Bring on the real deal

Raptors' Jose Calderon tries to drive by Mantas Kalnietis of Zalgiris Kaunas during the second half...

Raptors' Jose Calderon tries to drive by Mantas Kalnietis of Zalgiris Kaunas during the second half of their pre-season game at the ACC last night. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Sam Mitchell came around to the idea of a European training camp, but truth be told, if the Raptors head coach had his way this rash of pre-season games against European clubs would have the lifespan of a Bryan McCabe popularity contest in Toronto these days.

And Mitchell made his feelings known before the visiting Zalgiris Kaunas club from Lithuania gave the Raptors all they could handle in a 105-99 win by the home side.

To say Mitchell does not look forward to these games is akin to saying he gets a little annoyed with members of the media from time to time. In his opinion they are counter-productive to everything he's trying to accomplish at this point in the season.

And unlike Mitchell's pre-European rant, when he lambasted the trip before he even got on a plane, there's plenty of logic to Mitchell's complaints this time around.

In a nutshell, Mitchell's argument is he spends all of training camp preparing his team to face NBA teams and then a European team comes into town and plays a brand of basketball not only foreign to the game they've been training to play, but one they will not see the rest of the season.

"It's a catch-22," Mitchell said prior to last night's game. "You want to win the game but as a coach you want to see whether we're doing the things we've been working on so we know we have got it or how much more do we need to continue to do it?"

Point guard T.J. Ford, who had a stellar evening with 13 points, 11 assists and just two turnovers in 24 minutes, says he can get as much out of these games as when he plays an NBA opponent.

"Why not?" Ford asked. "It's still basketball. They're (Europeans) a lot harder to guard. They continue to move. They're intelligent. They know how to play."

"It's like high school when you go scrimmage a team you've never played before. Now you have to communicate a lot more because you are unfamiliar with those players. The preparation is still the same, but these games here you have to have a lot of communication because they do a lot of things you're not used to."

Regardless of the opponent, Mitchell said he won't use the pre-season games to make his mind up about his starting small forward, a competition that includes Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino and Joey Graham.

"I'm gauging guys in practice because that's what we have more time of, more practice time," Mitchell said.

Delfino, whom Mitchell called out earlier this week for his lack of aggression in practice, played 17 minutes and was money down the stretch hitting a pair of free throws and a runner to get the Raptors back in front in the dying minutes. He finished with seven points and six rebounds


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