Peterson shows he's a valuable asset

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The milestone passed almost unnoticed last Sunday. Even Morris Peterson had to be told he had just played his 500th game as a Raptor against the Dallas Mavericks.

"I had no idea," he said. "Wow. That's something."

Yes, it is something. On a team that has had a revolving door policy for much of its 11-plus years, Peterson has been a constant for the last seven. He has played more games than any other Raptor (Alvin Williams is second at 417) and if he left tomorrow, Chris Bosh, who has played 254 games, would need more than three seasons of perfect attendance to pass Peterson.

The veteran has become something of a forgotten man this year. He began the season as the NBA's active ironman but that streak ended at 371 games when he suffered an elbow injury that kept him on the sidelines for eight games. Before that, he had lost his spot in the starting lineup only seven games into the season. Yet even though his minutes have been reduced from 38 last season when he averaged 17 points a game, to 24 this year as the eighth or ninth man in the rotation, Peterson remains a very useful and important asset.

If anyone needed to be reminded of that, Peterson gave everyone a nudge in his 502nd game by pouring in 22 points in 30 minutes off the bench on a night when the Raps had trouble finding the range against Sacramento. After limited minutes in his past four games, Peterson came in with the Raps trailing by two to start the second quarter and torched the Kings for 11 points in the first eight minutes. He added eight points in the third quarter and three more in the fourth when the Raptors took complete control of the game.

"Tonight I wanted to be extra aggressive because the last game here against Dallas, I felt like I let the team down and didn't do what I was supposed to do," Peterson said. "My next opportunity, I wanted to be ready."

Peterson was referring to Sunday's game when the Mavericks scored with a second left to win on a play in which Peterson left his man, Josh Howard, unguarded to go help Chris Bosh with Dirk Nowitzki.

"I wanted to come in and provide some leadership for the team," said Peterson, forever the optimist. "Coming off the bench allows me to watch the game, the flow of the game and understand what it is I need to bring to the table. Tonight, it seemed to start on the defensive end where we got some stops and then I was able to get it going offensively."

Peterson is passionate about the way this team is coming together and it's clear he wants to be a part of the renaissance of the Raptors and basketball in this city. Whether he gets that chance will be up to the kind of trade offers Colangelo gets in the next few weeks leading up to the trade deadline on Feb. 22.

With all the trade rumours that have swirled about the longest-serving Raptor and all-round good citizen, it's quite conceivable that he'll be gone sometime before the deadline.

He's in the last year of his contract, earning $4 million US. That expiring contract, combined with his experience and skill as a catalyst off the bench, could be a valuable asset to a contender.

On the other hand, he could also be an important ingredient for the Raptors as they try to get back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

"Coach and I talk a lot and Bryan and I have talked some," he said. "Coach just keeps telling me to stay with it and keep fighting. I have a good relationship with (Mitchell). We felt like we let the Dallas game get away and we didn't want that to happen again. Tonight I think we took a big step up. I thought we did a lot of growing up."

It's evident that Peterson would like to keep his long service record intact here and be a part of the rebirth of the only NBA team he's known. More performances like this one might just allow him to do it.


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