Bayless will immediately have the chance to fill the void Jack left behind, stepping in as backup point guard for Jose Calderon. “We did his physical at five o’clock yesterday and at 5:05 he had a playbook,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said.
Socially, his integration shouldn’t be too difficult. He knows DeMar DeRozan from his high-school days, Triano from the USA summer team, assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo from an NBA tryout, and Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo from his time in Phoenix. He’s also excited to settle in, and is even prepared familiarize himself with Canada’s national pastime.
“I saw people coming out after the [Toronto Maple Leafs] game, and I realized it’s a very big deal, so I’m going to try to catch onto it pretty quick,” he said.
Stojakovic still has to meet with Raptors management to discuss how he’ll fit into the squad. Earlier, Colangelo said his contributions might involve mentoring the younger players, and ideally, unleashing his sweet shot that has eluded him recently, mostly due to injuries.
“We’ve got to find a way for him to fit into our rotation, and if he does that and is knocking down shots, he’s going to help us,” Triano said of the 6-foot-10 forward.
Stojakovic said he’s willing to contribute in whatever way is needed. “It’s a different move for me,” he said, “and sometimes in life, you need something new to get yourself new challenges and just move on.”
“I told [general manager] Bryan [Colangelo] and I told Coach [Jay Triano] I couldn’t be more excited,” Bayless said after his first practice with his new team. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime, I think. Playing with these young guys and growing with them is something I’ve wanted to do since I’ve been in the league.”
“I know there are a lot of people from Serbia,” Stojakovic said of Toronto. “I know there are a lot of people from Greece, where my wife is from. Just a lot more international flavour. Every time I came here, I felt like I was coming home. I already feel so good.”
The Raptors acquired Bayless and Stojakovic for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks and David Andersen on Saturday, and the pair will be in uniform for tonight’s game against Philadelphia. With apologies to the Serbian veteran, Bayless was the key piece for the Raptors.
He is not going to contend for the starting point guard spot right away — that belongs to Jose Calderon, and Bayless is still working on his distribution skills — but his age and athleticism make him intriguing.
“This is where I wanted to be, with a situation like this,” Bayless said. “A young upcoming team who loves to run? A point guard can’t ask for more. DeMar [DeRozan], Sonny [Weems], Amir [Johnson] … everybody that’s here on the wing.”
A big reason for Toronto’s recent winning streak has been the play of fourth- year big man, Andrea Bargnani.
The former first overall pick of the 2006 draft is playing the best basketball of his NBA career and even though he’s shied away from being the go-to guy whenever reporters have asked him about it, his numbers say otherwise.
Right now he’s averaging 21.2 ppg on 46 percent shooting and during the winning streak, he’s averaged 28.3 ppg on 58 percent shooting.
What’s most promising about Bargnani’s progress so far has been the amount of three-pointers he’s attempted – or rather, the lack thereof.
Last year, the big Italian hoisted up 4.1 triples per contest, compared to this year where he’s only averaging 2.9 tries from deep. Between both years, he’s making close to the same amount per game, resulting in a much better three-point field goal percentage.
Limiting the number of three-point attempts he’s taking is an indication of maturity on Bargnani’s end, as he now realizes he doesn’t have to always launch from long range in order to be effective.
Bargnani still leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end and as a rebounder, but he can score well and efficiently – factors that have made him an important key to any Raptor victory.