Help wanted

Raptors centre Rafael Araujo signs an autograph for 10-year-old Davian Reid at the Bloor/Yonge...

Raptors centre Rafael Araujo signs an autograph for 10-year-old Davian Reid at the Bloor/Yonge subway station Monday. If Araujo doesn't improve, he may have to forget the subway and ride the buses with Arkansas of the NBA's development league. (Toronto Sun/Dave Thomas)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Rob Babcock insists he has not given up on sophomore centre Rafael Araujo, but the Raptors general manager admitted yesterday his team may need to go out and get some help at that position.

"We're scouting the exhibition season very thoroughly. All our (scouts) are out there," Babcock said. "One of those reasons we have that last spot (on the 15-man roster) filed with non-guaranteed contracts is to have flexibility, to be able to make adjustments. Some team may let go somebody who is better than what we have."

Clearly, the Raptors, 0-3 in pre-season play, need the most help at centre. Araujo has struggled throughout the pre-season, as has veteran Loren Woods. But even with room to manoeuvre on the roster, it's a tough position to fill.

"If you have quality centres on your team, you're not going to give them up," Babcock said. "There are not a lot of big guys sitting out there, free agents that we can just go sign. And making a trade for a big guy is not an easy thing to do. Teams aren't willing to give up starting centres."

When he drafted Araujo eighth overall in 2004, Babcock was hoping the 6-foot-10 Brazilian would answer the club's need for a quality centre.

Unfortunately for Toronto, Araujo has not fit the bill and, has, in fact, looked lost on the court at times. By the end of the 2004-05 season, Raptors fans were booing Araujo every time he touched the ball, and that, Babcock said, likely has played with his confidence.

"I think it would be in the back of anybody's mind. It's human nature," the GM said. "He has to figure out how to get over that and we're working on that. Would we like him to be farther along? Absolutely. He hasn't developed to the point where we thought he would at this point. But we haven't given up on him."

For his part, Araujo lost 20 pounds from his 290-pound frame over the summer in an effort to become quicker, rebound better and stay stronger late in games. Still, with the season just over two weeks away, neither Araujo nor Woods appears to be ready to lead the charge at centre, although the Brazilian believes he is getting there.

"It's hard to play centre in this league. It's not like I'm Shaq," Araujo said following practice yesterday. "Any big guy has high expectations. It's a hard position to play."

There is speculation that Araujo, who picked up two rebounds and one point in just over three minutes against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, may be the first Raptor shipped down to Arkansas of the NBA Development League.

"That never crossed my mind," Araujo said. "I think I can do a lot of things for the team (here)."


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