Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said he wouldn't have felt right starting Rafael Araujo in 37 games this season had the rookie been anything other than a hard worker with a good attitude. In fact, Mitchell said Araujo's work ethic was strong enough to preclude resentment from his teammates.
"If we have a practice at 10 a.m., (Araujo) is here at 8 a.m., on the court, and in the weight room," Mitchell said. "When he got here (last fall) he was 300 pounds and he was in shape. We told him we wanted him to get leaner and he's down to 280. The kid works his rear end off. As a coach, that makes you feel good about trying to work with him.
"I wouldn't have felt comfortable putting him out there if he didn't work hard or if he always had something to say. The only thing Hoffa says is, 'Yes, sir.' "
In the past two games Araujo was replaced as the starting centre by Loren Woods. Mitchell said Araujo and Woods will "flip-flop" for the rest of the season.
Araujo had the flu when he was replaced for the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers last Sunday, but he said he felt fine for the game against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Regardless, he did not express any bitterness about getting bounced from the starting five.
"He's the coach," Araujo said of Mitchell. "He knows what he's doing. I'm the player. I get paid to come here and play hard. So I'm just doing my job."
GREAT STORY, GRAMPS
Morris Peterson and Alvin Williams have reminded their Raptors teammates of the time three years ago when the club went 12-2 to end the regular season and secure a playoff berth.
Yeah sure, guys. And you had to walk five miles in the snow to school, right? But seriously, Jalen Rose said the message has not been lost.
"Alvin Williams joked with us about it and Mo-Pete told us about it, the time when Vince Carter went down and people thought they were out," Rose said. "Anything can happen in the NBA. That's why you have to play all 82 games. I'd say 38 or 39 wins will get you into the playoffs with the eighth spot (in the East)."
The Raptors have 28 wins with 15 games remaining.