definitely keep a chip on my shoulder."

DECISIONS

Rose said he definitely does not hold a grudge against Williams, who the Raptors picked up in the Carter trade from New Jersey on Dec. 17.

"It's not personal. It's not up to him or me who makes the decisions," Rose said. "I know what he brings to the table and he knows what I bring and I think that's where the respect comes in."

Mitchell said he may still tinker with the starting lineup but probably leave Williams where he is.


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