GM in Mitchell's corner

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is getting a boost from GM Bryan Colangelo as the playoffs approach....

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is getting a boost from GM Bryan Colangelo as the playoffs approach. (Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

MIKE GANTER and STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Bryan Colangelo has been criticized in some corners for not offering Sam Mitchell a contract extension but that's not stopping him from pumping Mitchell's coach of the year chances.

"Sam's done a great job and has orchestrated a very strong performance from these guys and is deserving of all coach of the year talk," Colangelo said yesterday. "In fact, I would be somewhat surprised and disappointed if he didn't receive the award."

Colangelo said he and Mitchell, whose stock as a head coach in the NBA has skyrocketed in recent months, agreed earlier in the season that they would sit down and discuss a possible extension at the conclusion of the season.

The criticism is not new for Colangelo who, when the Raptors were off to a poor start, was questioned for being indecisive when some felt Mitchell should be fired.

On the court yesterday, the news surrounded the impending return of forward Andrea Bargnani.

"If he's ready to play (tomorrow), he'll play," Mitchell said, keeping everyone in suspense.

Whether it's tomorrow against the Detroit Pistons or Sunday against the New York Knicks, the remaining games will give Bargnani the work necessary to get his timing back so when the playoffs open, he's back to full speed.

Mitchell confirmed yesterday that when Bargnani does return it will be in the same role -- coming off the bench -- that he left prior to the appendectomy.

"Obviously we've been playing well without him, so we'll ease him back in, but we need him to play," Mitchell said. "He's a big part of the reason we're in the situation we're in."

Mitchell said Bargnani's presence makes Bosh a better player when he's able to get both guys on the floor at the same time.

"It just makes it tough because guys have to respect Chris even more and guys have to respect Andrea because he can shoot the basketball and he can put the ball on the floor," Mitchell said. "You need your talented players this time of year."

Mitchell was then asked if there was any concern bringing Bargnani back and possibly disrupting what the team has going right now. In his absence the team went an impressive 9-2.

Predictably, Mitchell turned the tables on his questioner.

"You all always worry about the bad things," Mitchell said. "Have any of you considered that when he comes back he's going to make us a better basketball team with the guys that have been playing well (while he's been out). When Andrea comes back and makes us a better basketball team, it will be like adding a new player to our team."

When he went down, Bargnani was considered Mitchell's only decent option if Bosh found himself in early foul trouble. In Bargnani's absence, Kris Humphries has shown he can step in and get the job done over short stints.


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