Calderon given ignition keys

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Following his rookie season with the Raptors, Jose Calderon thought about going home to Spain.

And staying there.

Fast forward two years, and Calderon not only is the club's starting point guard, but he also is set for life, after signing a new contract yesterday, reportedly worth between $7.5-$8.5 million US per year for five seasons.

"It was such a tough season. I got injured, we only won 27 games and I wasn't Jose Calderon. I couldn't play like myself," he said yesterday, of his first season with the Raptors in 2005-06. "That first year was very tough for me, but I tried to keep working and now I'm happy to be here."

Last season, the 6-foot-3 Spaniard posted career-high averages of 11.2 points and 8.3 assists. He ranked fifth in the NBA in assists and led the league with a 5.38 (678-126) assist-to-turnover ratio.

His chance to excel came as the result of a serious neck and shoulder injury to starting point guard T.J. Ford, whom the Raptors traded to the Indiana Pacers this off-season.

Calderon, 27, now will be expected to lead the Raptors to another level as the starting point guard. His backup probably will be Roko Ukic, 22, the club's 41st draft pick from 2005, who played for Lottomatica Roma last season in Italy. Interestingly, both Calderon and Ukic were acquired by Toronto's former GM, Rob Babcock, who was fired in 2006.

Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said there still are a couple of issues to iron out, including a buyout, before Ukic is brought over.

"I have no doubt that he is an NBA-ready guard. He has played at a very high level, competively, in Europe," Colangelo said. "I think with his length, at 6-foot-5, with long arms and some range, he is going to be a factor defensively. And he has a knack for finding ways to get the ball to people and score points."


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