Raps still have problems

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

It's seven games into the season and already the hounds are howling for Sam Mitchell's head.

Seven games.

That's 1/12th of the regular season, more or less.

The Raptors have lost one game that they should have won -- a home affair on Nov. 10 against the improving Atlanta Hawks.

Yet despite the fact we are into the first month of the NBA season, there is increasing hysteria that Mitchell, who is in the final year of his contract, should be fired.

Such sentiments are, to say the least, premature, but perhaps it's the way the team has lost thus far that has sensitive Raptors fans all aflutter.

DEFICIENT

This was supposed to be the year Toronto finally improved defensively. But after the seven big games, the Raptors are still deficient in that regard, giving up 104.14 points per game -- second worse in the NBA.

Obviously, defending still is this team's Achilles heel.

Rebounding is also a problem -- again. The Raptors are averaging 42 boards a game but are giving up 45.6.

Unlike last season, scoring is not carrying this team. The Raptors are averaging less than 100 per game, which is not impressive considering they are supposed to be a high-scoring, fast-break team. And a lot of that has to do with the fact they are shooting 43% from the field, fifth worse in the NBA.

Now, you can dump on old Sam for the club's defensive problems. He has yet to prove he can teach a team to defend with any consistency. But, when looking at the big picture, the blame has to be shared.

General manager Bryan Colangelo, for whatever reason, seems to have risen above the naysaying, despite the fact that a major part of the club's problems has to do with the new guys Colangelo acquired during the off-season.

Jorge Garbajosa, for instance.

The Spanish forward had a stellar career playing in Europe, and his acquisition was considered a minor coup for Colangelo. But since arriving in Toronto, Garbajosa has struggled. Defensively, the coaching staff have been impressed with his efforts. But there's no denying that, with the ball, Garbajosa is a bust.

In the seven games, the personable Garbajosa is averaging 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds (not exactly all-rookie numbers) and is shooting a miserable 28% from the field (10-for-36) and 3-for-17 from three-point range.

Is he tired from helping Spain win the world championship this past summer? He says he's not. And if he is, with 75 games remaining in the sked, he's not going to get any fresher.

Who's fault is it that Garbajosa, who shot 55% from the field for Unicaja last season, has lost his shooting touch. Is he playing over his head in the NBA?

And then there's Rasho Nesterovic.

Nice guy, but the Slovenian certainly is not providing the Raptors with the quality big man they have needed for so long. The 7-footer has not played much, averaging almost nine fewer minutes per game over his career average, and has also averaged two fewer rebounds and four fewer points. Nesterovic doesn't seem to be a good fit with a young, uptempo team.

And then there's power forward Kris Humphries. Another useful veteran acquired by Colangelo to give the Raptors some depth off the bench, but another disappointment so far.

Humphries' numbers are also down from previous seasons.

Perhaps Mitchell isn't utilizing any of these guys to the maximum effect. That will be up to Colangelo to decide if the team continues to lose.

But before there is any thought to firing Mitchell, Colangelo owes it to his head coach to try to improve the roster.

Firing the coach is the wrong move to make seven games into the season. However, shaking up the lineup might be a good idea, and Morris Peterson would be the obvious guy. MoPete is one of the true gentlemen in the NBA and a fan favourite in Toronto, but he seems to have become a little too comfortable in a Raptors uniform. Seven games into the season and he already has been taken out of the starting lineup.

The Raptors need some rebounding help and somebody who can score from beyond the arc. Peterson is certainly well thought of around the NBA and is obvious trade bait.

But let's not panic until the Raps have played at least, well, eight games.


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