MILWAUKEE -- Morris Peterson, the longest serving Raptor, used to talk about starting and finishing his NBA career his adopted hometown, Toronto.
Frustrated over a lack of minutes this season and the fact his NBA statistics are nearing all-time lows, a subdued Peterson admitted yesterday, following the team's shootaround at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, that he may not return to the Raptors for the 2007-08 season. Peterson is in the final year of a three-year deal and is eligible for free agency this summer.
"That's something I'm definitely going to have to look at," he said, when asked if his frustrations this season will impact on where he plays next year. "When summer comes, I'll evaluate what I want to do, and where I'll want to be."
Peterson, who began his career with the Raptors in 2000, is averaging a mere 23.6 minutes this season and 10.1 points per game, more than two points less than his NBA career average and a whopping 6.5 points lower than last season's average. He is also averaging almost 15 fewer minutes per game from the 2005-06 campaign and has started only nine games this season after starting 77 last season.
Peterson has been reluctant to comment on his personal unhappiness this season because he does not want to take away from the team's new-found success. But his frustration level has been building and perhaps peaked on Sunday in Toronto's 120-119 overtime win over the Seattle SuperSonics, when coach Sam Mitchell played Peterson only eight minutes in the game and started newcomer Juan Dixon to begin the overtime period.
"My love is to play basketball, that's what keeps me going. All the other questions you'll have to ask Sam, because I don't know," said Peterson, when asked about his mindset. "I mean, it's always frustrating when you don't play. But I'm not going to let that stop me from trying to accomplish my goals. And my first goal is to win. "
There have been rumours that Mitchell and Peterson are not getting along, something both have denied, but there is no denying that Mitchell has lost faith in Peterson as an impact player, though the coach does believe that injuries are the main reason why Peterson hasn't found his stride this season.
"My (message) to Mo right now is not to get caught up worrying about minutes, just make sure, by the time we hit April, that you've got yourself mentally and physically ready to play," the coach said. "Because we need Mo playing like he did last year. He's had a lot of nagging injuries, back and hip, he's been sick. He has to put the extra time in, and he's been doing it, to get back where he was."
Mitchell said that Peterson's experience in the post-season could prove invaluable.
"Mo's done some good things for us, don't get me wrong. But I think we would agree he hasn't been as consistent as he was last year," "Mitchell said. "But we've got (18) games to go, and hopefully we'll have a long run in the playoffs and a lot of things can change."