Raptors staying upbeat

Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell refuses to allow the naysaying in the media to get him down...

Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell refuses to allow the naysaying in the media to get him down following a winless road trip. (Toronto Sun File/Dave Thomas)

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

The Raptors jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire after returning home yesterday from a gut-wrenching trip.

Toronto went 0-5 on their West Coast swing, dropping to 2-8 overall, and comparisons with last year's 1-15 start have become all the rage, as have calls for head coach Sam Mitchell's head.

"Do I hear it?" Mitchell said, following practice yesterday. "Yeah. But it's not going to do me any good to go in that locker room and pass it along to the players. It's my job and my responsibility to take it. That's why I'm the coach."

No one really expected the Raptors to win the majority of games on the recent West Coast swing, but the five consecutive losses certainly put a damper on the team. The toughest may have been the 101-96 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, as the Raptors led by as much as 16 points late in the third quarter.

Now, "Fire Mitchell" campaigns have begun, which may be premature given the fact that there are 72 games left in the regular season. Mitchell isn't blind to the talk on the radio or the various editorials in newspapers, but, in a defiant tone yesterday, refused to allow the naysaying get him down.

"Listening to it, reading about it, watching it on television -- it's not going to do me any good," said Mitchell, who is in the third and final year of his contract with the Raptors. "I'm not going to complain about it because I chose this profession. If those things happen (getting fired), that's it. You dust yourself off and you keep going. "

Not that the pressure of losing and hearing fans and media renounce his ability to coach hasn't taken it's toil. Mitchell admitted yesterday that he hardly slept during the West Coast swing and even lost weight.

"I've been trying to lose weight by working out. But we lost those games, I don't have to work out. You just don't have an appetite. You spend all your time (thinking), 'what else can I do?' You spend every waking moment thinking about what you can do to get your team over that hump."

Two players who were part of Toronto's dismal 1-15 start last season, Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson, dismissed suggestions yesterday that the feeling this season mirrors that of last year.

"It's not close to last year," Bosh said. "This is different. Last year we got really down ourselves. This year we're not really getting down on ourselves.

"We don't want anybody feeling sorry for us," Peterson said.

"The only people that are going to get us out of this hole is us. If we stay together and continue do the right things, hopefully things will be looking better for us."

Though the Raptors will win at least one more than last season following the first 16 games, the reason for the profound disappointment in Raptorland right now is expectations. This year's club is expected to be more competitive.

The Raptors play host to the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre tonight, before hitting the road again for a game in Atlanta against the Hawks on Friday night.


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