Humphries unmistakeably eager

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

From just about any angle, it looked like a mistake trade. My mistake for your mistake. Out of sight, out of mind.

Neither Rafael Araujo nor Kris Humphries, the No. 8 and No. 14 selections in the 2004 NBA draft, were ever going to live down their underachieving reputations in Toronto and Salt Lake City, respectively.

Indeed, Araujo already had cost Toronto general manager Rob Babcock his job, and new boss Bryan Colangelo didn't need somebody else's error lingering in the Raptors dressing room. In Humphries he saw a young, athletic player lost in a forest of similar players in Utah. In that respect, the June trade between the Jazz and Raptors was a perfect match.

"I'm not sure what Hoffa has left or what he can offer basketball-wise," Colangelo said yesterday. "But whatever that is, it probably wouldn't happen here. I think you can say the same about Kris Humphries in Utah."

In the short time he has been here, Humphries has impressed coach Sam Mitchell with his work ethic and his want-to. In the opening exhibition game the other night in Washington, Humphries came off the bench to score nine points and got some credit for a second-quarter run that keyed a 93-88 Toronto win.

Now, in the NBA, a pat on the back for contributing to an exhibition win is not terribly valuable as currency but it's better than a kick in the butt or, worse, being ignored.

"I thought (Humphries) changed the game in the second quarter," Mitchell said.

"Sometimes in certain places, things just don't work out. It doesn't mean you're a bad guy. It doesn't mean the coach is a bad guy. It doesn't mean the organization is bad. It just means it didn't work.

"Sometimes it takes a player a couple of years for a level of maturity to set in before you start figuring it out."

Humphries was overshadowed by Utah's depth at the forward position and wasn't able to earnmore than about 10 minutes per game on average. Utah's position was that Humphries needed to do more to earn his court time.

Sometimes it's just hard for a player to overcome that first impression and he needs to move on.

That certainly fits in Araujo's case and it very well might apply to Humphries. He is an athletic big man (though perhaps a little small to play power forward) who likes to run the floor and he's in superb physical condition.

"It's a good change," Humphries said. "It's good to be around coach Mitchell, someone who I've been around in the past, someone younger and not too far removed from the game as a player. He does a good job relating to us.

"It feels good to be up here. Once I realized what style they were going to play, that we were going to get out and run, I was excited to get up here. If they want to run, I can run."

Humphries was a freshman star at University of Minnesota when Mitchell was in Minneapolis with the Timberwolves. In that one college year, Humphries averaged 21.7 points and 10 rebounds per game, both Big Ten highs. But whenhe got to Utah at the age of 19, nothing went right.

PLENTY OF TIME

Humphries is four months away from his 22nd birthday. There's still plenty of time to build a solid career.

"My whole thing is that everybody gets a fresh start," Mitchell said. "(Humphries) and I had a very frank conversation when he got here. He knows me, he knows what I'm about. We had a very honest conversation with each other. I told him what I expected and so far I have no complaints about Kris Humphries. He has been a good teammate, he works hard, he's in the gym early. And I think his teammates like the physical toughness he brings to our team."

It's impossible to see where this Raptors team will be next week, let alone next month or next year. This is a serious work in progress, with all manner of disparate pieces still looking to find their proper spots in the big puzzle. It is a team of endless possibilities and a guy like Humphries might just find his niche.

"I took from Utah what I could and I'm bringing it to the table up here," he said. "I feel like I'mstrong enough to play in the post and quick enough to play on the wing."

Who knows? Maybe two wrongs couldmake a right.


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