When Bryan Colangelo met with the media shortly after the end of a disappointing 2008-09 season for the Toronto Raptors he said his team was soft, and that it was going to change.
"We are too nice, we are too nice as a group. Collectively, the group is too nice," the Raptors president said last month. "That's not to say you've got to go out and get bad guys [but]when you step on the court, you better have some fight. I think some of the guys were saying you better have some dog in you ... in terms of what we're looking to do when we're addressing personnel this summer, we're going to be bringing in perhaps players with a different mentality."
Why wait until summer?
Yesterday afternoon the Raptors announced they had acquired Reggie Evans from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jason Kapono, a trade of opposites if there ever was one.
Evans is an offensively challenged banger who has averaged an impressive 12.6 rebounds per 36 minutes over his seven-year career, including 4.6 offensive rebounds, a testament to the 6-foot-8, 245-pounder's willingness to pay a price to chase down the basketball.
He's a career 46.8 per cent shooter from the floor and converts free throws at just a 52.5 per cent rate, indicative of his overall offensive skills. But the Raptors have plenty of players who like to shoot the ball, but have been chronically short of players who like to go get it when they miss.
Evans can help fix that as he averaged 4.6 rebounds in just 14 minutes a game last season.
"Reggie Evans will certainly add an element of toughness to our team," said Colangelo in announcing the deal. "He has very good rebounding and defensive instincts, addressing two areas where we have underperformed."
Evans' willingness to do the dirty work was demonstrated in the 2006 playoffs when he was with the Denver Nuggets and was fined $10,000 by the NBA for grabbing the testicles of the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Kaman while battling for position.
Kapono was a free-agent signing in the summer of 2007 that Colangelo envisioned would turn the Raptors from a "good shooting team to a great shooting team," but Kapono never quite lived up to his four-year, $24-million (all currency U.S.) contract. He shot the ball well, as advertised, but struggled to gain the confidence of the Raptors coaching staff on the defensive end where he was inevitably matched up with quicker and stronger wing players. He averaged 7.7 points and 1.6 rebounds in two seasons in Toronto
The 76ers have been in the market for a shooter to spread the floor for the likes of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand which made the trade - unusual in that it features a pair of division rivals -- a case of two teams trying to fill a specific need.
The Raptors gain a financial advantage as the deal saves them $1.2-million in salaries this season and $1.5-million next year. Overall the Raptors will enter the free agency period after July 1st with $8.9-million under the salary cap and as much as $10.1-million depending on what they do with Quincy Douby and Patrick O'Brien.
It's a significant amount of money in what promises to be a buyer's market, and as Colangelo showed by dealing Kapono, he's not about to take the Raptors struggles last season sitting down.
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