Raptors coach fires back

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

For more than a week, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell has bottled up all the indignation he has felt about Kobe Bryant's historic 81 points.

Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, hammered the Raptors for 81 points on Jan. 22 at the Staples Center and the fallout from that performance has ranged from unbridled admiration for Bryant to those who scoff at and belittle the Raptors for not being serious or macho enough to stop him.

"If somebody gets 81 on me, I'm going to clothesline him," Antoine Walker of the Miami Heat said.

Walker certainly wasn't the only basketball type to diss Mitchell and his outfit for allowing Bryant to score the second-most points in one game in NBA history. Again, it took him awhile to come to terms with the negative response toward his team and himself for allowing Bryant to score 81, but those comments clearly rubbed Mitchell the wrong way -- especially those from players such as Walker, who aren't exactly known for being tough guys.

"If they (ever clotheslined someone) they did it in a park somewhere when no one was looking," Mitchell said.

The coach insists that, with the Raptors still in the game in the fourth quarter of that 122-104 loss, having someone clothesline Bryant would have been a selfish thing to do. And the wrong thing to do.

"One: We were trying to win the basketball game. We were up in the fourth quarter," Mitchell said.

"Two: We did double team him. Three: He hit some incredible shots. He had shots where he stopped, pump-faked three times and our guys went up with him and he made shots. People should understand that he averages 35 points per game, so obviously he can score."

There also were those who suggested that, if not a clothesline , one of the Raptors should have least hacked Bryant hard on the arm or the wrist, or perhaps thrown him to the floor. For better or for worse, Mitchell said he will never coach that way.

"A good hard hack on the wrist is one thing," he said. "But for somebody to come in, guys saying they would do this and do that, well, when they played, they didn't do it.

"I don't say you don't give a tough foul or a hard foul, but to try to take someone out, I don't think that's what you're looking for. I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me and I definitely wouldn't want anyone to do it to someone. You're talking about people's careers and livelihoods.

"I don't think you should play that way. We all commit hard fouls and tough fouls, but you want to see the guys get up."

The Raptors play host the Washington Wizards tonight at the Air Canada Centre, the second game of a five-game home stand.


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