MoPete won't stew

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

The longest serving Raptor stands in the hallway with his back against the wall -- both literally and figuratively -- without answers or explanations.

This may be the best of times for the Raptors but it is the worst of times for Morris Peterson, even if he bites his lip and chooses to disagree.

On Sunday night, in a game that was of essence to the Raptors' fortunes, Peterson sat on the bench and never heard his name called. The statistical line reads without numbers or percentages: Did Not Play, coaches decision.

And tonight, in a game that matters little to anyone, Peterson will start for the Raptors against the Pistons in Detroit, a three-day juxtaposition of the wonky place he inhabits in coach Sam Mitchell's rotation.

"We can't make decisions based on nostalgia or heart," said Mitchell, never clearly addressing why Peterson began this season as a starter, moved to become the first option off the bench, then continued to find his way closer and closer to his Raptors teammates dressed in shirts and ties.

Morris Peterson is 29 years old, in his seventh NBA season in Toronto, with his contract up. This is normally statement time for greedy players in a league built by greed. This should be his time to cash in for the future.

Only the cards are being dealt and MoPete doesn't have a hand or a seat at the table. Instead, his career has been reduced to garbage time: He doesn't play when it matters, is asked to contribute only when it doesn't.

"I make decisions," said Mitchell, who sounds more the autocrat than he actually is. "I don't have to answer to (you). Last time I checked, I don't have to answer to you guys about who plays and who doesn't play."

So why isn't Peterson playing?

"We're not going to go that route."

The numbers don't help but maybe they don't lie either. His scoring totals, rebound totals, assists, free throw percentages and minutes per game are all at or near career lows.

Other than that, all is well.

Way back before the Raptors were contending, Peterson started the first 11 games of this season. That was then: This seems another world. He didn't score a point in the past two games, never getting off the bench Sunday night, putting up just five in the previous win.

In order, Anthony Parker took his job, then Juan Dixon, then Joey Graham. All, arriving at different times, under varying circumstances, having passed a player who once averaged more than 15 points a game, no easy feat in the NBA. All of them earning the trust of a coaching staff that doesn't necessarily feel the same way about Peterson anymore.

Other people with similar problems would be screaming from the rooftops. Other players would be playing the old disrespect card. Peterson won't pout, won't scream, won't disrupt.

It hurts, it has to, he just won't say how much.

"Right now I'm not thinking about personal goals," Peterson said. "I'll assess that at the end of the season. I'm thinking about team goals. I can't complain about that.

"If things aren't going well, I don't hold my head (although television cameras often tell a different story). I try to encourage my teammates. I try to do my best. My mother always told me, do your best when you're out there on the floor. And when I get the opportunity, I do."

So far, there have been no sit-down meetings between coach and player. No questions asked. No explanations given. Maybe his agent has called, maybe he hasn't, Peterson isn't saying.

"I haven't spoken to Sam about it," MoPete said. "I haven't lost my confidence to tell you truth. I just want to do whatever it takes to help this team win.

"We're winning, and that's the most important thing to me. We're in the playoffs, and I'm as excited about this as anybody."

Excited, but speaking in monotone, without much expression.

"I'm very excited," Peterson said. "Playoffs are like a whole new season. Everything that happened during the season is erased."


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