Calderon may not miss a beat

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

As country twanger Alan Jackson warmed up on the Air Canada Centre floor, Jose Calderon was upstairs hoping his own hurtin' tune would end in time to play tomorrow.

But forgive backups Will Solomon and Roko Ukic if they secretly wish Calderon rests his strained right hamstring for one game, to be 100% for back-to-back road contests next week, giving them a chance to run the show against the Miami Heat.

What is certain is that the Raptors dodged a serious injury to one of their Big Three when Calderon was diagnosed with a mild strain from Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia. Already losers of four of their past five games, the Raptors don't need any more bad news.

"Take away any starting point guard and it will be tough on any team," captain Chris Bosh said. "But they (Solomon and Ukic) need some experience so that, down the line, we can use them."

After an MRI on Thursday, Calderon worked out in the gym yesterday, but was kept away from any strenuous court time as a precaution.

REACTION TIME

"Most of the final decision will be mine," Calderon said of playing tomorrow. "It hasn't been 48 hours yet since the injury. Let's see how I feel when I wake up that day. I think I'll be better. Everyone reacts to injuries differently."

Calderon is having a great year, second to Bosh in most categories and averaging 36 minutes a game without the shadow of T.J. Ford. But in unloading Ford in the Jermaine O'Neal trade and giving the controls to Calderon, the Raps created a depth issue with Solomon and Ukic. The former is still making an adjustment from six years of playing ball in Europe while Ukic is a rookie, also from overseas.

"I'm confident in my ability with the offence," Solomon said. "The growing pains you expect some days. After you clean up some (errors), you have to keep going over them and fixing them.

"It's a long way from (playing in) Turkey. It's all about playing the minutes and getting the NBA experience. My first time around (in Memphis in 2001) I didn't have the playing time. Every situation I'm in is a learning situation."

The same is true of Ukic, who is being brought along slowly by coach Sam Mitchell and the staff.

"You're talking about the most difficult position in the game," Mitchell said. "(Solomon and Ukic are) a work in progress. One thing about the NBA is that you can't hide guys."

Mitchell saw no reason to be overly cautious with Calderon by declaring him out against the Heat in favour of the back-to-backs in Orlando and Miami next Tuesday and Wednesday.

"If he can practise (today), why not practise?" he said.

The coach was not dwelling on the team's recent record, believing it is lack of attention to detail that has hurt them, not lack of talent or desire.

"We just have to continue to work and clean that up," Mitchell said.


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