|Toronto-born Jamaal Magloire will become the first Canadian player for the Raptors. (QMI Agency/Files)
TORONTO - The Big Cat came clean a day early.
Jamaal Magloire, also known as the Big Cat, will become the first Canadian to don the uniform of the Toronto Raptors.
The deal won’t be made official until 2 p.m. Friday when NBA teams can officially begin announcing their respective roster moves for the coming season.
The former Eastern Commerce standout returns home at the tail end of a 12-year NBA career to provide a little more muscle in the paint, a little leadership in the locker room, and whatever minutes a compressed schedule can offer a guy whose NBA career is winding down.
Toronto will be Magloire’s eighth and, barring something unforeseen, final team in a career that began when the Charlotte Hornets selected him 19th overall in the 2000 NBA draft out of the University of Kentucky.
“This has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” Magloire said of his imminent homecoming following a workout at the Raptors’ practice facility at the ACC Thursday. “I haven’t played that much in the past three years so all that anticipation has built up and I’ll be ready.”
For Magloire the opportunity to be that first Canadian on a Raptors’ roster is meaningful.
“It’s very important for me,” he said. “I want to leave some kind of legacy behind and going into my 12th year there’s not much of a window left. I think this a great opportunity to resurrect my career, and to do it in the right way in the right place.”
Magloire, at the age of 33, isn’t expected to command a ton of minutes this year, but with the compressed schedule and number of back-to-back nights and even a back-to-back-to-back series the team will play, he should easily surpass last year’s workload in Miami which amounted to 158 minutes of playing time.
Magloire sees no downside to playing in his home town despite the added distractions that equation brings.
“No, it wasn’t a concern my first year if I’d come here and it wouldn’t be now,” he said. “The reason being, it’s a job now and you don’t get many opportunities to play in the NBA and you have to make the most of it. I work extremely hard, I kept my nose clean and it’s all for this day.”
On the surface, Magloire wasn’t a huge part of that Miami Heat team a year ago that went to the NBA finals, but behind the scenes, Magloire said his role was expanded.
“As it stands right now I will be the oldest player on the roster and I look at myself as a leader,” Magloire said. “Even with the veteran club I was with last year in Miami, I was a leader. Between Juwan Howard and myself, we ran that locker room. It will be no different here.”
Speaking like the Canadian he is, Magloire said he will have no problem taking on whatever tasks the team needs from him.
“I am the hockey player of this team,” he said. “I am the one that is gritty, that will work hard and do whatever it takes to get wins at the end of the day.”