He may not be the most happy-go-lucky guy in the Raptors locker room, or even in his own rec room, but forward Lamond Murray may well be the "feel good" story of Toronto's season. Which is a bit of a shock when you consider that since being traded to Toronto from Cleveland on Aug. 25, 2002, Murray has fit in like a Red Cross worker in Transylvania.
The Los Angeles native, who faces his hometown Lakers tonight at the Staples Center, spent his entire first season north of the border on the injured list with a ligament tear in his right midfoot and then followed that campaign up by being locked in Kevin O'Neill's doghouse last season -- prompting the NBA veteran to demand a trade.
And while his minutes are still nowhere near what they used to be when he played for Cleveland, Murray, 31, is up to 17.9 minutes per game off the bench under new coach Sam Mitchell, and his numbers are catching some attention.
Murray is shooting 45% from the field -- sixth on the team -- and a spectacular 48% from beyond the arc, fifth-best in the NBA. The team record for three-point percentage is 42%, set by Lamond's first cousin, Tracy Murray, during the 1995-96 season.
"And it's going to continue to go up," Murray vowed this week. "It's still early in the season, but I'm going to keep going at it as hard as I can and get my percentage's up with the limited minutes I get."
And there's the rub.
Murray, although much happier with Mitchell than he was with O'Neill, still believes he deserves starters minutes, although he has resigned himself to the fact it probably won't happen -- even though the Raptors' starters have been wildly inconsistent this season and generally out-played by the opposition.
In Sunday's 106-94 loss to Phoenix, the Toronto starting five was out-scored 97-44, while the bench had 50 to the Suns' nine. Murray himself had 14.
Mitchell continues to talk about tinkering with his starting lineup after demoting Jalen Rose to bench duty the past two games. If the starters continue to struggle, there's a chance the coach may promote Murray or Donyell Marshall.
Murray certainly believes he is ready for a starter's role, although it must be pointed out he has not asked for that.
But he'll be ready if it happens.
"My skill level is better than it was before," he said. "My shot is better and I'm in better shape than I was before I came to Toronto. (But starting) is not my concern. My concern is to go out there and play with the minutes I'm given on this particular team and that's it.
"Everything is structured in a certain way ... that's just how it is."