Raps back into fire against Nuggets

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

TORONTO -- Out of the fire and into the frying pan, there's no rest for the embattled.

And no player feels as embattled as Jose Calderon.

Deron Williams did anything he basically wanted to do in dismantling Calderon in Utah's blitz of the Raptors.

Now comes Chauncey Billups, a one-time Raptor who isn't as likely to penetrate the lane as much as Williams did, but who is nonetheless a high-end point guard.

Billups is more likely to shoot the ball than Williams, but Calderon fully understands the challenge that awaits in the combo guard known as Big Shot and the Nuggets.

"They're both great players,'' Calderon said. "I have to play better, our team has to play better. We have 12 games left and we have to be ready."

Against Utah, Calderon missed his first five shots from the field. He had an open look on each heave from the perimeter.

There's a chance Calderon will be replaced by Jarrett Jack against Denver.

Head coach Jay Triano went back with Calderon last week against Atlanta.

Triano wasn't tipping his hands following Thursday's practice, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if Jack starts the game.

The first line of defence is so important and it begins at the point position.

There's merit in starting Jack because he's a better defender than Calderon and matches up better against Billups.

Regardless of who starts, Calderon and Jack have to step up.

There's also a chance the Raptors may have a different starter at small forward.

Hedo Turkoglu was told to go home when he reported for duty on Thursday. At halftime of Wednesday's loss, Turkoglu developed a stomach pain that prevented him from returning.

Sonny Weems may get the starting nod against his former team if Turkoglu is unable to go.

Weems brings energy and if he can somehow avoid getting caught up in playing his old team and exercise good shot selection, he looms as a piece that will help.

Marco Belinelli was able to practise Thursday, a day when the little-used swingman celebrated his 24th birthday.

Belinelli has been nursing a sore back, but says he's itching to play.

Belinelli brings energy and quick hands. He's also a creator on offence.


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