No all-stars in T.O.

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The Raptors have withdrawn their application to hold the 2008 NBA all-star weekend and will submit an application to be hosts of the event in 2011.

The team cited a timing conflict between the 2008 game and the construction schedule for Maple Leaf Square, a new entertainment destination adjacent to the Air Canada Centre.

ROOKIE RAP

If the Raptors have any chance of becoming a winning team in future years, they have to draft wisely and sign the right free agents.

They also need their three rookies to work hard this summer and improve certain aspects of their game.

Rookie forward Matt Bonner, for one, started off the season with a bang, wowing the ACC crowds with his outside shooting and hustle. However, his play has gone down in recent weeks, partly because he is no longer getting wide open looks.

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is still a fan of Bonner's but admits that he has work to do.

"He has got to learn how to defend on the perimeter," Mitchell said yesterday. "Because, let's face it, he's not big enough (6-foot-10) to defend on the inside against certain guys. He has to really work in getting down in a stance and really work on his footspeed."

As for Pape Sow, the 6-foot-10 forward rarely has played but has earned more time lately and has opened some eyes with his athleticism and rebounding skills -- although the native of Senegal is still pretty raw.

"He has only played in two, three games, so let's not enshrine him in the Hall of Fame yet. He has got a long way to go," Mitchell said, when asked about Sow's improvement. "He has got some athletic ability and a feel for certain things we don't have."

Sow, like Bonner, is a restricted free agent this summer, but general manager Rob Babcock reiterated yesterday that he'll try to sign both.

Rookie centre Rafael Araujo, the club's first-round pick (eighth overall) in last year's draft has had a very difficult season adjusting to the NBA game and is starting to feel the heat from the fans.


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