Graham knows he has to step it up

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Raptors coach Sam Mitchell called out Joey Graham after Friday's loss to the New Jersey Nets and the rookie forward thinks his boss makes perfect sense.

Mitchell, who has Graham in the starting lineup, wants the personable Oklahoma State product to bring more energy to the floor out of the starting gate. The athletic Graham thinks he can do just that.

"(Friday), the whole team, we all were stagnant at first," Graham said. "It wasn't just me individually. I've got to (bring) my intensity and everything I bring to this organization, I have to show it a lot more.

"That's what this team needs for us to win."

Some eyebrows were raised when Mitchell brought up Graham's name, being a rookie and all, when it came to discussing the team's bad starts after the game. But Mitchell just wants to bring out the best in Graham.

"I keep telling Joey every day he's got to learn how to use that natural god-given talent he has," Mitchell said. "He plays in one gear and what we've got to get Joey to understand is he's got to learn how to play in that fourth throttle. That's why he's in the starting lineup. He's not in the starting lineup to coast. He's in the starting lineup to give us some energy. It's a learning process for him."

To say Graham has some tough matchups to start the season is an understatement. In the opener against the Washington Wizards, he was responsible for Antawn Jamison. Friday, it was Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. Last night, he saw the Detroit Pistons' Tayshaun Prince and tomorrow, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James. It's quite a task for a guy who wants to be considered an elite defender.

"I was preparing myself a long time ago for these challenges," Graham said.

"Why not (face the top players right away)?

"You're going to be challenged every night anyway, so why not go against the best."


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