Mitchell refuses to overreact

MIKE GANTER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A pinched nerve in his shoulder and a complete breakdown by his team had Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell seething and threatening dire ramifications Friday night.

To say Mitchell was angry after the 137-105 humiliation in Denver is to say it got a little windy in his home town of Atlanta the same night, where a tornado ripped a hole in the Georgia Dome roof during Southeast Conference tournament play.

But a 21/2-hour flight back to California (oh, that schedule-maker definitely is on a bunch of Raptors' Christmas lists) followed by presumably a good night's sleep, gave Mitchell the opportunity to step back and look at the big picture.

Sure, he still was ticked at his charges for as sloppy a defensive effort as they've had this season. And yes, his Raptors are on a three-game slide, but in the big picture and in their present circumstances, was the Raptors' season all of a sudden on the brink of disaster?

The Raptors faithful may not like this, particularly those who have stayed up and endured the past three games in the wee hours back east, but Mitchell came to the conclusion that no, disaster is not imminent.

So instead of forcing his players to watch every single blown defensive assignment from the night before -- if that's not torture, what is? -- as he had planned to do, Mitchell watched the game in its entirety again by himself.

"I changed my mind because we were all bad," Mitchell explained. "The thing about it is at this point we don't need to overreact. This is really the first rough stretch we have been through. But when you keep it in perspective and think about it --okay, we played the Lakers, and we hung in there pretty tough. We played Golden State, who for most teams is a difficult team to match up, and then we played this team (Denver). When you put it into perspective and look at everything, it's not as bad as it is."

So instead of riding his players into the ground and possibly losing them, Mitchell backed off and by the end of practice yesterday was feeling very good about that decision.

"We had a great practice today," Mitchell said inside the Sacramento Kings' state-of-the-art practice facility.

BACK TO BASICS

"Guys got after it. We had a chance to work on our things. We got a chance to go back to the basics and work on our things. We got a chance to play live for a change and that's what we need," Mitchell said. "You can't panic. I think (tonight) we will play a lot better."

The practice also did wonders for the coach himself, who on Friday sounded as if he was losing some of the faith he had in his guys.

"I found out at practice today that we are exactly who I thought we were," Mitchell said. "We are a good team when we execute defensively the way we are supposed to. We have a good group of guys that want to win and play hard. No one came out here feeling sorry for themselves today. I don't feel sorrow for our team. We still have a winning record. We're still in a playoff race so there is no reason to feel sorry. Sure, there's concern, but like I tell the players, one good game, one good performance and all that is wiped out of everyone's mind."

And for the first time since the Raptors left the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre last Sunday, the schedule appears to be in their favour tonight.

While the Raptors spent yesterday morning working on getting back their core defensive principals, the Kings were going through a shootaround in Phoenix in preparation for last night's game at America West Arena.

So in addition to being a little road-weary for a 6 p.m. PDT start tonight, the Kings also present the only time on this trip the Raptors are playing an opponent who is not playoff bound or fighting for a playoff spot. The Kings entered play last night 11 games back of the eighth and final qualifying spot in the West.

That's the positive spin. The negative is the Raptors have won at Arco Arena only once in 11 tries in franchise history.


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