Picks make it official

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- With one signature, Joey Graham became a millionaire yesterday.

Tonight, he starts working for his cash.

Graham and Charlie Villanueva both signed the standard first-round draft pick contracts (two years with team options for another two years) yesterday with the Raptors, clearing the way for them to play tonight in the Los Angeles summer league opener against the Dallas Mavericks.

"It's a relief," said Graham, an athletic small forward out of Oklahoma State who was picked 16th overall in the NBA draft last month. "I'm excited. The paperwork is done and it's out of the way."

While terms of the new collective bargaining agreement still need to be finalized, the seventh pick last year (Villanueva's spot) made about $2 million US in the first season and the 16th pick made about $1 million.

"You certainly want (the picks) to get in there and work with the coaches," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock said. "Every extra day helps."

Graham said he hasn't thought about the coming boost to his bank account, seeing as he hasn't received his first cheque.

"I haven't figured anything out (in terms of how he's going to spend his money)," said Graham, a well-spoken, friendly youngster. "I'm a small-time kid and I'm real simple. I don't really just go out and buy everything ... I'm going to be smart with my money. Being a humble kid, I'm going to take care of it and do smart things."

Getting the green light to play tonight is what really puts a smile on Graham's face.

"This is what the summer league is all about," Graham said. "This is what we've been working on the last two days. It's time to put it on the floor and see how this team jells."

Raptors centre Loren Woods joined NBA teammates Chris Bosh and Pape Sow at practice yesterday. The NBAers took the free agents and rookies out for dinner Wednesday night. Bosh, the best player on the team, opened Graham's eyes.

"I was a little surprised to (see Bosh)," Graham said. "I thought he'd be resting up and doing his own thing, but he had an opportunity to see me and Charlie and some other players and that builds tightness. He definitely doesn't have to be here and that lets me know what kind of person he is. He definitely wants this team to be a great team."

Graham said earlier this week his top goal is to excel on defence and Raptors coach Sam Mitchell thinks he can do just that.

"He has a chance to be a great defender," Mitchell said. "But he's got to earn the reputation of being a great defender before referees let him use his hands and things of that nature."


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