Decision needed on Ford

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

At Ford, or so the slogan goes, quality is Job 1. But for Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, Job 1 is signing T.J. Ford to a contract extension.

The Raptors have until Oct. 31 to sign Ford, the team's starting point guard, to an extension. After that, they will have to wait until next year and risk the young star becoming a restricted free agent.

Colangelo declined to go into specifics yesterday as to where the negotiations stand, but there is no doubt that the club took a big gamble in acquiring Ford in the off-season, giving up all-rookie forward Charlie Villanueva and cash for the University of Texas product.

Ford has one year left on his current deal at $2.9 million (all figures US) with a $4 million qualifying offer for next year. Having given up Villanueva for Ford, and letting last year's starting point guard Mike James walk, it's obvious the Raptors are banking on the 23-year-old to be their point guard of the future.

It would be bad news for the franchise if Ford didn't stick around town for a number of years, but if another team offers Ford a massive contract after next season, it will be much harder for the Raptors to bring him back.

Another decision Colangelo faces before the start of training camp on Oct. 3, is what to do with veteran guard Darrick Martin.

Colangelo has said that he would like the free agent back, but is reluctant, at least right away, to spend the money the Raptors have left under the NBA salary cap.

If nothing else catches the GM's fancy in the next couple of weeks, it's likely that Martin will be back for another season.

Meanwhile, the four Raptors rookies and sophomore point guard Jose Calderon will attend the annual NBA rookie transition program in New York this week. The multi-day workshop instructs rookies about life in the NBA, including financial, media and security matters.

Calderon, who was unable to take the program last year, will be attending along with Andrea Bargnani, Jorge Garbajosa, Uros Slokar and P.J. Tucker.

NEW JOB FOR BABCOCK

Former Raptors general manager Rob Babcock and former Minnesota player Fred Hoiberg have been named assistant GMs of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Babcock spent 1 1/2 seasons as GM of the Raptors. He was fired in January after a series of highly criticized trades and draft picks.

Babcock spent 12 seasons in Minnesota from 1992-2004 rising from scout to vice-president of player personnel. He rejoined the club this spring as a consultant.

"Rob is someone who is very knowledgeable about the NBA," vice-president of basketball operations Kevin McHale said in a statement.


Photos