Raps rookie learning things the hard way

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Raptors rookie Jamario Moon is learning the hard way that if you don't perform, you'll be polishing the bench without a rag.

He's also learning that performance doesn't always mean hitting shots.

Moon, who opened Friday's 104-93 win over the Indiana Pacers by shooting 1-for-5 from the field, found himself watching much of the second half with the team's regular substitutes, as one of his replacements, Jason Kapono, went wild from beyond the three-point line, hitting six of seven attempts.

Moon, who has been the club's starting small forward for much of the season, is mired in a shooting slump (16-for-49, 33%) in his past six games and, in two of those contests, found himself on the court for less than 20 minutes.

Which prompted this message from head coach Sam Mitchell yesterday, in terms of what the athletically gifted Moon must do to stay in games: If the jump shots aren't falling, do other things.

"The main thing with Jamario that we need is just his energy, his defence, his rebounding and his shot-blocking," Mitchell said. "The offence will come. It takes a while to learn how to score in the NBA. Very few guys come in and dominate this league in scoring.

"You may not be shooting it well, but it's hard for me to take you out of the game when you're a lock down defender, guarding a guy, rebounding and blocking shots," the coach added.

The Raptors will likely need a big game from Moon, and most of their starters, if they have any hope of defeating the Boston Celtics this afternoon at the Air Canada Centre. The Celtics possess the NBA's best record (19-2) and have won eight in a row, including a 112-84 drubbing over the Raptors on Dec. 7.

Of course, the Raptors did not have the services of Chris Bosh or Andrea Bargnani in that game, and there's a good possibility that the Celtics will be without guard Ray Allen this afternoon (sore ankle). But still, the Raptors, who are on a four-game win streak of their own, will need a much better effort today to play with Boston. The Celtics hosted the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, without Allen, and laid on a 104-82 beating.

Moon said that he understands Mitchell's message and that he has to adjust his game accordingly if he's having an off day shooting.

"My shot hasn't been falling, so I've got to stop settling for so many long jump shots and try to get the ball to the hoop," he said.

Mitchell said it is important for players with limited NBA experience, such as Moon, to not get down on themselves if the offence isn't there. In Moon's case, Mitchell said the career minor leaguer has proved his worth on defence, even if that hasn't always been something he has embraced.

"Growing up, everybody said, if you score a lot of points, then that's what the NBA is looking for," said Moon.

"But when Micheal Ray Richardson (legendary NBA and minor leaguer) started telling me (to concentrate on defence), then I had to listen to him, because he was one of the greats. So once I started doing that, everything started falling into place, and that's what I try to focus on. If my offence is coming, great. But I know I can play defence every game."

Small forward Carlos Delfino, who left the game against Indiana following a collision that left him with a laceration on top of his left eye that needed seven stitches to close, is expected to be in the lineup this afternoon.


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