Sam to Raps: Shape up

Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell says his team is still not in shape. (Toronto Sun File/Michael...

Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell says his team is still not in shape. (Toronto Sun File/Michael Peake)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The Toronto Raptors are 3-0 in preseason action, but should be more impressive once the players get into shape.

That's right, according to head coach Sam Mitchell, the Raptors are only around 60% conditioning-wise.

That is an interesting observation as many of the new players have said this is the toughest training camp they have gone through.

6 out of 10

"(On a scale) from one to 10 -- Bryan (Colangelo) and I were talking about that -- we're probably thinking six," Mitchell said.

But obviously not good enough for the style of play Mitchell wishes to incorporate this season for his newlook Raptors, who face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. tonight.

Mitchell wants his team to run and gun like never before. He has even talked about getting 100 shots off every night. Some basketball types have suggested that he wants to copy the Phoenix Suns, probably the quickest team up and down the court in the NBA last season.

But Mitchell isn't thrilled with the comparisons with the Suns. The coach admits that, overall, his team is not as fast as the Phoenix lineup, in terms of quickly bringing the ball up the floor. He wants the Raptors to play more like the Boston Celtics of the mid-1980's.

"I don't think Phoenix invented the running game," Mitchell said yesterday. "Have you ever seen the old tapes of the Boston Celtics? They used to run fast and the ball never hit the ground. I watched a lot of old Celtics. You've got to run according to your personnel. What made me convinced we can do it is when I watched Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale together on the floor together and Danny Ainge, they didn't even have a little quick point guard. Th ey had Dennis Johnson. And they ran. Why? They were committed to doing it. The ball never touched the floor.

"That was my inspiration for running."

Mitchell, of course, wasn't comparing his big men, talentwise, with the likes of McHale and Parish, but he does think Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Kris Humphries can move just as quick and, therefore, can adapt to a quick-break type of game, particularly when the ball is passed down the court at break-neck speed.

"You can always advance with the pass quicker than you can running and dribbling," Mitchell said. "We work on that every day." Th ough the Raptors are undefeated in the pre-season, they are shooting only 42% from the floor, compared to 46% by their opponents. Mitchell, however, believes the shots will begin to sink with more consistency once the players reach the fitness level he is demanding.

"I hope so (anyway)," Mitchell said of his team's mediocre shooting. "As long as we make them Nov. 1."

The Raptors open the regular season that date in New Jersey against the Nets.


Videos

Photos