Ajinca a puzzling new piece for Raptors

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:34 PM ET

The Raptors have once again taken a flyer on a big who doesn’t exactly fit the basketball mould of a post player.

For now, all people should know about Alexis Ajinca is that he’s an unknown, a seven-footer who likes to play on the perimeter as opposed to being on the low block, an area, one of many, the free-falling Raptors desperately need to fill.

Perhaps it was fitting of the team’s recent plight, which threatens to get even worse, that Ajinca, a friendly Frenchman who was acquired in a minor deal with Dallas on Monday, wasn’t able to practise with his new team on Tuesday in the wake of some paper work that needed to be signed.

In the history of the Raptors, the team, for all intents and purposes, has truly developed one point guard, Damon Stoudamire, the club’s first ever draft selection.

Alvin Williams flourished, but his best moments were produced when he played off the ball.

Jose Calderon has shown moments, but the Raptors were so committed to the Spaniard that they thought a deal was in place this off-season to send him to Charlotte.

Toronto’s history of developing bigs is as gruesome as the team’s current record.

Ajinca isn’t so much concerned about history, but his history of getting bounced from Charlotte to Dallas and now to Toronto shouldn’t excite many people.

Heck, head coach Jay Triano doesn’t even know what role Ajinca will serve, admitting any minutes will arrive in an emergency situation.

Given the team’s frailties, the next emergency may hit at any time prior to tonight’s

7 p.m. tip against visiting Philadelphia.

In an ideal world, the Raptors would have wanted to keep Aussie big man David Andersen, who was part of that deal with New Orleans that moved Jarrett Jack and turned Calderon into the incumbent at the point.

Andersen, much like Andrea Bargnani, another seven-footer, plays away from the basket.

When they make shots, defences get extended, which then allows for better spacing.

It’s a philosophical approach that has been embraced by the team under GM Bryan Colangelo’s watch, a non-traditional way of using a big, but a tact that nonetheless has its merits.

When it comes to Ajinca, Triano confided the team has had its eyes on Ajinca from his days in Charlotte, where he broke into the league as the 20th player taken in the 2008 draft.

The kid is only 22, appears eager to make an impression and what sticks out is Ajinca’s length.

“Just because of his length, he changes the game inside,’’ Triano said. “It’s a chance for us to have half a year to look at him and see if he fits into our plays.

“He’s 22 years old and he has a long body.”

With six players unable to practise due to various ailments coupled with Ajinca’s paper work issue, Triano could not even contemplate having a practice.

Ajinca was able to put up a few shots after arriving at midnight on Monday.

“I’m a seven-footer who can shoot twos and threes,’’ Ajinca said of his game. “Defensively, I can rebound and block shots. It’s part of my game.’’

What remains to be seen is whether he’ll be part of the Raptors as the team moves forward.


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