TORONTO – Jerryd Bayless is just starting to make a name for himself in the NBA, while Peja Stojakovic is in the twilight of his career.
On Wednesday, both were set on making a good impression in their debuts with the Toronto Raptors.
“It’s a new opportunity. I love the town and I look forward to being here hopefully a long time,” said Bayless after the Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 106-90 at the Air Canada Centre.
Stojakovic, 33, has been around longer and was more measured in his response. He said that he does not know where he fits into Toronto’s plans or how he will be used.
“We’re all professionals, we’re obligated to do what’s asked for us,” said Stojakovic. “The organization is going to make decisions whether it’s short-term or long-term, whatever is in the best interests for them.
“I don’t know. At this point, I’m just enjoying myself here.”
Bayless, who has heard doubts expressed about his ability to be a true point guard, and Stojakovic, who is one of the best three-point shooters in league history, were traded to Toronto last Saturday by the New Orleans Hornets.
In return, the Raptors sent point guard Jarrett Jack, centre David Andersen and guard Marcus Banks.
If first impressions mean anything, both Bayless and Stojakovic could be good additions to the Raptors. They both made contributions in limited time and had the crowd behind them.
Bayless, who subbed for starting point guard Jose Calderon, hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer on a 26-foot jumper to end the first quarter.
The 22-year-old went on to finish 3 for 3 from three-point range with 13 points, two assists and two rebounds in just under 15 minutes.
Stojakovic also hit a three-pointer and finished with seven points and one rebound in six minutes.
Saturday’s trade was a quick turnabout for Bayless, who was traded by the Portland Trail Blazers to New Orleans on Oct. 23.
“I was really excited,” Bayless said. “Being able to play here, in another country, it’s a new beginning. We’ve got a team that can move the ball. We were playing really well. We were moving the ball really well. Everybody was getting open shots. A great atmosphere to play in.”
“We kind of restricted what we wanted him to do,” head coach Jay Triano said. “We asked him before the game what he was most comfortable with running and we tried to keep those sets going for the most part.”
Bayless, who is in his third NBA season, said the players around him made it easy for him.
“I don’t think it’s a pressure position,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life. It was simple to go out and do that. We have so many weapons in this team that I can distribute the ball to. It makes it really easy for me.”
Stojakovic said it is too early to sense where he fits in with the Raptors rotation.
“I think after 12 years in the league the coaches are aware of my capabilities,” he said. “I think it is up to the organization how they are going to use me or which direction I will play.”
It didn’t take long for some of the fans to chant the name of the native of Serbia.
“It’s the international support that exists here in Toronto,” he said. “It’s great. A lot of guys from all over the world are playing for this team.
“It’s always good to have a debut and win the game. I think we played with a lot of energy, especially in the first half.”