Time will tell for Raptors

The Toronto Raptors, lead by Jalen Rose, begin their eight-game exhibition schedule tonight against...

The Toronto Raptors, lead by Jalen Rose, begin their eight-game exhibition schedule tonight against the Utah Jazz at the Air Canada Centre. (Toronto Sun File Photo/David Lucas)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

On the eve of the Raptors' pre-season opener, Jalen Rose was asked how many of his teammates are proven NBA commodities and how many are question marks.

"Want me to take the time to count them? I don't know," Rose said before turning around to take a look at the players shooting free throws behind him.

"No comment."

With that, a pack of reporters enjoyed a good laugh. Rose speaks the truth and the truth might hurt this season.

The Raptors, with nine new players on their 19-player training-camp roster, begin their eight-game exhibition schedule tonight against the Utah Jazz at the Air Canada Centre. During the pre-season, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wants to find out the answer to one key question.

"Can they play at 7 o'clock?" Mitchell said. "Is there anything more? I think that encompasses everything. If there's anything I need to learn other than who can play at 7 o'clock, please enlighten me. I would love to know. I know what they can do in practice. I want to see what they can do at 7 o'clock."

Along with determining a starting centre and picking a third point guard, the Raptors want to give plenty of court time to their young players.

First-round picks Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham will make their debuts in front of Toronto fans tonight and the latter can't wait for the opportunity.

"I'm not going to be nervous, it's just like riding a bike," said the outgoing Graham, who seems to have a smile on his face all the time. "You just go out there and have fun. That's how I look at it.

"Everybody wants a gamer, that's what it is going to come down to. Who can put it together out there at 7 o'clock. I definitely think I'm one of those guys, I've done it day in and day out. We'll see (tonight)."

So far, Graham has made a good impression.

"I really like Joey Graham," Rose said.

"He's a strong kid, he's athletic, he can shoot the ball, he's young. He's a little older than the average rookie because we joke with him about playing six years in college (Graham played four years of college ball and took a year off to transfer to Oklahoma State from Central Florida).

"(But) I feel he's going to be a real good player."


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