Raptors' reward?

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

After a big win in Charlotte on Saturday night, the Raptors received a special holiday gift from head coach Sam Mitchell yesterday.

The gift of blood, sweat and tears. (Minus the blood and tears).

Mitchell, the Grinch Who Stole Bed Rest, surprised many of his players after the Raptors posted a hard-fought 111-103 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats by announcing that there would be a practice yesterday morning at the Air Canada Centre -- even though the team didn't touch down in Toronto until the wee hours of the a.m.

Generally, when a team plays well and wins on the road and has a couple of more days off before the next game, the coach will give his team time off to rest and recuperate.

But with a 4-17 record, Mitchell decided that his squad, while on the upswing, needed practice more than sleep.

The coach said that he wants to take full advantage of the fact that the Raptors have a rare chance to practise three days in a row. Their next game is against the Chicago Bulls at home on Wednesday.

"It would be foolish not to try to take advantage of this opportunity," Mitchell said. "We're just trying to get better, work on execution, on offence, work on our defence, try to tidy up some things."

A good sign for the Raptors is that no one, or hardly anyone, complained about needing a break.

"Just because we won a game, doesn't mean we should have a day off," forward Morris Peterson said, while admitting that he was surprised that his coach called a practice.

"This is what we do, and we have to come in every day and work on things to get better, to win a few more games."

The Raptors have had exactly one full day off since the regular season began on Nov. 2. But as it is early in the season, nobody is breaking down, yet.

"We don't know too much about days off," guard Mike James said with a laugh.

"But it doesn't hurt to get some work in," he added. There is nothing wrong with trying to get better."

The only worry is whether the rookies -- Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham and, to a lesser extent, Jose Calderon -- will start to wilt under the intense schedule, as Chris Bosh did in his rookie year.

Bosh said yesterday that there is a definite difference in how he feels this season, compared to the previous two.

Bosh began to look like a zombie as the season progressed in his first two years in the NBA, but added weight, strength and experience have helped.

"(My teammates) made fun of me," Bosh said. "They called me a Dead Man Walking back then, because they knew I was a young guy playing centre and they were going at me."

Bosh said that there is no magical potion for dealing with the rigours of the NBA as a rookie, only getting lots of rest and eating right.


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