Raptors Move Forward By Adding Forwards

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Mike Ulmer -- Raptors.com
July 8, 2010


In the wake of Chris Boshs decision to play for the Miami Heat, the Raptors are looking to add two more forwards.

The club announced today it has signed free agent Amir Johnson. In his first year as a Raptor, Johnson posted career highs for points (6.2 a night) and rebounds (4.8).

The team has also tendered an offer sheet to six-foot-eight small forward Linas Kleiza, a free agent who spent last season in Greece after four years with the Denver Nuggets.

Kleiza, 24, averaged 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds a game in 301 games with the Nuggets. He was drafted 27th overall in the 2005 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Nuggets have seven days to match the four-year-offer sheet.

I dont want Denver to match, Kleiza said. I want to stay here.

Kleiza brings some of the toughness the Raptors have gone without since Spanish forward Jorge Garbajosa suffered a catastrophic knee injury in March of 2007.

Kleiza said he came because of the opportunity.

Toronto is a great city and there is a young, exciting team with a lot of different basketball skills and a lot of different players, he said. Hopefully I will be a good piece to his team.

Kleiza said coach Jay Triano told him what he wanted to hear.

We talked about playing uptempo basketball. I played in Denver for four years and I think we were the best uptempo team in the league.

Johnson, meanwhile, returns to Toronto after posting the best numbers of his career. The 23-year-old averaged 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. In five games as a starter, Johnson averaged 17.8 points and six rebounds a game.

The fact that Amir is committing to us and we are committing to him speaks to the amount of faith we have in him as a young basketball player, said Raptors president and general manager Brian Colangelo.

I think we are getting Amir right when he is going to take off and I think we are going to see the best basketball of his career, Colangelo said.

Johnson, meanwhile, said he was swayed by fans who implored him to stay with the franchise on Twitter.

I knew Toronto was the place I wanted to stay by looking at the fans responses on Twitter. They recognized how hard I work. It was no question for me. I wanted to be in Toronto.