At least Pape Sow is not killing the Raptors.
The Raptors have been looking for a capable fifth man to fill out their starting lineup all season and while Sow is not exactly a star, he has fared better than his predecessors.
The raw-but-energetic second-year centre/forward from Senegal is far better than Rafael Araujo, more athletic than Matt Bonner, taller than Eric Williams and doesn't have a bad back like the recently released Antonio Davis.
All this explains why Sow has planted himself in the starting lineup the past seven games, during which the Raptors have gone 5-2. Overall, with Sow in a starting lineup with Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Charlie Villanueva and Mike James, the Raptors are 6-3. That's not to say Sow is the primary reason for the Raptors success -- far from it. He is simply being asked to be a role player, requiring him to bring energy.
"I've kind of stepped up a little bit because I know I'm going to get some more minutes," Sow said yesterday after practice. "It's about minutes. When you play more minutes, that's when you get better.
"It (being in the starting lineup) is a confidence (booster). If coach puts you in the starting lineup, that means something. You've got to come bring the energy and help my teammates do whatever it takes to get a win."
Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sow certainly helped the cause. He played tough defence against Wolves star Kevin Garnett and even was assessed a technical foul for a little shoving match.
"I'm not scared of nobody," said Sow, who played just 27 games last season and has suited up for only 29 this season after he was shipped down to Arkansas of the D-League for two months.
"I'm just here to play hard and help my team win. I was just going over there to play ball. It was tough for him, he didn't like what I was doing. He gets upset. But I keep bringing it."
Sow picked up eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes on Friday. In his past seven as a starter, Sow is averaging 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, up from his season averages of 2.9 and 2.4.
Sow's jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism is what makes him an intriguing young player. Coach Sam Mitchell has noticed the improvement, but is keeping things in perspective.
"Baby steps," Mitchell said. "Let's not retire his number or anything ... He works hard, he plays hard, but he has got a long way to go."
The Raptors face the Bucks in Milwaukee this afternoon.