Guard may be headed to Spain

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:42 AM ET

Roko Ukic appears to have done an about-face on the Raptors.

After telling a Croatian newspaper last week he would appear in Toronto on Oct. 1 for the start of training camp, the team's second-round pick apparently changed his mind yesterday.

A report on a Croatian website (sportnet.hr) said the point guard has signed a four-year deal with Tau Ceramica of Spain, thereby turning his back on a three-year deal from the Raptors. Reports last week, featuring quotes from his Croatian team's president, ex-NBAer Dino Radja, indicated a buyout had been completed and Ukic had agreed to a deal with the Raptors.

"I don't have anything confirmed, but it would not be a surprise (if Ukic signed with the Spanish team)," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock said last night.

"We knew there was a possibility of an offer from Spain."

If the latest report is accurate, it could affect another European point guard who is rumoured to be on his way to the Raptors -- Jose Manuel Calderon. The Spanish-born player played for Tau Ceramica last year and Babcock said he has had positive talks with Calderon. NBA teams can start signing players on Thursday.

The Raptors have only two point guards under contract -- Rafer Alston and Alvin Williams -- the latter being a huge question mark coming off knee surgery. Ukic was seen as a potential backup to Alston and a guy who could push the veteran for minutes.

"I guess he got a good financial offer from (Ceramica)," Babcock said. "We were optimistic last week, but shortly after that we heard there was a chance of him getting a pretty good offer from Spain."

Scott Howard, the Raptors' director of international player personnel, recently spent about a week in Croatia trying to finalize the deal.

Babcock, meanwhile, doesn't see this turn of events as completely bad news.

"We would have preferred to have him come over this year and learn about our league and system. But staying for another year or two (in Europe) will give him an opportunity to get a lot more playing time and, in some ways, he'll develop faster," Babcock said. "We retain his rights and he'll be a more advanced player (in a few years)."


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