Mitchell on hot seat

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

MIAMI -- There is no time for the Raptors to feel sorry for themselves, no room for them to fret about life without Chris Bosh.

The fact of the matter is this team has to start putting a better effort on the floor minus their injured star, otherwise, as is the case in all professional sports, heads could roll. And, again as is the case in all pro sports, you can't trade away the whole team, so it's the coach, Sam Mitchell, who will continue to be on the hot seat.

Bosh (bruised left knee) will miss his third game in a row tonight when the Raptors face the Eastern-Conference leading Magic in Orlando, but that's not an excuse for the team to deliver a putrid effort for long stretches. The Raptors did just that Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers and Monday against the Miami Heat.

"We're all pros in here," said guard Fred Jones, whose team has lost four games in a row. "We have to change on the go (without Bosh)."

President/general manager Bryan Colangelo made wholesale changes to this team this summer in hopes of giving Mitchell more able bodies to work with besides Bosh. While the new guys have displayed flashes of brilliance, they have shown an inability to hold it together for 48 minutes. That has resulted in winnable games being thrown out the window -- think Sunday against the Zach Randolph-less Portland Trail Blazers and two games against the Atlanta Hawks. Turn those losses to wins and the Raptors are in first place in the lousy Atlantic Division.

With Mitchell in the final year of his contract and Colangelo just starting his tenure, it was obvious the coach would be under pressure from Day 1. It is not all Mitchell's fault that the team has wilted without Bosh, going 0-2 this season (including an ugly 99-77 loss Monday against the Miami Heat) and 1-11 last season. But everybody associated with the team has been saying this team has more depth than last year's edition and, recently, the Raptors have resembled their 2005-06 selves.

Mitchell's game plan is not being executed on the floor. He says he wants his team to run for offence and it struggles to do so. He puts an emphasis on going to the free-throw line and the team does so just five times Monday.

"At the end of the day, five free throws is not enough," point guard T.J. Ford said. "However you look at it, it is not enough. We have to attack the goal and put pressure on them and try to get them in foul trouble."

Mitchell, again, is not entirely to blame. But saying, "Our personnel is our personnel," isn't going to endear him to Colangelo.

Bosh is improving back in Toronto and there is a chance he could play Friday at home against the New Jersey Nets. But it's far from a sure thing.

What is certain is that this team has to find a way to win games sooner rather than later. The team is on pace to win 28 games this season, just one more than last year. That's not good enough for a team that entered the season thinking it could compete for a playoff spot.

With a four-game West Coast trip starting next week -- the Raptors traditionally are awful on that side of the continent -- the three games before that are pivotal as the team attempts to prevent another overhaul and another non-playoff season.

"We just have to get it together," Ford said.

Otherwise, Mitchell's job as well as those of others are in jeopardy.


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