Keeping Charlie on straight and narrow

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

"Get Charlie" is the Raptors game within the game.

Charlie, of course is Charlie Villanueva, the Raptors often flashy, sometimes dodgy, rookie forward who the other day was selected as the NBA's Eastern Conference rookie of the month (December).

Preparing Villanueva to perform at the high end of his game each and every outing is coach Sam Mitchell's chore and whenever he sees signs of Charlie dogging it he not only lays on the whip, but passes it to others.

That's when the Raptors play "Get Charlie" for keeps.

"It makes me feel good," Villanueva said of the ass-kicking, chops-busting episodes. "They want to make me better. My teammates know what I'm capable of doing and when I'm not doing it every game they get on me. It shows that these guys believe in me, have trust in me to be a good player."

Villanueva celebrated his recent honour by coming up with a less-than-impressive two-point performance in their 108-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

"I think he was kind of upset because he wasn't scoring but he's got to learn to do other things," Mitchell said.

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

"The ball isn't going to go in the basket every night. That's the thing you have to get young players to understand. You can help us win games even when you don't score."

Well, last night against the Orlando Magic, Villanueva brought the whole package in Toronto's 121-97 laugher.

When he wasn't finding the net -- 24 points -- Villanueva came up with a couple of steals, blocks under the basket and made his share of crisp, accurate passes.

As well as he performed, Villanueva isn't looking to catch a break from his teammates today at practice.

"No, that's one thing, the guys don't let up," Villanueva said.

"In the Indiana game, I played well and the guys were on me then and were on me the Atlanta game and are on me now. The guys are staying consistent with it."

So 32 games in with the club starting to jell, "Get Charlie" is popping up all over.

"It's something that guys weren't doing at the beginning of the year," Villanueva said.

"But now everybody's talking and I kind of like that when other guys let me know what I'm doing wrong."

Last night, though, they would be hard pressed.


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