Mitchell waiting for a swingman to step up

MIKE KOREEN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

At the quarter pole, Sam Mitchell has learned quite a few things about his Raptors.

The coach knows that Jorge Garbajosa, T.J. Ford and Chris Bosh are legitimate starters, Andrea Bargnani can play an important role and that his team is capable of defending actual NBA teams once in a while.

But there is one mystery, one unanswered question, that Mitchell hopes to solve in the final three quarters of the season. With Game 20 on the horizon today against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Air Canada Centre, Mitchell can't predict just which of his four swingmen will step up and corrall a glorious opportunity to be one of the go-to guys in the run for the Atlantic Division title.

"It's perplexing," Mitchell said yesterday after practice. "Go take it."

The up-and-down Anthony Parker has been a starter all season, but that spot certainly is not etched in stone. Fred Jones has rebounded from his horrible shooting slump but remains a work in progress. Morris Peterson finally returned from an elbow injury Friday night in Chicago and had 13 points in a 93-90 loss, but he has to prove he can return to 2005-06 form. And finally, Joey Graham is Joey Graham, dazzling one night, invisible the next.

If the Raptors hope to make noise, one of those guys has to step up, sooner rather than later. With Bosh hampered by two sore knees -- he is questionable for today after hurting his left knee in Chicago -- and lacking his usual explosiveness, the Raptors need a guy they can trust to knock down shots

"The toughest thing throughout the game is you're trying to find who that fourth or fifth guy is on a nightly basis," Mitchell said. "No one out of that group of four has just grabbed those two positions (in the rotation) and said: 'They're mine.' No one has really done it. (Parker) has probably been a little more consistent, but there is still that one spot there that no one has just seized."

All it takes is some consistency to be rewarded by Mitchell. Garbajosa started the season coming off the bench, but has been a fixture as a starter recently because he usually makes the right decisions and is a good bet to connect from 18 feet or so.

"He just does a little bit of everything," Mitchell said of Garbajosa. "He doesn't do anything great. He just does everything. He knows where he's supposed to be. He just makes plays at both ends, offensively and defensively. He's a smart player and he's tough.

"You don't look at him at being a quick guy. He's a little bit better athlete than what you think but he's not a great athlete. He's a little bit better shooter than what you think, but he's not a great shooter. He's a better passer than what you think but he's not a great passer. What he does great is competes. What he does good is a little bit of everything."


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