Raptors can't relax

Anthony Parker isn't taking the Moscow Red Army too lightly tonight as the Raptors play host the...

Anthony Parker isn't taking the Moscow Red Army too lightly tonight as the Raptors play host the Euro champions. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Anthony Parker recalls how much it meant to him in 2005 when Maccabi Tel Aviv came over to play National Basketball Association teams.

Trying to get back in the NBA at the time, Parker relished the chance to remind the big boys what he could do. He had 24 points, including a jump shot with less than a second remaining in the 105-103 win over the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.

That's why the current Toronto player isn't taking Moscow Red Army too lightly tonight as the Raptors play host the 2008 Euro champions.

"It's a great opportunity for the North Americans to come home and for those European teams to see what they have," Parker said yesterday.

"I know they (Red Army) didn't do so well against Orlando in their first game (94-66 on the weekend as Dwight Howard dominated), but they're still a good team."

Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal should give the Russian team as much or more to handle than Howard did and you can add seven-foot Andrea Bargnani to the mix.

Moscow coach Ettore Messina said his team will be better prepared for the Raptors.

"Howard, just to give you an example, looked like Godzilla at one time," Messina said after the Magic game. "He's huge. And we are a very big team in Europe. Usually we overwhelm opponents because we are much taller, we have more weight, we have more quickness. Here, we look like Bambi."

Any chance the Raps might snooze through tonight's game ended with Sunday afternoon's sloppy loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto's first pre-season setback in three games. Coach Sam Mitchell held a 90-minute workout yesterday in what he promised beforehand would be a elongated refresher course.

Red Army has changed five faces on its team after winning the Euroleague in the spring. Rather than being stacked with homegrown players, they feature a star Lithuanian in 6-foot-6 forward Ramunas Siskauskas and some notable Americans such as former Duke guard Trajan Langdon, Maryland centre Terence Morris and guard J.R. Holden.

"Messina is one of the top coaches in Europe and has had great success everywhere he has gone," Parker said. "He's definitely a defence-first coach."

Jose Calderon, another Raptor with extensive Euroleague experience in Spain up to 2005, said it's "weird" to see a big-name club team across the court yet have the game mean nothing.

"Both teams want to see what they have and they want to get better," Calderon said.

Mitchell couldn't care less if tonight's game was against Red Army or Red Green, and insists the Raptors have to clean up their own game.

"I need to see who knows what and when I start seeing players who don't know what they should, I'll fix it," he said.

COACH KNOWS BEST

Mitchell bristled at suggestions the Raptors should have played with a lot more desperation late in Sunday's 85-79 loss to the 76ers.

Toronto didn't slow up Philly by fouling them to try getting the ball back as Mitchell elected to use the game solely to grade players.

"We can't get banged up trying to win a pre-season game," he said. "I saw what I needed to see."


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