Bayless thankful to be a Raptors

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:14 PM ET

TORONTO - Having not spoken to every Raptor on the roster yesterday, we can’t state this unequivocally, but can you think of a Toronto Raptor with more to be thankful for than Jerryd Bayless right now?

Since he first heard mention of word that he was headed to Toronto, the combo guard has been effusive in his praise of his new address and it has nothing to do with the well-referenced multicultural nature of the city or even the “White Vegas” reputation some misinformed members of our media friends to the south have of Toronto.

Bayless has been looking for what he calls “a real opportunity” in the NBA since the day he was drafted by Indiana and subsequently flipped to Portland minutes later.

In his first season in the league in Portland he was buried under Andre Miller and Brandon Roy and stuck in a half court offence that didn’t take advantage of his speed.

To say minutes were hard to come by for Bayless in Portland is like saying rebounds are a little tough to come by with Reggie Evans lurking in the paint these days.

A trade to New Orleans got Bayless closer to an up tempo game but with Chris Paul dominating the minutes at the point, there was little room for Bayless to even carve out a small niche for himself.

So when word first filtered back to him about a move to Toronto, Bayless all but jumped up and called the airlines himself.

“It was like: ‘Thank you.’ ” Bayless said. I don’t want to bring religion into it but it was like ‘Thank God, finally.”

Bayless has heard all the stories about the exaggerated tax horrors that await an NBA player coming to Canada for the first time or the bi-weekly travel hassles clearing customs every road trip brings. He doesn’t care about any of it.

“I just want to be able to play basketball again, that’s the biggest thing,” Bayless said. “I want to grow with this team. I feel like the last couple of times I’ve been on teams that are already established and I’m coming in trying to fight my way on. Fighting just to get even 30 seconds in a game. Here I can grow with a team that is already good and still growing with a chance to be very special. It’s an opportunity people would die for.”

Upon arriving in Toronto, Bayless heard something from a head coach he hasn’t heard since his earliest days at the University of Arizona. Raptors head coach Jay Triano told him to out and play.

“I’ve known Jay since I played on that U.S. Select team and I know how he likes to play,” Bayless said. “He likes his point guards to do the kind of things that I’m capable of doing. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

For now, Bayless is backing up Jose Calderon who is once again playing with the kind of confidence that made him so effective between 2007 and the ’08-’09 season before injuries robbed him of that.

But Calderon is also approaching 30 years of age, while Bayless is just 22.

This just might be the perfect storm for both Bayless and the Raps. Let’s face it, the Raptors have many needs, but a point guard who is able to put defences in reactionary mode in a league that is becoming more and more point guard driven every night is pivotal.

The Indiana Pacers pulled off a trade for one of the few point guards likely to be available and who carries those credentials this past off season when they got Darren Collison from New Orleans.

Bayless temporarily filled the void left by Collison when he was dealt to the Hornets in late October in return for a first-round selection.

Jeff Teague in Atlanta, playing behind Mike Bibby, is another such player, although the Hawks don’t appear to be putting him on the market any time soon.

Bayless could be one. No one knows for sure because he’s never really had the opportunity to show it.

Here’s where the perfect storm comes together. In Toronto, opportunity is one of the few things the Raptors can offer a new player.

And that’s what has Bayless playing poster child for most thankful Raptor on this American Thanksgiving Day.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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