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Lewenberg: Jet-lagged new Raptors arrive in Toronto

Josh Lewenberg
12/11/2013 10:31:05 PM
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TORONTO - For three incoming Raptors the last 72-hour period has felt like an eternity.

"I'm pretty beat right now," admitted John Salmons, one of four players coming to the Raptors from Sacramento in the deal, finalized Monday, that shipped Rudy Gay out of town.

"I'm tired right now. When we were up there watching film, I was nodding off in the film, especially with the three-hour difference, losing three hours."

"If I had to play today, man, I'd look so bad," Chuck Hayes joked. "They'd probably ship me back."

Salmons, Hayes and teammate Patrick Patterson arrived in Toronto Tuesday evening. After passing their physicals Wednesday morning, the trio met with Raptors coach Dwane Casey, sat through a brief film session and were introduced to the local media in the team's practice facility at the Air Canada Centre.

The fourth newcomer, guard Greivis Vasquez, is a full day behind the others. Vasquez had to stop over in New York to get his visa before landing at Pearson Wednesday evening.

Fresh off a weekend back-to-back, the Kings - back in Sacramento at the time - were given Sunday off. Each player found out they had been traded to Toronto as reports of the deal began to surface at around 4:00pm local time, each in a different way.

"I was sitting on my couch watching TV," Salmons recounted. "I wasn't doing too much. I started getting these texts, people telling me what happened."

"I got a phone call from my agent while I was watching football, and checking my fantasy football," said Hayes, he like Salmons was caught off guard.

Patterson wasn't going to let the life-changing news spoil his Sunday out.

"I had my family in town for a couple of days, spending quality time with my mother and decided to take her to the movies," he narrated. "We were going to see The Hunger Games, so literally as I'm going into the movie, my phone was blowing up left and right friends, people on the team, my agent is calling me."

Finally he answered the phone, receiving the news from his agent. The third-year forward was being traded for the second time in two seasons.

"I'm like, 'Yo, I'll call you back in about 2.5 hours, I'm taking my mom into a movie,' so I literally found out like five minutes before the movie."

What would you have done? Call your friends and family? Gone home to pack? No way. Patterson withheld the news from his mom until the film let out so they could both enjoy the show, start to finish. "It didn't ruin the movie," he said. "It was a good movie. I couldn't let it ruin the movie."

Midseason trades, even early-season ones are not easy on anyone. Both teams have to integrate new players. The players have to move their lives, in some cases their families, in this case getting accustomed to a new country, a new time zone and a new climate.

"My son doesn't have [a passport], so I was busy working on him, getting his paperwork together," Hayes said.

"It's a business," Patterson pointed out, not the first to do so this week, it's become something of a slogan around the ACC. "Thankfully, this isn't my first [trade]."

Patterson, 24, is the youngest of the quartet, while Salmons - who turns 34 Thursday - and Hayes (two days older than Steve Novak) instantly become the eldest on their new team.

On Thursday the on-court adjustment begins. All four players, Vasquez included, will join their new teammates in a full practice and their experience in the league should help Coach Casey.

"They understand," Casey said. "They've been around the block a few times so that'll help to mix them in with our guys. The hard part is getting the chemistry, the timing, guys understanding where guys like the ball, those types of things so that will take some time but the veteran play will help."

Of the four, only Hayes has a fully guaranteed contract for next season, meaning the other three - namely Vasquez and Patterson - will be auditioning for their futures in Toronto or elsewhere in the NBA.

Vasquez figures to get consistent playing time right off the bat, backing up Kyle Lowry at the point and occasionally joining him in the backcourt. Salmons will be used off the bench, giving Casey another option at a suddenly weak small forward position for the Raptors. Patterson and Hayes should both get a shot in Casey's frontcourt rotation, the latter seems to have already endeared himself to his new coach with his positive approach and high basketball IQ.

What could have been

For Salmons, there's some irony in being traded to Toronto after declining to become a Raptor seven years ago. In 2006, then a 26-year-old coming off a career year in Philadelphia, Salmons had agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that would have sent him to Toronto before eventually backing out and signing in Sacramento instead.

"Upon reviewing the basketball situation in Toronto, John decided it's not the best fit for him," Salmons' agent, Joel Bell had commented.

Salmons had a strange explanation at the time.

"Originally, I felt like I had to make a decision but I didn't really feel [Toronto] was where God was leading me."

The swingman elaborated on Wednesday when asked about nixing that deal.

"It was a difficult decision for me," he told TSN.ca. "I had a couple options on the table. I just felt like it was a thing where I relied on my faith. I felt it wasn't the place for me to be at the time. I hope the fans don't hold it against me. I felt like it was something I had to do because of my faith."

Salmons clarified, when asked, that he's happy to be in Toronto now. "It's a great opportunity, it's a great situation," he insisted.

Patterson very nearly became a Raptor as well, after an impressive pre-draft workout put him on then-general manager Bryan Colangelo's radar in the summer of 2010. Instead, the Raptors selected Ed Davis with the 13th overall pick and Patterson fell to the Rockets at 14.

"I remember that like it was yesterday," he said. "I had a good time, had a good feel, my agent was telling me that they were giving me praise and they were interested in me. When they called Ed Davis instead of me, I was like, "Okay, maybe they didn't really want me as much," but I definitely remember the work out. It was a good time."

Injury update

Originally scheduled as an off day, the Raptors watched tape and held individual workouts on Wednesday.

Tyler Hansbrough is still resting his sprained left shoulder after sitting out the last two games.

Landry Fields was hit in the neck during Tuesday's loss to the Spurs and was taken to the hospital after the game to get checked out. He was still sore the next day.

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