Graham on defensive

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Bring on the best, Joey Graham says. The Raptors rookie is ready to defend anybody and everybody.

Graham, the Raptors' second first-round pick (16th overall) in the NBA draft last month, wants to establish himself as a defensive force in his rookie season. In fact, the Oklahoma State product didn't say a word about scoring or wins when asked to name his top goal for his first pro season.

"I want to come here and be that guy that the coach can tell, 'cover him' or 'stop him,' " the personable 6-foot-7 small forward said on the eve of the Raptors' first pre-Los Angeles Summer League practice. "I want to be the guy that covers Tracy (McGrady), Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James)."

Seeing as the Raptors were sixth-last in the NBA in points allowed per game last season, Graham's attitude can't be a bad thing. Praised for his athleticism and defence, Graham could be just what the doctor ordered for the defensively-soft Raptors. Anybody who mentions the names of McGrady, Bryant and James as desired opponents before playing in the NBA needs to have a healthy dose of confidence.

"Coming from Oklahoma State, we put a lot of emphasis on defence," he said. "It comes first nature to me."

When asked what it takes to be a good defender, Graham said, "A lot of heart. That's pretty much what it comes down to. You have to want it."

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell cancelled the team's first practice here at Orange Coast College, instead opting to have the players lift some weights at the hotel. The Raptors' other first round pick -- Connecticut forward Charlie Villanueva (seventh overall) -- is anxious to hit the court.

"I'm excited," he said. "I want to establish myself from the start. This team didn't do too well in rebounding (last season) and I want to help out in that aspect."

Second-round pick Uros Slokar (forward, Slovenia) also is with the team here, while fellow second-round pick Roko Ukic (guard, Croatia) did not arrive yesterday but is expected to join the Raptors today or tomorrow.

One guy on the Raptors' original summer league roster who may not show up is second-year forward Matt Bonner. The Red Rocket is a restricted free agent. His agent, Kenny Grant, said Bonner won't join the team with his contract status in up in the air.

"He's not under contract," Grant said. "There is no possibility (Bonner will join the team) for the time being."

When asked about the status of the negotiations, Grant said, "We're talking. That's about all. Each side is giving their position."

Three Canadian free agents -- Odessa, Ont., centre Nate Doornekamp; Toronto guard Olu Famutimi; and Peterborough forward Jesse Young -- are with the Raptors for summer league play. The Raptors' first game is Friday against the Dallas Mavericks.


Videos

Photos