It's all yours, Jose

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

The 'Cal-de-ron' chants starting floating down from the 300 level about the same time the point guard began raising the intensity level on the court for the Raptors.

Jose Calderon had to admit that the house was stacked in his favour -- two big tour groups from Spain were in town -- but it wasn't hard for the rest of the 15,274 at the Air Canada Centre to join in.

If there were any doubts that the Spaniard has won the hearts of all fans after last year's tug-of-war for playing time with the departed T.J. Ford, they were settled last night. Calderon not only had a lion's share of playing time at the position, he was one of the starters coach Sam Mitchell rode the longest in a 113-111 win over the New York Knicks.

"I felt really comfortable," Calderon said, after leading the team with six assists and committing just one turnover. "I'm starting to understand my teammates a lot better."

Calderon was finding Chris Bosh (a team-high 20 points) and Jermaine O'Neal in his Raptors home debut in the early going and joined in an all-out effort to score that was tainted by some early season defensive hiccups. But Toronto is 2-0 in exhibition play.

"That was our second game, back-to-back and they left some of their key guys on court late into the game," Mitchell said of looking past the warts. "It was another small step for us.

"Jose played well, but we're making sure Jermaine and a lot of players take steps to get better."

Long way to go

While the Raps still have a long way to go to reach full potential with their new lineup -- allowing the Knicks to stick around far too long last night -- they do have back-to-back pre-season wins. O'Neal and Bosh were used sparingly, but Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jamario Moon were among the busiest.

Calderon, oozing confidence after a nice run at the Olympics, had in 27 minutes before Will Solomon finished the fourth quarter. Bargnani also saw lots of action, trying to diversify his game from a penchant for three-point shots.

Mitchell refuses to get too excited about single exhibition results, pointing out that LeBron James "took one half-hearted shot" in eight minutes of action on Tuesday in Cleveland.

"You want to do well, but it's not indicative of the season," the coach said before the match. "I look at it as an extension of practice."

While the Raptors had a quick turnaround from a 20-point win in Cleveland, this was Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's first test with his new team, trying to recover from the disastrous Isiah Thomas era.

D'Antonio was highly complimentary of Raptors president Bryan Colangelo and his father Jerry's role in getting him a second chance to coach in the NBA in 2003 with the Phoenix Suns after a stop in Denver.

"I owe them everything," he told the New York media of the Colangelos. "Everything. Just the way they set up the whole thing, the way they were able to get (Steve) Nash and set up the organization, it gave me a chance to get lucky.

"Bryan has done a great job (with the Raps). He's not afraid to pull the trigger and this last move (O'Neal) was a good move. They probably thought this was the last piece they needed to make the jump up. We'll see."

Colangelo and Mitchell didn't get to see all their players last night. Nathan Jawai still is awaiting test results on a cardiac condition, while newcomer Jamal Sampson, signed to replace Jawai in the short-term, dressed but did not play with a sprained wrist. Hassan Adams was held to four minutes with a bruised leg.


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