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Houston Rockets forward Chuck Hayes, right, and Toronto Raptors guard Jarrett Jack, left, get tangled up as they struggle for a loose ball during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Houston March 1, 2010. (RICHARD CARSON)
Houston Rockets forward Chuck Hayes, right, and Toronto Raptors guard Jarrett Jack, left, get tangled up as they struggle for a loose ball during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Houston March 1, 2010. (RICHARD CARSON)

Will Jack pay price for Raptors' slide? Add to ...

Will Jack pay price for Raptors' standings slide? If one were compiling a list of things that have gone sour with the Toronto Raptors, it's hard to imagine Jarrett Jack being anywhere near the top.

On a season-long basis, the laconic stylings of Hedo Turkoglu might be up there. Career-wise, it might be Andrea Bargnani's now-you-see-it-now-you-don't flirtation with his true potential.

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In addition, the constant presence of DeMar DeRozan, an incrementally developing rookie, in the starting lineup surely has some Raptors watchers' noses out of joint.

But it appears that Jack, the Raptors' starting point guard for the past 43 games, will be the one to pay the price for the team's 1-9 slide.

"We've thought about it a lot," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said after practice yesterday. "We haven't made any decision yet. … [But backup point guard]Jose [Calderon]has been playing well and I might take advantage of that."

Triano showed his hand when he sat Jack to start the second half of the Raptors' loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday and Jack played just 17 minutes in a loss to the Golden State Warriors the night before.

"Jose went 4-for-5 in the first half against Golden State and ran our team extremely efficiently. Since we've had both those point guards I've played the guy who's been the most effective. A guy goes 4-of-5 and ends up 7-of-8 [actually 8-of-11] I think I want to keep that guy on the floor and the Portland game, I thought we had better flow when he was on the floor."

Jack was signed in the off-season to a four-year, $20-million (all currency U.S.) contract to provide insurance for Calderon, who is in the second year of a four-year, $34-million deal, but who has proven a little injury prone.

It was a month-long stint on the sidelines because of a hamstring pull that provided Jack with an opportunity to start and it was the Raptors' 22-11 record with him running the team - prior to their recent slide - that helped keep Calderon on the bench.

Privately, the concern in some quarters is Jack might be put off by losing the starting job he's managed to win in both Portland and Indiana.

Normally one of the most approachable players on the team, smiles from Jack have been few and far between recently, though he says not to read anything into that.

"Nope," he said when asked if the long face was related to a possible change of standing on the depth chart. "There was a change last game and I didn't take it personally at all. If that's what it is I'll go with the flow and come off the bench like I've been doing … regardless of what happens I still go out and play hard, and play my brand of basketball. Nothing changes."

Jack's statistical performance in his past five games doesn't seem to merit losing his starting role, given he's averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 assists on 54 per cent shooting while committing just six turnovers in total. Calderon has averaged 12.6 points and 6.0 assists while shooting 46 per cent and making nine turnovers, though he has been shooting well of late, making 13 of his last 25 shots over three games.

But is point guard really the Raptors' biggest problem?

The reality might be that the Raptors' struggles lie elsewhere - in fact, just about everywhere. According to 82games.com, the Raptors get outperformed at every position on the floor other than centre, according to something they call 'net PER', a measurement that calculates not only the production the Raptors get at each position but the production of their opponents from the corresponding spot.

The problem facing Triano is that he doesn't have a lot of cards to play when it comes to shuffling the deck.

"[I'm]having a hard time finding guys in the second group who have warranted the ability to start," Triano said.

Veteran Antoine Wright is a popular choice to replace DeRozan in the shooting guard spot, except that Wright has shot just 2-of-18 over his past five games and DeRozan is shooting 25-of-42 in fighting back from a recent slump. Sonny Weems has been a spark off the bench and the thinking is Triano doesn't want to create a problem in the second unit by starting Weems.

Turkoglu and Bargnani are fixtures as Triano has little choice but hope they regain their form if the Raptors are going to turn their fortunes around.

Which leaves Triano coaching a slumping team trying to spark a change with the Atlanta Hawks - who have averaged 128.5 points in two wins against Toronto so far this season - coming to town.

Calderon starting? Jack sitting? Change for the sake of change?

Maybe, but consider the alternatives.



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