Bonner eyes berth in rookie game

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Perennial All-Star Vince Carter may be shooting baskets in the swamps of New Jersey, but the Raptors likely still will have a couple of participants at this year's NBA all-star weekend.

It's doubtful that any Raptors will be voted to the regular all-star team, but a pair of youngsters should be selected to play in the annual rookie game, which is contested the same weekend, Feb. 18-20 in Denver. The all-rookie team plays against its sophomore counterpart.

Last year, forward/centre Chris Bosh played in the rookie game and should take part as a sophomore this year. The big question is will rookie forward Matt Bonner be selected to play? Toronto general manager Rob Babcock certainly believes he should.

"I haven't gone through the the whole league and looked at every rookie and checked all the stats, but I certainly believe that Matt has played well enough to deserve consideration," he said.

The format for selection has yet to be determined. Last year, a group of former NBA players and coaches, now working as broadcasters, selected the players for the rookie game.

In any event, Bonner's rookie stats are impressive. The Concord, N.H., native is second overall in field goal percentage among NBA rookies (56%), is seventh in points per game (7.5), 12th in rebounds per game (3.5), and has the seventh-best efficiency rating, despite the fact he is 14th in minutes.

"Matt epitomizes everything we're trying to do here," Babcock said. "He's a team player who gives a 100% effort every night. He's physically not afraid or intimidated by anybody. He's a dedicated player and a great guy who will do anything in the community and is just a pleasure to be around.

Babcock said he is high on all three of the team's rookies, Bonner, centre Rafael Araujo and forward Pape Sow, who has seen little action.

"They are three great guys who work their tails off and really support each other," Babcock said. "There's a nice bond between them. When Hoff (Araujo) got his first start (on Dec. 28 against the L.A. Lakers), there was nobody happier for him than the guy sitting behind the bench, Pape Sow."

Bonner, who scored seven fourth-quarter points in Toronto's 105-94 victory over Orlando on Monday night, has given little thought to participating in the all-star weekend.

"I can't," he said. "I'm on Cloud 9 just being here. So if I think about that, my head might explode.

"(And) you don't want to see that. It would be a pain in the butt for the trainers."

The Raptors (11-21) are home to the powerful Sacramento Kings tonight at the Air Canada Centre.


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