Rookie centre Rafael Araujo is thrilled to be back on the active roster after being forced out the past five games because of the addition of celebrated no-show Alonzo Mourning. Not only is Araujo back, but in a surprise move, he started against the L.A. Lakers last night.
Araujo was placed on the injured list with the addition of Mourning, Eric Williams and Aaron Williams, who came over to Toronto on Dec. 17 from New Jersey in the Vince Carter deal. He was listed as suffering from a lower back strain, but that's really one of the NBA fibs. Players are often put on the injured list to make room for other players.
Head coach Sam Mitchell hopes to give Araujo some playing time, although the rookie has a long way to go to earn consistent minutes.
"We need to give him a chance and give him a block of games to see how he does. We need to find out exactly what he can do," Mitchell said. "We watch him practise every day, but practice and games are two different things.
"I'm hoping he gives us some rebounding, some toughness and defence, and if he just gives us those things -- rebounds, set screens and play defence -- he'll be fine, and the other stuff will come within the offence," Mitchell added.
The 6-foot-11 Brazilian admits his rookie campaign has been a trying one.
"Yeah, in the beginning I was disappointed," he said. "But I fight through and put my head down to work hard and keep improving and when the opportunity comes, I'm going to use it.
"You get a little upset, but it's a long season," he added. "We've just played 30 games and we have another (52). When I have an opportunity, I have to use it and try to enjoy it.
WHEN IN L.A., WATCH MOVIES
Mitchell prompted some grumbling yesterday when he rescheduled the team's morning shootaround for 10 a.m., which is an hour earlier than the traditional time the team heads out on the day of a game.
One of the reasons for the change was to give the guys time to view game films in the afternoon.