No tinkering for now

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:39 PM ET

The Raptors likely are going to miss the dance this season, but that doesn't mean head coach Sam Mitchell will fiddle with the lineup.

There have been some suggestions in Raptorland it is time to start playing the hell out of the club's young players to see what they have.

That is, cut the minutes of starters Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson and Mike James to see how the likes of Pape Sow, Joey Graham, Andre Barrett and Rafael Araujo perform when given major minutes -- all with an eye on the future.

When a team is in a real playoff hunt, which the Raptors really aren't, a coach is obligated to go with his best.

But with the Raps 71/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and with four teams standing between them and the final spot, it may make sense for Mitchell to rest his top players and go with the youngsters.

Mitchell, however, doesn't see it that way.

The coach, and his players, relish the role of spoiler. On top of that, they want to establish a winning attitude in the final 16 games of the season.

"That wouldn't be a thought of mine," Mitchell said, when asked about starting the rookies and riding them through the end of the season.

"We're going to play everybody in the position they are used to playing."

Mitchell said the team's three rookies -- Charlie Villanueva, Graham and Jose Calderon (when healthy) have played more minutes than any other freshman trio in the NBA.

Mitchell added he also owes it to the veterans, the fans and the organization to stay the course and try to win every game, and not just throw out young players to see how they react.

"You have to protect the integrity of the game," he said.

"All my guys want to play. We want to finish the season strong, you never know what could happen. Our attitude is, we're going to prepare for every game and try to win every game. We didn't quit playing when we were 1-15. So why would we contemplate quit playing now?

"We have young guys who are trying to get better, we have veteran guys who are having great years who are trying to get better. Mike is continually trying to get better as a point guard. Mo is continuing to improve as a two guard. I tell Chris all the time, he made a right step being an all-star. But now people expect you to play like that every night. So now you have to learn to bring that level of intensity every night."

The Raps practice in Toronto today before heading to New York to face the Knicks tomorrow before going on to Boston on Wednesday.


Videos

Photos