Coach gives new Rap 'clean slate'

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell will lay out the welcome mat for the team's newest player, forward Kris Humphries.

But if the former University of Minnesota star does not fit in with his new teammates, or displays a questionable attitude, Mitchell will nail him to the bench.

The Raptors acquired Humphries, along with centre Robert Whaley, from the Utah Jazz last week for Rafael Araujo.

And while Toronto president/general manager Bryan Colangelo was widely saluted for finding a sucker, er, buyer for the Brazilian Bust, it has been suggested that the Raptors are taking a pretty big chance with Humphries. (It has been reported that Whaley was thrown into the deal to balance the numbers and will be waived soon).

The knock against Humphries, besides the fact that he has not put up great numbers in two NBA seasons since his one excellent year at Minnesota, is his attitude. There have been reports that he is not the hardest worker on the team, that he has an inflated sense of self-worth and that he doesn't always get along with his teammates. But Mitchell isn't worried.

"I haven't heard any of that," said Mitchell, who is widely believed to have encouraged Colangelo to go after Humphries, though the coach won't comment on that. "But I know we have a core group of guys on this team who work hard and who like each other and I explained that to Kris. This team is about playing hard and playing together. But people who know him say he doesn't have an attitude. When we see him on July 2 at Summer League, we'll find out those things.

"Everybody has a clean slate on this team," Mitchell added, from his home in Atlanta. "I don't concern myself with what may have happened at this place or that place. I believe Kris has a lot of talent and what he does with that is up to him."

There is no questioning Humphries' credentials, at least from college. In one year at Minnesota, he averaged 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds and was the 14th pick overall by the Jazz in the 2004 NBA draft. But, at 6-foot-9, he's really not big enough to be a true power forward in the NBA. Some scouts have suggested he actually is closer to 6-foot-7.

Still, Mitchell is looking forward to working with the Minnesota native.

"I think he has got a lot of talent, he can score and rebound and he can get up and down the floor, and that's the way we're going to try to play," Mitchell said. "I talked to Kris last week and, believe me, he's excited to play for the Raptors. I think he understands the opportunity afforded to him."


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