Consider the newest Toronto Raptor as “insurance.”
On Tuesday, the Raptors signed Jason Thompson, a player who appeared in 28 games for the NBA’s best team this season – the Golden State Warriors. The 29-year-old stands 6-foot-11, can play power forward or centre, and was acquired to add depth to Toronto’s front court.
“He’s a high-IQ player, a guy who will play hard, and he gives us an insurance policy on Luis [Scola] and Patrick [Patterson] down the road,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “He’s not coming in to supplant anybody, or because anybody is not playing well.”
The newest Raptor came by the team’s practice facility Tuesday, where the team was preparing for Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, the start of a seven-game home stand.
“I’ve been around winning this season, and I see a lot of winning ways here in Toronto,” said Thompson. “Also, I have former teammates here in James [Johnson] and Patrick. I’m not coming in here trying to establish myself and mess up a good thing. I’ll pick my spots, make open shots, rebound, defend and do the little things to help this team succeed.”
Thompson is in his eighth NBA season, having played in 569 career games after being drafted 12th overall by the Sacramento Kings in 2008. He’s averaged 9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 25.5 minutes.
Toronto president and general manager Masai Ujiri said the Raptors were competing with a few other NBA teams for Thompson’s services.
“We feel we needed a little help at the power forward positon,” said Ujiri. “He’s a very good rebounder, a physical player and long. He’s been a consistent rebounder and then developed a mid-range shot that’s not bad. Those are things that could help us.”
Thompson played with Patterson and Johnson in Sacramento, and Ujiri said their past experiences together could be important in determining how well he might fit in with the Raptors’ chemistry.
“He’s a hard-working individual, always does the right thing, never back-talks, great rebounder, great mid-range jump shot, great defensive player, a veteran who’s been through it all – good times and tough times,” said Patterson. “In Sacramento, he was the vocal one, the first one in the gym and the last to leave.”
The Raptors had very kind parting words for the player they waived in order to make room for Thompson – Anthony Bennett, the first Canadian player chosen No. 1 in the NBA draft, back in 2013. The No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference said it was struggling to find playing time for Bennett while also trying to win.
Bennett’s young NBA career has not gone as many expected. He has battled injuries, was part of a three-way trade in 2014 which sent him from Cleveland to Minnesota, then was waived by the Timberwolves this past September. The Brampton, Ont., native signed with the Raptors five days later.
Bennett was supposed to be a project for the Raptors. Toronto seemed like the most promising place for the hometown player to develop. But the the 22-year-old got into just 19 games for the Raptors this season, playing a total of 84 minutes, averaging 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest. He got most of his court time with the Development League team, Raptors 905.
Bennett has been an effective player internationally for Canada. Last summer, he averaged 15.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game to help the Canadians win a silver medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games.
“It’s not anything Anthony did wrong. I probably put him in a tough situation – he needs to be somewhere where he can play,” said Ujiri. “I think he gained something from us, and maybe that’s the fight for the next battle, wherever he goes. He’s right there. He just honestly needs to be in a situation where he can play consistently. That will give him a lot more opportunity to show his skill, because he really is a talented kid.”Report Typo/Error