They stood against the wall, in the eye of an unusually hectic media storm in Toronto, giving two differing accounts of the aftermath of the same trade.
Peja Stojakovic, a 33-year-old NBA veteran and father of two with Serbian roots, seemed unsure of his footing. "I really don't know what to expect out of the situation. Personally, I feel good. I'm ready to play. It's up to the organization how they're going to use me."
Jerryd Bayless, a 22-year-old sophomore point guard, couldn't contain his glee. "I can't be more excited. This is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "Playing with these young guys, and growing with them, it's something I've wanted to do since I've been with the league."
On Tuesday, the two former New Orleans Hornets practised with the Toronto Raptors for the first time since they were swapped for Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks on Saturday.
Toronto got two very different players out of the deal. One is just starting out his career; the other is entering his twilight years. One belongs to the gamer generation. For the other, video games are the domain of his young son and daughter. One had a sheltered upbringing in Phoenix, the son of a respected forensic psychologist and teacher who, as a high-school star, was mentored by NBA elites. The other can look back on an already full life, having fled war-torn Yugoslavia, overcome major setbacks during his journey to the NBA, and become a three-time all-star.
While Bayless is a more natural fit into the young, fast-paced dynamic of his new Raptors team, Stojakovic is all too aware that his expiring $14.5-million (U.S.) contract means that Toronto is very likely only a temporary stop. So fleeting, in fact, that he left his wife and children at home in New Orleans. He's currently living in a hotel.
"Who knows how to cook? Clean? Can anybody help me?" he joked.
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."
For both players, the first opportunity comes when the Raptors play the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.Report Typo/Error
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