Damon Stoudamire is still trying to extricate himself from the Memphis Grizzlies via buyout, knowing that the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns are hot to sign him.
But a third team has emerged as a sleeper to land Stoudamire if the little guard can indeed come to terms with the Grizz on a settlement this month.
Stoudamire, according to NBA front-office sources, is intrigued by the idea of signing with the Toronto Raptors
and returning to the franchise that drafted him and gave him the platform to win Rookie of the Year honors in 1995-96.
Sources say, if he does become a free agent, Boston remains the A-1 favorite to sign Stoudamire and add much-needed depth to its backcourt.
And Phoenix is still a strong contender given the Suns' need for someone to ease the regular-season burden on Steve Nash, Stoudamire's University of Arizona connections and time as a teammate in Portland with Suns general manager Steve Kerr.
But don't discount a coming-full-circle return to Canada, with the Raptors
forced to look at other point guards because of T.J. Ford's ongoing absence.
A hard hit from Atlanta's Al Horford on Dec. 11 knocked Ford to the floor, sidelining him indefinitely -- and adding to Ford's lengthy history of hard falls and lengthy absences related to spinal problems. Ford is in Houston working with longtime NBA coach and player John Lucas, who also assisted in Ford's recovery from the spinal-cord injury he suffered in Milwaukee that cost him the entire 2004-05 season. No timetable for a return has been established, and with only half of its potent tag team at the point available -- Jose Calderon
-- Toronto has been investigating its options.