Bryan Colangelo can't sign every European to an NBA contract, so it looks as if he is going to do the next best thing -- take the Raptors to Europe.
The Raptors general manager said last night there is a good chance the club will play exhibition games in Europe in the fall of 2007 and hold a training camp there, as well.
A Spanish newspaper reported this week the Raps have agreed to play an exhibition game against the Spanish elite team Unicaja in Malaga next October.
And while Colangelo said no firm deal has yet been made, he certainly is open to such a trip. Colangelo was instrumental in organizing the Phoenix Suns' trip to Europe this fall, when he was president and GM of that franchise. The Suns will play a game in Rome on Oct. 6, followed by games in Cologne, Germany, on Oct. 10 and 11.
Colangelo has extensive contacts with European basketball and has turned the Raptors into one of the most multicultural teams in the NBA, with five Europeans on the roster, including 2006 No.1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani.
Colangelo believes European trips are an excellent bonding tool for teams, while adding that competition overseas has become tough.
"You get a wakeup call pretty quickly when you're playing a scrappy international team that would like nothing better than to beat an NBA club," Colangelo said last night. "We're extremely interested (in Europe) if the deal and the travel arrangements make sense for us."
Colangelo said the team may even play exhibition games in Slovenia, from which Raptors Rasho Nesterovic and Uros Slokar hail, and Tel Aviv, where free-agent signee Anthony Parker made a name for himself.
Alas, this year's training camp will be held in a somewhat less exotic locale -- Waterloo, Ont. And while camp officially won't begin until Oct.3, every member of the squad, with the exception of Nesterovic and the injured Pape Sow, are in Toronto, working out informally at the Air Canada Centre practice gym. Included in the group is star forward Chris Bosh, who played for Team USA at the world basketball championship in Japan last month.
Also in town is the dynamic Spanish duo of Jose Calderon, who is entering his second season with Toronto, and free-agent signee Jorge Garbajosa, both of whom helped lead Spain to the gold medal in Japan. Garbajosa was outstanding for the Spanish side and is looking forward to a smooth transition to the NBA, with the help of Calderon.
"(Calderon) told me it's a little bit different, but in the end, it's basketball everywhere," Garbajosa said. "I have to try to learn the new rules, the new way to play, but in a few days it will be like playing (the NBA) all my life."
As for Calderon, the personable point guard said a foot injury that plagued him late last season is no longer a problem, and that he is looking forward to playing with a trio of new Raptors guards -- T.J. Ford, Fred Jones and Parker.
"It's better for us, for sure," Calderon said of the team's off-season changes. "I think we make a great team. Everybody can run, everybody can shoot."