A long and winding road

Toronto Raptors Jose Calderon flies to the hoop during second half NBA action in Toronto Friday,...

Toronto Raptors Jose Calderon flies to the hoop during second half NBA action in Toronto Friday, November 10, 2006. (Toronto Sun/David Lucas)

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Jorge Garbajosa, the Spaniard and one of five rookies on the Raptors roster, probably put it best in his broken English when asked about what the team faces with its arduous, 11-day trip.

"You're far away from your house for a long time," he said.

That's for sure. The westcoast junket is down as five games in 11 days. That's a lot of airplane travel, airplane chicken and hotel time, even for the cushy NBA lifestyle, at least compared to the plebes.

The trip starts tonight in Sacramento with a game against the Kings (9 p.m. Toronto time, FAN 590 and NBA Raptors TV). The Raptors also play games against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, back-to-back games against the L.A. Lakers and Denver Nuggets on Friday and Saturday, then a game against the Utah Jazz next Monday, before flying home for a showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 22.

The only team under .500 this early in the season going into last night's games was the Nuggets, not a surprise since Kenyon Martin's knee problems have finished him for awhile (addition by substraction here, considering the history of problems he's had with coach George Karl?) combined with the team's overall shooting woes (last in the league in three-point accuracy).

An opportunity for a team to bond? That's one way of looking at it. Anthony Parker, another fresh face back in the NBA after a long stint playing overseas, said this is all relatively new to him as well, so he's actually a bit excited about it.

But games against tough teams like the Jazz, at 5-1, and a Lakers team that's 4-3, slipping a bit of late (18 turnovers in a loss against Portland Thursday night) but starting a long home swing, compounded by the fatigue that sets in as a team gets deeper and deeper into airport and hotel travel, foreign arenas and practise facilities, all can wear a guy down. Rasho Nesterovic, an eight-year NBA vet, nodded knowingly when asked about the trip, and how it can make or break a team.

Last season, the Raptors had a week-long west-coast swing in November and lost all four games en route to that 1-15 start. But we don't want to go there.

Morris Peterson said he's educating some of the new Raptors, especially the Europeans, on the importance of sleeping a lot, eating well, staying hydrated. Last week's talk by coach Sam Mitchell on the importance of staying after practice, coming in on your free time, working with the coaches, all takes a different tinge when your team is 2-3 and you're on a long road trip, looking to keep up with New Jersey and Philadelphia, the teams ahead of the Raptors in the Atlantic Division.


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