No rest for weary Raps

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Raptors landed in Toronto around noon yesterday after flying all morning from Salt Lake City, where they played the night before.

But instead of heading home for some much needed R&R, following the team's five-city, 11-day West-Coast trip, they gathered at the Air Canada Centre practice gym for a practice.

There was talk that head coach Sam Mitchell threw in yesterday's practice at the last moment because he was miffed with his team going 0-5 on the road. The coach, however, dismissed that notion.

"This practice was scheduled before (yesterday)," he said. "I don't believe in punishment practices. We've lost games, but what are we going to punish them for? The effort's there."

The Raptors generally fly home after road games, but are limited to what time they can land at Toronto Pearson International. Because of that, they had to stay over in Salt Lake on Monday night and fly home first thing in the morning. Still, nobody was complaining yesterday.

"We need it," forward Morris Peterson said. "We haven't had much practice time on the road. A lot of times when you come back from a West Coast trip, you're a little lethargic. So we wanted to get a little bit of jet lag out, get back to familiar ground and be ready to play (tonight)."

FORD IS JOB ONE

The main problems surrounding the Raptors' 2-8 start this season lies with the fact that they are pulling in only 40.3 rebounds per game (20th in the NBA) and are shooting 30% from the free throw line. Other problems include indifferent defence and poor shot selection. For that, the team's young point guard, T.J. Ford, has taken a lot of heat.

Mitchell, however said that people have to cut Ford some slack, given that he has only parts of two NBA seasons under his belt and is still learning how to run an offence.

"(Veteran point guard) Darrick Martin is always telling him, you can't just go fast for 48 minutes. You've got to change pace. And he has different gears, so he has to learn to lull guys to sleep," Mitchell said.

"It's like a baseball pitcher. I don't care how hard you throw a pitch, once they know how fast it's coming, they can hit it. That's why you have to change speed."


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