Villanueva sucking it up

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

In a normal working environment, Charlie Villanueva probably could call in sick and take a few days off.

As a rookie in the National Basketball Association and playing for a team short on bodies, particularly the bigger ones, Villanueva isn't allowed the luxury of sick days.

Even though he's still feeling the effects of the flu, Villanueva is slated to be in the lineup, likely starting, when the Raptors play host to the New Orleans Hornets tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

Villanueva tried to play through stomach problems and a fever against the Phoenix Suns Friday, but had to retire for to the dressing room in the third quarter.

He played 21 minutes and hit only two of ten field goals and had seven rebounds.

Sam Mitchell didn't want his highly touted rookie to take the night off, realizing it's something thing he's going to have to fight through to help in his mental and physical maturation as a professional.

FIGHTING THROUGH IT

"It's near the end of the season, guys are banged up, bruised up, sick or whatnot," Villanueva said yesterday after the Raptors practice, from which he was the final player to leave after spending extra time in the weight room.

"Coach just wants me to fight through it and that's what I'm going to do. I wasn't even supposed to be playing. I shouldn't be out there, but I just wanted to give it a try. I was feeling good the first half. When that third quarter came, I just hit that wall real hard. I just couldn't do it anymore.

"I wasn't going (to ask for the game off). I love playing basketball. I enjoy playing the game. I want to be out there on the floor."

Villanueva had a professional career high 48 points in a loss against Milwaukee three games ago, but had only 13 points the next game against Miami, although he did add add 13 rebounds against the Heat.

Because Villanueva hasn't been through a full season, Mitchell isn't sure how the rookie will respond to being back in the lineup, knowing he's still ailing.

"He came out (to practice) and he worked. He went hard. That's what I'm trying to get them to understand. It don't matter. You come (to) work when you're sick. You find something that you can do to help your team."


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