DeMar DeRozan was trying to explain what the acquisition of P.J. Tucker means to the Toronto Raptors on the heels of the team getting Serge Ibaka and how that has to make everyone feel good, right?
He pauses for a split second to gather his thoughts and then nails it off the top of his head.
“I’m pretty sure you have a car, right?” DeRozan said. “You get a new paint job, you’re going to feel a lot better riding around.”
Maybe not Charles Oakley in the realm of great Raptors quotes yet but not bad for a spur of the moment answer.
“I never prepare, it’s all off the top of the head,” he said. “The best way to explain myself is metaphorically, that’s what I’ve got.”
Metaphorically, metaphysically, on the court, off the court, in the court of public perception, whatever; the Raptors now view themselves with an imbued sense of confidence after adding two critical pieces for the stretch run to the NBA playoffs.
Ibaka, the veteran power forward, came aboard a week ago and addresses a dire frontcourt need; Tucker came at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline and is the kind of hard-nosed wing defender whose value goes up exponentially when the stakes get higher. He’s a stopper who takes immense pride in guarding whichever star he has to guard.
“The crazy thing, people always used to ask me who are the three toughest players that guard me the best? I always put P.J. in there first,” DeRozan said. “It was funny when I (heard about) the trade yesterday, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.”
It is not only DeRozan who’s glad the 31-year-old Tucker is a teammate now and not an opponent. Tucker’s reputation as a pain-in-the-butt defender is not limited to wings he’s had to check over the years.
“I used to play against him, and even a couple times we end up playing against each other in switch, and he’s a very tough guy,” said Ibaka, the former Oklahoma City Thunder big man who had to face Tucker and the Phoenix Suns at least three times each season. “He likes to compete, play hard, play for his team, so he’s a really tough guy.”
When Raptors coach Dwane Casey, never averse to having experienced, tough-minded, defensive-oriented players at his disposal, rattles off the attributes he sees in Tucker, the feeling is that the coach is describing his ideal player.
“He’s physical. He’s a man. He’s seen it all. He knows the league. He’s experienced,” Casey said. “He’s not going to be surprised too many times. He takes the defensive challenge, one-on-one, man-to-man, you don’t have to hide him. That’s what we need.”
The general consensus around the NBA was that the Raptors “won” the trade deadline by adding Tucker and Ibaka while the other top teams in the East basically stood pat. It’s sure to ratchet up the attention on the team during the stretch run.
It sent DeRozan searching for another of his metaphors.
“I don’t think it’s pressure. It’s part of your job,” he said. “They take you to somewhere to write a story, it’s on you to come up with a story, right? It’s just our job. They put things together and it’s on us to go out there and play, do what we’re supposed to do. It’s on us.”
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