Raps look lost without Calderon

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Jose Calderon and the Raptor in the same night? Does it get any worse than that?

And you can take the Raptor, the greatest mascot this city has ever known, out of the equation all together and things still are pretty bad. In fact, losing Calderon to an injury of undetermined severity is without question as bad as it can get for the Raptors.

Calderon went up for a layup in the final minute of the first quarter and was unable to make it back down the floor. The picture of Calderon clutching at his right hamstring in obvious discomfort has to be a recurring nightmare for general manager Bryan Colangelo, who made the decision to put all his eggs in one basket with a solid starting five and little else in terms of depth when the roster was drawn up.

Yes, seeing Calderon hobbling around was much worse than watching the mascot in full limp mode after missing a trampoline takeoff.

Calderon wound up missing almost half of last night's game. He left in the final minute of the first quarter, was diagnosed with a cramped hamstring and returned with 5:55 left in the second but then left again for good with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter.

Predictably, Calderon tried his best to downplay the severity of the injury.

"It feels a little bit better now," Calderon said following the 106-96 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. "(Today) we will do some tests to see if it is OK, but I feel much better now than I did out there on the court.

"I tried to get back in there but I couldn't," he said. "I played six or seven minutes but I had to get out because I didn't feel like I could help my teammates."

If there is a good time for Calderon to go down, it might be now. The Raps do not play again until Sunday so the Spaniard will have three full days to recover. He might have some company on the rehab bandwagon too, if the back problems that sent centre Jermaine O'Neal back to the locker-room for a spell last night turn out to be serious.

No one in the Raptors organization wants to contemplate any kind of long-term absence by their starting point guard.

Calderon missed only a little more than half of last night's game and it was like the Raptors offence went into shutdown mode without him.

Without Calderon, the Raptors options at the point are both unproven and untested. Will Solomon and Roko Ukic are hard-working and well-meaning backups, but at this point, neither is ready for any long-term role.

"It's tough," Mitchell said of a scenario without the steady hand of Calderon to call on. "We have two guys who are trying to learn how to play in the NBA. You can watch it on TV and you can practise it but until you get in front of 19,000 people, until you play against starting point guards, there's a learning curve. We're trying to get these guys up to speed as fast as possible but there are no short cuts. Jose went through the same thing.

"The tough thing about Jose coming out of the game is, we have been able to manage his minutes and get him a break here and there. With him out it was just tough for us to get into our offence," Mitchell said.

DRASTIC MOVE

So tough that Mitchell made the drastic move of trying Anthony Parker at the point. The starting shooting guard has experience at the position but not at the NBA level.

"We had to try something," Mitchell said. "Anthony has played in the NBA and at that point you put together who you think that night are your best players on the court and tonight those five were our best players on the court."

And that was with Calderon out for less than a half. How much will Mitchell's ability to think outside the box be stretched if Calderon has to miss an entire game or more?


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