Marion rarin' to run

New Raptor Shawn Marion smiles during practice at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Dave...

New Raptor Shawn Marion smiles during practice at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

If Jermaine O'Neal was the proverbial square peg in the circular hole in his short tenure with the Raptors, Shawn Marion is nicely rounded and all smooth edges.

That's the opinion of general manager Bryan Colangelo, who orchestrated both this trade and the original one that brought O'Neal to Toronto last summer.

But now that he has Marion, Colangelo is convinced he has made the necessary correction and the team can begin to make good on all that pre-season promise.

At 21-34, there's a steep hill to climb and with just 27 games remaining, not a lot of time to climb it, but for the first time in a couple of months there is a real sense of optimism around the team.

"I think it was pretty apparent that the way we play and what Chris (Bosh) does, the trade for Jermaine might not have been the best piece," Colangelo said yesterday. He was speaking at a news conference introducing Marion and Marcus Banks to the Toronto media following the trade that sent O'Neal, Jamario Moon and a lottery-protected first-round pick to Miami. Toronto also picked up $3 million US.

"It took too long for everything to come together," Colangelo said. "When healthy and when those three guys (including Andrea Bargnani) were productive it looked pretty good. But it wasn't happening enough.

"Too often I think we were caught standing around watching either Chris or Jermaine operate in the post and it created stagnation. You don't get the rebounding because you don't have the movement. Chris would make his play and Jermaine would watch the play or Chris would do the same thing.

"This (Marion's arrival) kind of eliminates that and it gives us a player that doesn't require a play to be run for him. He can get his scoring and rebounding opportunities in other ways."

The way Colangelo envisions it, Marion's arrival not only eliminates the duplication he had with O'Neal and Bosh, but brings a slashing, create-his-own-offence type of player who complements the pieces around him much more than O'Neal ever did.

"Shawn is a better fit for this team than Jermaine was and that's not a knock on Jermaine at all," Colangelo said, adding he believes O'Neal is a much better fit in Miami than Marion ever was as well.

Listen to Marion and other than the cold weather that he came prepared for -- "I got my skully" -- he sounds like a guy who is viewing Toronto as a chance to play the game the way he is best suited and the way he enjoys it.

"I'm tired of playing that boring half court, watching everybody walk it up, call this play or call that play," he said. "That's boring. The fans don't enjoy it either."

In a morning meeting with head coach Jay Triano, Marion learned the Raptors have every intention of using the newfound speed in their lineup to play an up-tempo style of basketball.

"That's what I'm all about," Marion said.

And with the offence revolving around a post player such as Bosh instead of a perimeter player like Dwyane Wade in Miami, scoring opportunities should be more frequent for Marion as well.

Now it's just a matter of Marion picking up the Raptors offence -- something he did quite quickly in practice yesterday, according to Triano.

"That's the hardest thing to do," Marion said. "When you have a new team with new guys and a new system and everyone is trying to fit in. I believe you can throw me into anyone's system and I can find a way to jell and make it good"

Defensively, Marion will get a severe test right away. He will be matched up against LeBron James tonight in his first game in a Raptors uniform.


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