Woods must bring 'A' game

DEAN MCNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Loren Woods, who was pegged to be the missing big man for the Raptors when he was signed as a free agent last summer, finally escaped coach Sam Mitchell's doghouse. Woods played 19 minutes and scored seven points with five rebounds in a 105-94 win against the Orlando Magic at the Air Canada Centre in his best game since mid-November.

This came after two consecutive games on the team's West Coast trip where Woods sat out.

Mitchell was adamant before the game that the 7-foot-2 Woods had to start showing he belongs under the basket.

"We have got to win basketball games," Mitchell said. "Guys who are playing the best are going to play."

Mitchell refused to get drawn into a debate over how many minutes he is giving Woods.

"I am not going to try to worry about how many minutes this guy gets or how many minutes that guy gets," he said. "When (Woods) gets an opportunity to play he has got to play well."

Mitchell had benched Woods in favour of starting rookie Rafael Araujo.

"I am not sending anyone a message," Mitchell said. "If I was, it was that we (were) losing. It's not a reflection on one guy."

Mitchell said Woods had to make changes to his game.

"Loren is a big man and I felt it was time for him to play but he had to show in practice that he was ready," Mitchell said.

JUST PLAY HARD

The coach denied that Araujo's status as a first-round pick -- eighth overall -- has any bearing on his decision to start the rookie over Woods again last night before the rookie collected two fouls in the first two minutes of play and went on to play only five minutes.

"I don't care what pick a guy is -- you are not going to play a lot of the games unless you give the coach confidence that you are ready to play," Mitchell said.

Woods said he was happy that the coach showed some confidence in him last night.

"It's always good to get out there and play," he said.


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