TORONTO - Saturday was another busy day for the Raptors.
The team added small forward Rasual Butler, its move for guard Mickael Pietrus fell through and centre Aaron Gray, swingman Gary Forbes and point guard Anthony Carter should soon be on the way.
Butler, 32, a nine-year veteran, was once a strong outside shooter and valuable member of the Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers, but his game fell off substantially last season.
After campaigns averaging 11.2 and 11.9 points per game, Butler dropped to 5.0 on a career-worst 32.3% from the field in 41 games with the Clippers before ending up in Chicago.
Butler’s role will be to provide a strong locker room presence and to be a veteran gunner off of the bench signed on a cheap, one-year pact.
He is a friend of projected starters DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson, as well as Jerryd Bayless and by all accounts, shot the ball extremely well for the Raptors on Saturday morning despite getting only an hour’s sleep after flying in from L.A.
“He had every excuse to come in and not really give it to us, I was really impressed,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
“I think he’s going to be a good addition to us as far as his shooting and defensively, I was just as impressed, because he knew where to be.”
Butler said he chose Toronto over other suitors because they showed the most interest about signing him right away. He also said he is more than simply a gunner.
“Most of the teams I’ve played for I’ve guarded the toughest guy, whether I was starting or coming off of the bench,” Butler said.
“Coach Casey understood that I could play on both sides of the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Pietrus acquisition from Phoenix is off, according to the Arizona Republic, because Pietrus had slight swelling in his knee after working out for the club which caused some concerns.
With Linas Kleiza ahead of schedule and already back on the court, Butler on-board and Forbes likely coming, the need for Pietrus evaporated.
Denver received an offer sheet for Forbes and will now have three days to match.
The Nuggets have an extremely depleted roster, but general manager Masai Ujiri was Bryan Colangelo’s assistant in Toronto and probably has already informed Colangelo he will not match.
Not to be lost in all of this, the Raptors will bring in Gray as early as Sunday.
Casey confirmed without mentioning Gray by name, that another centre would be on the way soon.
Gray, a 7-foot, 270 pound big man tested free agency after a strong playoff showing against the Los Angeles Lakers. Gray scored a season-best 12 points in Game 1, taking playing time away from an ineffective Emeka Okafor.
Gray’s career high of 19 points came against the Raptors back in 2008.
Casey said he was not concerned that a log-jam would be created up front.
“We’re bringing another five-man (centre) in (but) there should be enough minutes to go around,” said the coach.
Casey said sophomore Ed Davis will strictly man the power forward position (likely with Andrea Bargnani starting there), while the more experienced and heavier Amir Johnson will see time at both power forward and centre.
Gray, Jamaal Magloire and Solomon Alabi are the other options in the middle.
“We want to make sure we see him and give him quality looks at the four position,” Casey said of Davis.
“Really, it’s not fair to him to go against Dwight Howard, (Brook) Lopez, some of the bigs we have to go up against.”
Barring an unforeseen snag, the Raptors will fill out the 15 man roster with Carter, a long-time member of the Denver Nuggets who is reliable at both ends of the court.