Mitchell gives Nash props

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

"To me, he's a Hall of Famer," the Raptors coach said yesterday. "Forget the conference finals (he was in). Two MVPs and the other stuff (puts him in). And it wasn't like he was a slouch in Dallas. He was an all-star in Dallas too.

"The question is, if he wins another (MVP title), where do you place him among the greatest point guards of all time? If he wins three MVPs at the point guard position, I'm thinking maybe top three," the coach added.

Mitchell, who loves Nash's game but obviously hates playing against the native of Victoria, B.C., suggested that Nash has to be considered one of the top five all-time point guards in the NBA, up there with Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Nate Archibald. Stockton is the career leader in assists (15,806) and steals (3,265), Archibald is a three-time first team NBA all-star and won a title with Boston in 1981 and Johnson won three MVP awards and five titles with the L.A. Lakers.

"Where people will give Magic the edge (over Nash), is the championships," Mitchell said.

"(But) you also have look at the team too. I remember those Laker teams, Byron Scott was considered the bad player in the starting lineup. I played with Byron. He was a heck of a player."

Mitchell has the highest of praise for Nash, but now he has to figure out a way to stop him, as the Suns drop in to the Air Canada Centre tomorrow night for their second and last matchup of the season. Nash and the Suns defeated Toronto 115-98 in Phoenix on Dec. 19.

"That's the good thing, we only see him twice a year," said Mitchell. "I'm just waiting for him to retire, so we don't have to worry about him no more."

WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN

The Raptors practised with the leather ball yesterday, which was brought back into service by the NBA after almost nobody liked the synthetic model it brought in at the start of the season.

"It feels good," said T.J. Ford, of the old leather model. "Now you'll see more bounce passes from a lot of the players. The other ball didn't bounce up that well."

Spalding sent a shipment of 10 new leather balls to each team on Dec. 14 and a second shipment of 14 new and used leather balls on Dec. 20.


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