Raptors eye big-time free agents: report

Nuggets centre Nene goes up for a shot against Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in Denver, Colo., April...

Nuggets centre Nene goes up for a shot against Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in Denver, Colo., April 23, 2011. (RICK WILKING/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:32 PM ET

TORONTO - More than the 260 required players signed and returned their union cards to the American Arbitration Association on Thursday, meaning the NBA Players’ Association is on track to re-form on Friday.

That will pave the way for the new collective bargaining agreement to be ratified in time to ensure the NBA season will start on Christmas Day as planned.

Fittingly, just after that news broke, the Raptors announced that their pre-season schedule had been set. The team will take on the four-time defending Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics at the ACC on Dec. 18 in a matinee and three days later in Boston.

Training camp is expected to start on Dec. 9, when free agency also officially begins.

Andrea Bargnani, the only Raptor currently in town, met with the club’s strength coach on Thursday and is expected to be joined by his teammates in the coming days. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson indicated on Twitter that they would be returning soon.

The Raptors have five open roster spots and a draft pick who won’t be arriving until next season, so will have to use free agency to fill some gaps.

To that end, ESPN has reported that the Raptors have “informed the players involved that it intends to lodge serious bids for Nene, (Tyson) Chandler and restricted free agent Marc Gasol.”

However, such a move would be contrary to the patient, growth-focused developmental path president/general manager Bryan Colangelo has said the Raptors currently are pursuing.

This could be just a case of agents trying to drum up interest — and the price — in their clients.

Due to salary cap constraints, the Raptors would have to use the amnesty provision on one of Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa or Linas Kleiza in order to make a big enough offer for either of the three coveted big men.


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