Raps' guard doing better

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

In the aftermath of a frightening incident yesterday, Jose Calderon gave the thumbs-up to the crowd and moved his arms, legs and head in the Raptors dressing room at the Air Canada Centre.

Several hours later, he returned to his Toronto home and walked around last night, giving Calderon and the team a chance to take huge sighs of relief.

While the scene appeared strikingly similar to the times when teammates T.J. Ford and Pape Sow suffered serious neck injuries, Calderon escaped in far better condition. Tests revealed the Raptors' backup point guard sustained just a bruise to his lower back after a hard crash to the Air Canada centre floor with 32.4 seconds left in Toronto's 120-115 win over the Golden State Warriors yesterday.

Calderon -- who was taken off on a stretcher and had his neck stablilized before going to hospital in an ambulance -- is listed as day-to-day, and did not accompany the team on its flight to Phoenix after the game.

"He is upbeat and he was walking (around)," Mike Cound, Calderon's agent, said in a phone interview last night after talking to his client.

"He was real scared and his wife was freaked out. (When it happened, he said) he went numb (on one side) and he couldn't move. He must have pinched a nerve in just the right spot. He just felt helpless."

Cound said Calderon told him he feels "ready to go" play basketball, but the Raptors are sure to proceed with caution and see how his body reacts in the next couple of days.

Calderon was joined at the hospital by Spanish teammate Jorge Garbajosa and Raptors officials. The team delayed its flight to Phoenix in the wake of the injury.

Calderon was battling for a rebound after a missed Warriors shot when he became entangled with Golden State forward Mickael Pietrus. It appeared that Pietrus may have accidentally hooked him down hard with his arm, while Calderon also may have taken a knee to the back.

Trainer Scott McCullough then raced to the court to attend to Calderon, who had tears rolling down his face. McCullough worked on his lower back before turning him over. The ACC music was turned off, bringing a silence over the crowd for most of the 10-minute delay. Warriors coach Don Nelson went over to talk to Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, who heard Calderon hit the ground and scream.

"Normally, Jose, in a situation like that, would get right back up," Mitchell said. "But you know when he was down for awhile (something is wrong)."

Two of his teammates could relate. Ford, when he played with the Milwaukee Bucks, landed on his tailbone and suffered a spinal cord contusion after a collision with the Minnesota Timberwolves' Mark Madsen on Feb. 24, 2004. He missed the entire '04-05 season after undergoing neck surgery.

On July 4, 2006, in a summer-league practice in Las Vegas, forward Pape Sow hit his neck on another player's leg and went down with a thud. He suffered a fracture of the C6 vertebrae in his neck and underwent surgery two days later.

Sow, who has not played this season, put his hands together in prayer and closed his eyes while Calderon was on the ground yesterday. It was a striking image.

"It was bringing back memories," Sow said. "I was praying what happened to me (would) not happen to him because I know how hard it was. Thank God he is talking, he is moving. I couldn't do that."


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