Haffa a whole lot better

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Raptors general manager Rob Babcock called a brief team meeting at the airport on Tuesday, after the club had landed back in Toronto.

Presumably, the meeting had to do with continuing to play hard and not doing anything to embarrass the franchise in the final few weeks of this NBA season.

Well, no matter what was said, or even if they only exchanged recipes, the Raptors last night managed not only to avoid embarrassing themselves, but they embarrassed the visiting Orlando Magic 106-96.

The Raptors got great contributions from no fewer than seven players: Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Jalen Rose, Rafer Alston, Matt Bonner, Donyell Marshall and Rafael Araujo.

We'll repeat that last name, just so you don't think we spent the evening drinking:

Rafael Araujo.

The 24-year-old rookie played only 18 minutes (about five more than his average). But he scored 13 points (one shy of his career high) on 5-for-9 shooting, added three rebounds and was more positively involved than he has been in weeks.

After the game, reporters waited for Araujo as he put on his clothes: A sweatsuit and a ball cap. Real fancy.

Teammate Aaron Williams piped up: "Way to get dressed up for the game, Haffa."

"I never get interviewed," Araujo replied with a smile. "I'm usually the first one to get out of the shower and get the hell out of here."

Just before the interview began officially, Williams shouted: "Say something important, Haffa."

Well, Araujo's words may not have been particularly important in the grand scheme of life, but he obviously was happy with his own performance.

OPPORTUNITIES

"The coach gave me the opportunity, and every night I try to do my best with the opportunity I have, play tough, whatever means I can," said Araujo, the eighth pick overall in the draft last June who has struggled trying to live up to that billing.

"I got my flow when I made my first shot, then I got my second shot, and my teammates started to have some confidence in me."

Indeed, the Raptors' leading scorers at the half were Alston and Araujo with 11 points each. But as usual, Araujo's efforts were thwarted when he got into foul trouble. After he picked up his fourth foul with 7:53 to go in the third quarter, he was taken out of the game and did not see the court again.

"I thought Haffa played well," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "He used his size and our guys did a good job looking for him. I thought he was patient in making his cuts to the basket. Jalen was drawing some double-team coverage, Haffa was patient and Jalen found him.

"In the second quarter, when we played Haffa, Donyell and Matt together, it kind of got us back in the game rebounding-wise. We knew to beat this team we had to hang close (in rebounding). We couldn't get beat by 20 rebounds. But we were (even) at halftime."

The Raptors still wound up being out-rebounded, 54-46, but Mitchell's point stood. The Raptors weren't killed on the glass, Magic rookie Dwight Howard's 20 rebounds notwithstanding.

A patron seated directly behind the Raptors bench was holding a sign that read, "There's no 'I' or 'V.C.' in team." As convenient as it is to blame all the Raptors woes on the departed Vince Carter, the club should focus on trying to control the future rather than lamenting the past.

Is Araujo going to be a big part of that future, or just a footnote? Most observers have been leaning toward the latter argument.

"We're not the type of team that one guy can carry us," Mitchell said. "It has to be three guys."

Last night there were seven. And Araujo was one of them.

Maybe there should be a team meeting before every Raptors game. It seemed to work for the big Brazilian kid.


Videos

Photos