Raptors find range

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Raptors are shooting 78% from the free-throw line, eighth-best in the NBA. A Toronto team has never ranked that high.

Head coach Sam Mitchell said the Raptors have emphasized better free throw shooting this year.

"Why wouldn't you take advantage of that? I'm giving you the ball to shoot uncontested shots, at your pace, at your time. You want to shoot 100% from the free throw line," Mitchell said yesterday.

Chris Bosh, in particular, has made huge steps in that area of his game. He is shooting 85% this season, 113-for-133, after shooting 70% during his rookie year and 76% last season.

"Chris has improved every year," Mitchell said. "The reason we make it a point of emphasis, if he's going to have the ball and is getting to the free throw line 8-10 times a game, he needs to be able to shoot a high percentage. Or, as a defender, I'm going to foul him. If he can make free throws, you're afraid to foul him," the coach added.

Charlie Villanueva is near the top in most rookie offensive stats, but is shooting just 17 for 32 from the free throw line (53%).

"It's going to get better" Mitchell said of his prized rookie. "Normally in your first year in the league, most guys struggle at the free throw line."

ROB'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

GM Rob Babcock was in Europe last week to scout the team's two second-round draft picks, guard Roko Ukic and forward Uros Slokar. Unfortunately, Ukic, who plays for Tau Ceramic in Spain, suffered a bruised kidney and couldn't play, while Slokar only played four minutes in the game the Raptors' braintrust took in. Babcock, on the Raps' website, reported that the 6-foot-11 Slokar has gained eight pounds of muscle since the summer.

As for Ukic, Babcock and Scott Howard, the Raptors director of international player personnel, visited Ukic at his home in Vittoria, Spain, where he was watching a Raptors game on TV. Unfortunately, it was the 92-66 loss to Memphis, the worst game the team has played this year.

"We didn't let it spoil our lunch," Babcock wrote.


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