Working out the kinks

Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is focusing on conditioning as the the regular season...

Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is focusing on conditioning as the the regular season approaches. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

The Raptors might want to skip their next pre-season game Sunday to enter the Toronto Marathon as individuals.

Running a marathon might be better preparation for the regular season than another ragged exhibition contest.

READY AND WILLING

Coach Sam Mitchell's plan is to have his team in tip-top condition so his players are ready and willing to run up and down the court regularly when the real games begin Nov. 1.

The focus on conditioning is not about to change.

"There's only one way to get in shape -- you've got to run," Mitchell said yesterday after practice at the Air Canada Centre. "There are no pills, no bike, no elliptical (machines). That stuff is for guys like me, old and who can't run no more.

"You have to get in shape. Our goal is once we get them to a level of fitness we feel they need to be, then you start cutting the practice back in time so their bodies can recover. Our ideal goal would be once we get to where we feel we need to be, then we can practice an hour or an hour, 15 minutes, with hard running while we're there to keep the physical condition up and keep working on the things we're doing and then get them out of the gym so they can rest."

Mitchell wasn't thrilled with the pace of his team's foul- and turnover-filled 118-112 overtime win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday at the ACC. He felt his team passed up too many open shots and didn't run the floor as much as possible.

Training camp has been, and will continue to be, a physical grind.

"They're a little sore, but I have to keep reminding them we are in training camp still," Mitchell said. "It's not the regular season. We are in training camp and you're supposed to be a little sore in training camp.

"That's okay."

Raptors point guard T.J. Ford said he hasn't worked this hard since he entered the NBA in 2003.

"My off-season workouts have been very intense throughout the summer," Ford said.

"But during the NBA season, I was able to coast myself and pick and choose when I did things and save a lot of energy. This organization here, it's a great group of guys, coaches are here for you 24/7 to make sure you're working on your game."

The speedy Ford still is working out the kinks this pre-season.

He turned the ball over six times and fouled out Wednesday night, not the kind of performance the team wants and needs out of its starting point guard.

"Right now it is frustrating," Ford said.

"But at the same time, I understand it's pre-season. I've still got to get used to being able to have the freedom that I didn't have the past year as far as letting me make plays and be able to do some of the things. I've just got to relax and get my body in shape to keep pushing the ball and getting guys open shots."

The Raptors have two more days of practice before playing host to the New Jersey Nets Sunday.


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