Send Araujo down, bring back Sow

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

Raptors general manager Rob Babcock managed to spend some time with his family during the holidays.

By all accounts it was a nice reunion and Babcock was not haunted on Christmas Eve by the ghost of David Stern.

But if he was, it might have gone like this:

Stern's Ghost: "Rob. Repent your ways. Do not answer Rod Thorn's phone calls. Never answer Rod Thorn's phone calls."

Babcock: "Spirit. Give me one more chance. I'm not the GM I used to be. I'm not the GM I used to be."

And so on and so forth.

Anyway, there's a sense around Raptorland that Babcock lives in perpetual dread of pulling the trigger on another deal since shipping Vince Carter to New Jersey last season.

That may be so, but there is a trade out there that Babcock could make -- no, should make.

Pape Sow for Rafael Araujo.

The Raptors sent Sow, a second-round draft pick in 2004, to the Arkansas RimRockers of the NBA Development League earlier this season to give the 6-foot-10 centre more playing time.

Sow long has been considered a project. The native of Senegal is an extremely athletic big man, a late starter in the sport who already has demonstrated a real knack for rebounding -- something the Raptors dearly need.

Sow had been battling injury problems since the beginning of the season and when he began to feel better, there was no room for him on the Raptors bench. He was, therefore, the perfect candidate to be shipped to the club's NBADL affiliate. This is the first season NBA teams can send first- and second-year players to the minors, if you will, without fear of another NBA team snatching them up.

Of course, the soft-spoken Sow was not thrilled with the prospect of travelling on buses and living in a sleepy southern town. There's probably not a huge Senegalese community in Little Rock and it's likely that Sow hasn't developed a taste for grits and collared greens.

Still, he took the demotion (NBA teams prefer the word assignment) in stride, vowing to work so hard and play so well that the Raptors would have no choice but to call him back up soon.

"He's a real man who has a strong character," Babcock said yesterday of Sow. "He's not one of those guys who will come in and complain that they aren't staying in a five-star hotel."

Sow has lived up to his end of the bargain.

In 12 games with the hallowed RimRockers, he has averaged 32.9 minutes, 12.2 rebounds and 19.3 points, and his numbers during the past couple of weeks have been climbing. Naturally, the level of play in the D-League is not to the standard of the NBA, but those are pretty good stats no matter how you slice them.

Araujo, on the other hand, continues to struggle in Toronto. The Brazilian has his good days, but more often than not, he starts, plays five to 10 minutes, picks up a couple of quick fouls and sits for most of the remainder of the game.

Araujo needs a lot of work and even though the Raptors are playing much better in the past month (7-7 in December), there's little point in having Araujo here when he can go down to the RimRockers, play major minutes and see if he really has some skill. Every time he touches the ball in Toronto, he's booed. He looks nervous and tentative. That's no way to develop.

Babcock continues to insist that Araujo is improving in Toronto. That's debatable. Some NBA types believe that the organization is afraid to send Hoffa down because that would be admitting that he was a bust as an eighth overall pick in 2004.

It's a bad precedent, however, if an organization sends a kid to the minors and doesn't recall him after he plays his butt off and excels.

This is a win-win deal for Babcock and his organization, even though Araujo may not agree.


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