International team

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo might consider picking Toronto native Denham Brown in the...

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo might consider picking Toronto native Denham Brown in the second round of tomorrow's NBA draft. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Like the city they represent, the Raptors are waving the flags of many different countries at World Cup time.

While the Raptors unveiled Italian Maurizio Gherardini as their new vice-president/general manager and Slovenian Rasho Nesterovic as their new centre yesterday, the team also was being linked with two other European players.

There is growing speculation that the Raptors' interest in Italian forward Andrea Bargnani, who played for Gherardini's Benetton Treviso team this past season, is not a smokescreen.

Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo has the first pick in the NBA draft tomorrow and Toronto likely will take a long, hard look at using that selection on the 7-footer or trading down to take him.

Meanwhile, a report on a European sport web site yesterday indicated that Spanish free agent forward Jorge Garbajosa is expected to announce his intentions for next year today. The Raptors are believed to have made a hard pitch for Garbajosa and could sign him in mid-July.

Gherardini, the first European executive in the NBA, and Toronto's international feel are expected to be drawing cards for non-American players.

"The fact is (Toronto) is basically an international community," Gherardini said. "It's more comfortable (for international players). There are 700,000 Italians and I don't know how many hundred thousand of other nationalities. It's so much easier."

If the Raptors don't go for Bargnani first overall, two other options appear to stand out:

* Take Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh's workout buddy, first overall.

* Take Gonzaga sharp-shooter Adam Morrison and, if they don't want to keep him, trade him to acquire a lower pick and another player. The Charlotte Bobcats, at No. 3, and the Portland Trail Blazers, at No. 4, are believed to covet Morrison and both those teams have point guards who may interest the Raptors.

While there has been talk of Bargnani slipping down in the draft order, Gherardini is convinced the big man is the real deal. That belief originated after Bargnani looked good against Bosh in a tight exhibition loss to the Raptors two years ago at the Air Canada Centre.

"We thought he was going to be good," Gherardini said. "After that game, we realized he could be special."

Meanwhile, another non-American player, Toronto's Denham Brown, also could be on the Raptors' radar when they select 35th overall in the second round. Brown is inviting about 50 friends and family members to a draft party in Toronto tomorrow night.


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