Guarded optimism

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell was waxing poetic on Saturday night about the future of the team.

Mitchell expressed optimism that the club's fortunes will be turned around, as early as next season -- pointing out that the organization has two good young players (Chris Bosh and Matt Bonner) and two projects (Rafael Araujo and Pape Sow), as well as a pair of draft choices in the Vince Carter trade.

But there are also a couple of major question marks. The Raptors would love to have free agent Donyell Marshall back, but Toronto probably doesn't have room under the salary cap to keep him.

The Raptors would also love to be rid of the final year of Lamond Murray's contract, which will pay the NBA veteran $5.3 US next season. As it is, Murray earns $4.9 million this season and essentially sits on the bench.

Murray played seven minutes against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, after being a healthy scratch in the previous three games. Even though he is seventh in the NBA with a 44% average (45-for-103) from beyond the three-point line, Mitchell obviously is not comfortable with the rest of Murray's game and likely will never be.

The idea of having a disgruntled bench-warmer making over $5 million next year does not sit well with the organization, but it will very difficult to entice another team to take him.

SLOW BURN

Mitchell feels like he has been burned by the Toronto media at times this year. Once, the first-year head coach put a playful headlock on a columnist only to read in a column a few weeks later that he had apparently "blindsided" the writer.

"I have to understand that everybody doesn't get my brand of humour sometimes, or they don't choose to get it," Mitchell said, prior to the Atlanta game. "I want to be who I am, but sometimes in certain situations you have to pull it back a little bit.

"(But) I don't hold grudges or carry things over from day to day," the coach said.


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