Tough love for Chuck

Toronto Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva spent most of Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls...

Toronto Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva spent most of Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls on the bench. (Toronto Sun File/David Lucas)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Charlie Villanueva and Sam Mitchell have kissed and made up.

Okay, they didn't really have a hardcore smooching session. But the prized Raptors rookie and coach expressed their respect and admiration for each other a day after Mitchell played Villanueva just nine minutes in a 105-94 loss against the Chicago Bulls and blasted him for his effort in practice in his post-game news conference.

"It doesn't hurt at all," Villanueva said. "Coming from a program like UConn, coach (Jim Calhoun) was yelling at me every day. He was on me every day. Nothing was given to me, everything was earned. Coach (Mitchell) is pretty much doing the same thing.

"It was fair. I don't have a problem with it. I didn't produce on the court and he definitely let me know that. Simple as that."

Until this week, Villanueva was doing a great job of shedding his reputation as a guy who, in hockey terms, took shifts off now and then. By jumping on him early, Mitchell made it clear he's not going to accept less than a full effort in practice and games.

"I attempted to relax and I shouldn't do that," Villanueva said. "I've got to go out there and play 110% every day."

To that end, assistant coach Gene Keady put all the rookies and second-year players through gruelling defensive wind sprints yesterday at the end of practice. Running and stopping and waving hands in the air doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

"It's my job to keep the young guys focused," Mitchell said. "Every now and then, you've got to pull their chain a little bit and remind them how important it is (to be focused). Everybody wants to play at 7 p.m., but when you get better, it's in practice.

"I just felt like the past three practices, (Villanueva) wasn't as focused. We had to repeatedly keep telling him the same things and we talked about it (Wednesday night). Charlie knows I love him. I think he's got a chance to be an excellent player. Like all young players, you have to keep that fire burning."

The best way to do that, Mitchell feels, is to reduce minutes when a player isn't getting it done.

"You can yell at them in practice all day long, but then if you play him 35 minutes, the message falls on deaf ears," he said.

"These guys are no different than you, myself or anybody. When you're late with that story on deadline and your boss never says anything to you, you'll be late more often. When he tightens up on you a little bit, all of sudden that story is on the table when it's supposed to be. It's the same thing with players. It's not personal. It's done more out of the fact I care about Charlie. He understood. I think he took it (the right) way. He'll be fine."

The Raptors play host to the Golden State Warriors tonight.


Videos

Photos