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Raptors retooling accomplished weeks before deadline

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The Canadian Press
2/22/2013 3:07:59 PM
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TORONTO -- Acquiring Sebastian Telfair at the NBA trade deadline was merely adding an insurance policy at the point guard position for the Toronto Raptors.

The club's major manoeuvring, as general manager Bryan Colangelo pointed out Friday, had already been accomplished three weeks earlier.

The Raptors shored up their skeletal back court Thursday by acquiring Telfair from Phoenix, adding a veteran who can fill in if needed for starting point guard Kyle Lowry or backup John Lucas.

That was but a minor deal in comparison to the acquisition of swingman Rudy Gay from Memphis late last month.

"We got our work done three weeks ago and that was a very significant trade, a franchise-altering trade," Colangelo said of the deal for Gay that sent Jose Calderon to Detroit and Ed Davis to Memphis.

Heading into Friday night's game against the visiting New York Knicks, the Raptors were 22-33 after opening the season a horrible 4-19. They've gone 6-3 since acquiring Gay.

The 27-year-old Telfair, meanwhile, was billed as a budding superstar coming out of high school. But that star faded soon after he was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 13th overall pick in 2004.

The Raptors will be Telfair's seventh NBA team in nine seasons.

"You never know where your spot may be," Gay said of Telfair. "It may take seven times until you get a spot where you feel comfortable and hopefully this is his spot."

The Raptors sent centre Hamed Haddadi -- who never played for Toronto -- and a conditional second-round pick to the Suns for Telfair.

Most of the talk around the trade deadline in Toronto was about the player who wasn't moved -- much-maligned forward Andrea Bargnani.

Colangelo acknowledged he had spoken with Bargnani and his agent some time ago about a trade, telling them his feeling was that a "change of scenery" would be good for the big Italian.

But Bargnani's absence -- he missed 26 games with an elbow injury -- threw a wrench into any serious trade talks, Colangelo said.

"This (trade) dialogue began long ago, unfortunately Andrea got hurt, and once the injury occurred his return -- as late as it was in the process, as near to the trade deadline -- probably did not leave enough runway with respect to a deal being made now," Colangelo said.

Colangelo, who took Bargnani first overall in the 2006 draft, said he still firmly believes in Bargnani's talent.

He summed up Bargnani's play since he returned from injury as "50 per cent good, and 50 per cent not so good," and added the team's success down the stretch is "going to take an engaged, productive Andrea Bargnani."

Colangelo said the barrage of criticism levelled at Bargnani, by fans and the media, hasn't helped matters. Plenty of fans cried foul when he wasn't dealt Thursday.

"If you keep writing bad things about him, probably (the criticism will affect his game)," Colangelo said. "But that's a reality of our business.

"I think Andrea has shown he is affected by it obviously, I think we all are. But he's a man, he needs to strap on his shoes and play basketball."

Bargnani has long drawn fans' ire in Toronto, mostly for his inconsistent effort. Air Canada Centre crowds have booed him since his return from injury earlier this month, and Raptors coach Dwane Casey is fed up.

"I don't think it's fair just because a guy's been hurt, he's been out," Casey said after Friday's shootaround. "Let's pull for him. If you're a fan, let's be fans for our guys, not for the opposing team's guys.

"Lets pull for our guys, if they're down a little bit let's pull them up instead of pushing them down."

Rudy Gay (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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