Sam puts onus on players

STEVE ASCHBURNER -- Special to Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wants his players to stay focused for a few more days, guarding against any temptation to mentally start the NBA all-star break early. While they're at it, he wants them to do a better job defensively against dangerous, off-the-dribble wing players like Corey Maggette and he wants them to take every opponent seriously, regardless of its record or spot in the standings.

Toronto is heading into a soft part of the schedule, as 11 of its next 14 games are against teams with records below .500.

"All coaches get that question (about keeping their players focused), but what are we supposed to do?" Mitchell said, prior to last night's at Minnesota. "Come in the locker room with a chair and bang it against the wall? Threaten people? At the end of the day, guys, it comes down to who you are as a player ... and being professional and coming out and doing your job. No coach ever made me play hard. I hear that, 'Well, he's going to play for this coach, because if he doesn't ...' What is the coach going to do to you? There's only one thing he can do: Not play you. Period."

Considering how many parents yell at their kids and get zero results, Mitchell said, no one should be surprised when the tactic fails on men with guaranteed contracts. And his days of enforcing his wants physically, apparently, are over.

"I'm 44 years old. I can't go in there and wrestle with these guys," Mitchell said. "I'll get beat up."

LEARNING TO CHILL

Mitchell spent 10 seasons as a player, in two separate stints, with the Timberwolves. So Minneapolis' frigid weather -- it was -19C at game time -- didn't faze him. "It is cold. That's just a part of Minnesota's culture. You've got to be tough, mentally and physically. That's something you guys in the media can't take."


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