Masai Ujiri wants to remake the image of the Toronto Raptors, and with the expected addition of physical power forward Tyler Hansbrough, it’s easy to see what he has in mind.
It’s all about toughness.
“I’m tired of all this, people come here and everybody calls the team soft or call the team pushovers or all the stupid names,” Ujiri said Wednesday. “You come to Canada and you come to play. That’s the identity we’re trying to build here. We are in Canada, and this is our team. We’re going to be tough out there.”
The general manager’s declaration came the same day the deal became official that sent much-maligned centre Andrea Bargnani — known for his lackadaisical play — to the New York Knicks for perimeter shooter Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, 39-year-old centre Marcus Camby and draft picks.
“I’m very excited to be in Toronto, it’s the only team that has the entire country behind it,” said Novak, who was officially introduced to the Toronto media on Wednesday.
The hard-nosed Hansbrough is known for his all-out effort, and toughness around the rim. While Ujiri said the Raptors and Hansbrough had come to an agreement, he wouldn’t confirm the deal was completely signed and sealed.
“We’re hoping, it’s one of those things in the NBA is you’ve agreed and you hope,” Ujiri said. “There’s no holdup, nothing at all, we’ve agreed. It’s business, until you sign I don’t want to talk about it, because you never know.”
Hansbrough became a unrestricted free agent when the Indiana Pacers opted not to re-sign the 27-year-old after four seasons with the club.
The hard-nosed University of North Carolina product was drafted by the Pacers 13th overall in 2009, and averaged seven points and 4.6 rebounds last season.
As for Bargnani, Ujiri said the time had come time that the team and big Italian centre parted company.
“He always had spurts where he showed brilliance, where he showed a complete game, but then sometimes he struggled, so it just became a point in time where we decided to move on and start all over again,” the GM said.
Novak is also a long-range shooter, and calls himself a “floor-spacer.”
“I shoot the ball, so I give guys room to work,” Novak said.
Ujiri called Novak “one of the better shooters in the NBA, and the way the game is played now, you stretch the floor and it opens a little more for the guys we have, the athletic players we have, guys who attack the rim.”
Novak said he’s looking forward to suiting up for a team that he believes has a lot of potential.
“You see the team and we’re not like an extremely veteran team. . . this is up-and-coming, a team with potential,” Novak said. “I don’t think anybody knows exactly what it is yet but there definitely should be a lot of excitement.”
Novak, who’ll play for the Raptors next at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, said he’s also keen to play for coach Dwane Casey — he knew Casey from the days the coach was an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, and called him “just a smart coach.”
Camby, meanwhile, has said he doesn’t want to play for Toronto, and Ujiri said the Raptors were still weighing their options.
“Obviously we don’t know what trades might come up in the next few days, a buyout. . . we’ll weigh all those options, and make a decision that’s best for the Raptors,” Ujiri said.
Novak said he can’t blame his former Knicks teammate for his decision.
“You have to respect a guy who is 39 years old and been through things,” Novak said. “He’s a guy who said: Look, it’s either a championship team in his mind or he’s going to hang them up. A guy like that, you can’t question the elders in this league.”
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