Jones excited for challenge

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Everything old is new again for Fred Jones.

Running and smiling, two actions that seemed foreign to Jones the past two seasons with the troubled Indiana Pacers, might come back to the forefront now that the guard has signed a three-year, $11-million US deal with the Raptors.

"To come and practise and see smiling faces and not to see everybody upset about something, that just makes the whole team rally around each other and always play hard," the 6-foot-2 Jones said yesterday at the Air Canada Centre after the team announced the signing. "I think in Indiana ... everything that was going on in the media and everything that was going on in the locker room kind of dampened our spirits. We didn't have all our energy to put toward the other team, we were worried about other things going on around the team. To get away from that and start fresh is going to be a good feeling."

To go along with the fallout from the Ron Artest brawl and subsequent trade request, Jones was playing in a slow-moving offence that didn't mesh with his fast-paced style.

"It just wasn't conducive to my style," Jones said. "I have no complaints about my time in Indiana. We were a good team and I love my teammates and we had a lot of fun. That was their style of play and that was just the system I was drafted into. Now that I get to choose and do a little bit more of the style of play I want, this just fits my mode a lot better."

The deal with Jones came together quickly after John Salmons backed out of a five-year contract with the Raptors, opting to sign with the Sacramento Kings. Salmons sort of explained himself to the Philadelphia Daily News yesterday, saying he "didn't really feel (Toronto) was where God was leading me."

Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, however, doesn't see Jones as a Plan B.

"I do believe things happen for a reason," he said. "Here we are signing a three-year scenario versus a five-year scenario."

Jones, who grew up in Portland, talked to fellow Portland resident and ex-Raptor Damon Stoudamire before making his decision. Jones will take over No. 20 from the released Alvin Williams, whom Jones grew up watching in Portland. (Stoudamire also wore No. 20 while a Raptor.)

"I remember watching him in Portland when I was a little kid," Jones said. "I know he's a good guy, I know he's a great person. Hopefully I can make that number even better here in Toronto."


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