Cool-hand Luke on edge

Luke Jackson might be the odd player out as the Raptors look to trim their roster by one. (Sun...

Luke Jackson might be the odd player out as the Raptors look to trim their roster by one. (Sun Media File/Alex Urosevic)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

Just like his teammates, Luke Jackson jogged off the Air Canada Centre court yesterday afternoon with a big smile on his face.

The Raptors had just held their annual Fan Fest, and the players genuinely seemed to have a great time interacting with the ACC faithful.

Jackson's smile, however, quickly turned into a look of bewilderment, even despair, when asked later on if he was nervous about being waived today.

As of 6 p.m., this evening, all NBA teams have to be down to 15 players, and the Raptors are currently one over the limit.

Barring a trade, Jackson seems to be on the odd man out. There has been speculation that rookie forward Jamario Moon might be waived, or even veteran guard Juan Dixon.

But the Raptors are flush at small forward, which Jackson plays, and are carrying just the right number of bigs.

Jackson also stands to earn $798,308 US this season, which is not a prohibitive sum in terms of buying out a contract.

Dixon, on the other hand, is in the books to make $2.9 million.

In any event, Jackson was honest and upfront about his feelings when presented with the possibility of his departure.

"I'm not going to lie, I'll be pretty heartbroken if they do waive me," he said.

"I definitely feel like I deserve to be on, if not this team, another (NBA) team."

Jackson, whom the Raptors signed last year, has played 59 games in the NBA and is considered a quality outside shooter. But he really hasn't had much of a chance, at least in game situations, this pre-season to show what he can do, averaging just 8.3 minutes in five games.

"I've had a good camp," said Jackson, 25. "I wish I would have had a little bit more of chance to play, but we're deep in my position ... we'll see what happens.

"I feel like I've worked hard and have done everything that they've asked me to," he said. "I'm the first one here every day, the last one to leave the gym. So, it's up to them."

In any event, the Raptors roster is all but set for the regular-season opener this Wednesday against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, and two-time NBA all-star Chris Bosh said the team is ready to improve on its 47-35 record from last season, even if most pundits pick the Raps to finish behind the revamped Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

Many so-called experts believe the Raptors also will finish third behind the New Jersey Nets. The Celtics added a pair of stars in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a roster that already includes stalwart Paul Pierce, making them the prohibitive favourites in the Atlantic.

"I don't think we're in a position to get upset (about the predictions), because we've been there before," said Bosh. "We'd like to just be able to come in and play basketball with no expectations. There's no pressure in that.

"We just have to put pressure on ourselves and stay together.

"(The predictions) don't bother me at all," he added. "I know what I expect of myself and our team.

"We have a championship mentality coming in this year, and we expect to win. I know nobody else expects us to, but that's our job to make sure we play championship level basketball."


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