Baston buoyant of return to Raps

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

Maceo Baston didn't have much to say about the messy gambling scandal currently rocking the NBA, but had no trouble discussing why he jumped at the chance to return to the Raptors.

"Most players at the professional level are individuals but I didn't get the sense playing against them last year that they had any individuals," Baston, now officially signed to a two-year contract worth about $4 million US, said yesterday.

"That's what I'm all about, playing team ball.

"How I'm used on the court is up to the coach. If I'm needed for 20 minutes or if I'm needed for one minute, I'll be ready."

Baston played 16 games for the Raptors at the end of the team's disastrous 24-58 campaign during the 2002-03 season, but said he has become a much improved player after honing his skills in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, alongside close friend Anthony Parker.

The 31-year-old Baston, who played sparingly for the Indiana Pacers last season, said Parker played a key role in bringing him back to Toronto.

"I talked to him throughout the season off-and-on and he was like: 'Come on man, come on back.' So I told him: 'We'll see what happens in the summer,'" Baston said.

According to Baston, North Americans aren't aware of the offensive game he developed along the way to winning a pair of Euro League titles with Maccabi.

"I can bring all the intangibles; shot blocking, charges, altering shots, deflections," he said. "(But) my offensive game is not too shabby either. People underestimate my offensive skills in terms of jump shooting, mid-range jumper, penetrating."

Baston said power forward is his best position, but with the Raps' depth at that spot, the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder said he is ready to spend more time at small forward.

"You're never too old to learn anything," he said.

"I can learn to be effective if I have to play that position."

In regards to the gambling debacle, Baston said he would wait for all the facts to come out before rushing to judgment, but said he had never suspected anything.

"I've never questioned any referee, any official, it never came to my mind," he said.


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