On a day where one move was announced and another two pending exchanges recognized, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri was up front about his guiding philosophy.
“I’m tired of people who come here and call the team soft or pushovers and all those stupid names,” he said. “Come to Canada and you come to play,” Ujiri said. “That’s the identity we are trying to build. This is our team and we’re going to be tough out there.”
Wednesday the Raptors unveiled Steve Novak, one of three players who came to the Raptors from New York in a deal confirmed Wednesday. The 30-year-old Novak arrives along with a 2016 first-round pick and second round picks in 2014 and 2017, Quentin Richardson and the rights to 39-year-old Marcus Camby.
Novak is no one’s idea of an enforcer but he is considered a diligent, conscientious veteran. As far as live bodies go, the swap involved a swap of shooters. It’s not known whether Richardson or Camby will play in Toronto. Novak ranked 11th in three-point shooting percentage last season with a .425 mark but led the league the season before with a .472 clip.
Novak has averaged 5.3 points per game in eight seasons with Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and the Knicks.
“I’m a floor spacer,” Novak said. “I shoot the ball. I give guys room to work who are more interior players, big men or slashers and I think that’s very much the makeup of the Raptors.”
The Raptors have two veterans in Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan who can regularly get to the basket.
“He is one of the better shooters in the NBA,” Ujiri said of Novak. “The way the game is played now you stretch the floor and I think you open up a little bit more for the guys we have, the type of athletic players we have who want to attack the rim.”
Novak acknowledged the club’s emphasis on young players such as Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy.
“With Jonas, we’re just scratching the surface on how could he can be. He showed signs he can be one of the best big men in the league. Those are the biggest reasons why it’s a great time to be in Toronto. Those guys’ upside and how much they are going to develop over the next few years is huge.”
Ujiri stopped just an inch short of confirming widely circulated reports that the club had inked two free agents, 27-year-old power forward Tyler Hansborough and one-time Denver Nugget point guard Julyan Stone. He will believe the deal is done when the player is standing in his office.
But there’s little doubt grit is on the way.
Hansborough is a six-foot-11 power forward who averaged 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds over four seasons with the Indiana Pacers. He is famously rambunctious.
Stone is a six-foot-six point guard best known for his defensive ability. He averaged just eight minutes a game over 26 games spaced over two seasons with Denver and recorded a scant 1.7 and 1.5 assists per game.
As he will for a while, the new Raptors GM stressed patience.
“That’s the key. We have a good window for a couple of years here. Sometimes you can’t just react and try to do things just to do them.”
Ujiri was asked if he would be comfortable with the way the team is constituted.
“I would be fine,” he said. “Completely fine.”