T.O.'s sights on Duhon

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:52 AM ET

The Raptors want Chris Duhon to fill a hole at point guard, but the Chicago Bulls probably won't allow that to happen.

The Raptors have signed Duhon to a free-agent offer sheet, according to numerous sources. However, Duhon is a restricted free agent and Bulls vice-president of basketball operations John Paxson said yesterday Chicago is strongly leaning toward matching the Raptors' offer and keeping the 6-foot-1, 185-pound product of Duke.

"It's highly likely we're going to match," Paxson said. "It (the Raptors' offer to Duhon) is not a lengthy deal or more money than we have allocated. But I still have to sit down and look at what this offer means to us moving forward."

The Bulls have a week to match the offer and Paxson indicated he will use the full week to ponder his options.

The Raptors have only their $5-million US mid-level salary-cap exception to spend, and they've used up about $1.5 million of that on the signing of Jose Calderon and the imminent re-signing of Pape Sow. Sources indicated the Raptors' offer to Duhon is for something between $2.5 million and $3.5 million per season, likely for three years.

Of course, the Raptors' courting of Duhon -- whether they get him or not -- is a clear indication they are willing to let forward Matt Bonner go. With Calderon and Sow in tow, the Raptors realistically don't have enough money left to sign both Duhon and Bonner, barring a drastic bottoming out of the market.

Raptors general manager Rob Babcock was very careful with his words when asked about Duhon.

"I've heard the reports," Babcock said last night. "All I can tell you at this point is, I can't confirm anything."

The Bulls reportedly were offering Duhon in the range of $2 million per season, for three years, but he wanted more. The Bulls then basically said, well, if you want more, go out and get somebody to sign you to an offer sheet.

The Raptors' pursuit of Duhon is a no-lose endeavour: They either get someone who can help them; or they drive up the price that an Eastern Conference rival has to pay to keep him.

Duhon, who will turn 23 later this month, was drafted in the second round, 38th overall, by the Bulls in 2004. He played in all 82 regular-season games last season (73 starts) and averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game.


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