Questions & answers

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Five major questions concerning the Raptors as the club prepares to open training camp on Tuesday:

Q: Will Jalen Rose, in his 12th year of NBA service, be satisfied playing on a rebuilding team with only an outside shot at the making the playoffs?

A: Only time will tell, but both general manager Rob Babcock and head coach Sam Mitchell claim to have received positive vibes from Rose during the off-season concerning the direction the team is moving and his role. Rose had a taste of the NBA Finals in 2000 when his Indiana Pacers lost in six games to the Los Angles Lakers, and undoubtedly wants another kick at the can before he retires. Will he get that chance in Toronto? Likely not, as his contract expires following the 2005-06 season. Will he be willing to bide his time until then? The hope is that the the young players on the team will keep the Detroit native energized and enthusiastic.

Q: The Raptors are a very young team, and there is no doubt that Chris Bosh is a future all star. But are Matt Bonner, Pape Sow, Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham the guys to take this team to an NBA title down the road?

A: Only the great (just ask him) Stephen A. Smith knows for sure what's in store for Villanueva and Graham, but the future of this team appears to be in good hands. Bosh has at least a good decade of stellar play in front of him. Bonner is a hard worker and excellent shot maker, although a tad slow for the NBA game, something he will work on. Sow, another second-year forward, has potential but still is very raw. Whether the Raptors turn the tables and become a solid playoff team within the next few years really depends on how well Villanueva and Graham develop. If one turns out to be a real keeper, the Raptors, once their salary-cap limitations ease in a season or two, could become a power.

Q: Who will be the Raptors' No. 1 centre?

A: The early money is on veteran Loren Woods, who put together a career year last season (3.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.87 blocked shots a game), but still has to prove that he is a top-notch NBA centre. At 7-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Woods certainly has the size and athleticism to become a dominant frontcourt player. And he's only 27. Second-year centre Rafael Araujo is facing a make-it- or-break-it season and has to demonstrate that he is making progress or he'll be on the bench -- or worse (see next question). Bosh will be used at centre only as a last resort.

Q: Will the Raptors send anyone to their minor league outpost in Arkansas this season?

A: Only players with two years of duty or less in the NBA are eligible to be sent down. The smart money is on Sow and, perhaps, Araujo.

Q: Will Rafer Alston get his act together and will Jose Calderon be a legitimate NBA backup point guard?

A: Alston seems oblivious to the criticism surrounding him. You can't knock his numbers from last season (career bests in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes), but his tendency to melt down emotionally is a major concern. The good news: Alston began conferring with a team psychologist last year and seems determined to get his act together. As for Calderon, Babcock expects big things from the Spaniard, who has excelled at the international level, but not right away.


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