No free lunch with Bernie

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Every time the Raptors face the Charlotte Bobcats, one thing is certain -- Toronto coach Sam Mitchell will make a point of praising Bernie Bickerstaff.

The Bobcats general manager/coach hired Mitchell as an assistant coach with his expansion team in 2004 before the latter took the Raptors job and the Toronto bench boss believes the two teams are similar when it comes to how they go about their business.

Mitchell continues to express happiness with his team's professionalism at the tail end of a lost season, something he also sees with the Bobcats.

When asked why the bottom-feeding Bobcats haven't checked out for the season yet, Mitchell said, "They couldn't if they want a job. That's the bottom line. Bernie is going to demand you be professional. That's the thing we talk about around here. Part of being professional is giving 100% or whatever you got that night. If you're not, people who know Bernie understand you won't be there long.

"That's in every capacity, as a coach, as a player, as an administrator. If you're not coming and giving your all every day, you need to find somewhere else to work."

Mitchell also feels his team has exhibited a strong work ethic during difficult times. They have lost an NBA-high 11 games by three or fewer points.

"The thing you expect from your team is to be professional, play hard and do the best they can at all times," Mitchell said. "Our guys have done that. I have no quarrels or complaints about our guys being professional, working hard and trying to get better. That's the things we asked of them and that's the thing we've done."

HIGH-LEVEL MEETING

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. chairman of the board Larry Tanenbaum sat courtside yesterday with ex-Prime Minister Paul Martin.

BRIEFLY

The Raptors flew to Miami after the game yesterday and will practise there today in advance of a two-game Florida swing -- tomorrow against the Heat and Wednesday against the Orlando Magic.


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