Rasho has coach's ear

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- Rasho Nesterovic has a little more sway with head coach Sam Mitchell than your average Raptor.

Having been teammates together in Minnesota and Nesterovic's championship ring from his years playing here with the Spurs have earned him that status.

So when Mitchell's hotel room phone rang 2:30 Sunday morning after the team had chartered in from Charlotte, Mitchell was not totally surprised to hear Nesterovic on the other end.

What might surprise some was Nesterovic's purpose for the call, and perhaps more surprising, the result.

The Raptors' Slovenian centre, who was acquired by Bryan Colangelo in exchange for Matt Bonner and Eric Williams last June, is having a homecoming of sorts in this picturesque Texas city but his call had nothing to do with his own needs.

He felt the team was in need of a rest coming off back-to-back games and was asking Mitchell to call off the scheduled team practice Tuesday.

MITCHELL'S RESPONSE: "OK."

Just like that the Raptors had a free day, allowing Nesterovic to catch up with some old friends and others like rookie Andrea Bargnani to get some much needed rest.

Bargnani, according to Mitchell, slept until 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday.

SUGGESTIONS

Mitchell says people should not be surprised at his willingness to take suggestions from Nesterovic or anyone else on the team.

"I've played with Rasho and that's something he wouldn't generally do in the past," Mitchell said of the call. "But since he's been here, he can say stuff to me. He knows that ... If there's something you need, you have to tell me. I can't read your mind."

Nesterovic downplayed his role, saying it could have been anyone on the other end of that phone.

"I just phoned him and said some guys are tired," Nesterovic said. "Somebody had to talk to him. If I didn't call then (Darrick Martin) would have or someone else."

Mitchell, though, admits that his one-on-one relationship with Nesterovic is a little different than with most of his players.

"Our conversation is different," Mitchell said. "It's not like a normal coach/player relationship. He talks to me like when we played together. He's 31 years old, he's a veteran and we have a different way of communicating."

Comparing his role in San Antonio for the past three years with his role in Toronto, Nesterovic points out it is a younger team in Toronto, but not so young that he feels the need always be speaking up for others.

"We have good people and good players," Nesterovic said. "They know what they have to do. They are young but this is business for them and they are focused."

Mitchell, like Nesterovic seemed to be implying, said anyone could have made the call and got the same results.

"Chris could have made that call, Jose could have made it, T.J., Garbo," Mitchell said. "There have been days when Garbo said he was tired and needed a day off. I trust those guys because they practise hard and they play hard. They are not going to ask for a day off and just try and con me. If they ask for a day, they really need one."

And on Sunday they got it.


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