Raptors Add Depth Off Bench With Signing Of Jason Thompson
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
Trade-deadline patience paid off for the Toronto Raptors. After choosing to sit tight as the deadline passed two weeks ago, the Toronto Raptors announced the signing of veteran big man Jason Thompson on Tuesday morning.
“Today we sign Jason Thompson,” Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said. “We feel we needed a little help at the power forward position and he’s a guy that started probably an average of 60 games the last four or five years. [He’s a good rebounder, mid-range shooter, and just somebody to come in and fit on our team.”
To make room for Thompson, the signing meant having to waive Anthony Bennett. Ujiri stressed that the decision wasn’t any fault of Bennett’s but rather a result of the situation he found himself in on a roster where he wasn’t able to get playing time.
“It’s not anything Anthony did wrong and I probably put him in a tough situation,” he said. “I feel he needs to be somewhere where he can play and I don't know if we knew our team was going to be slightly better than where we were last year and playing time was going to be tough to dig in. I take responsibility for that because it wasn’t the kid’s fault at all.”
Ujiri said Bennett was upset to learn the news, but again stressed that he believes the 22-year-old will get another shot to show his skill level with a team that can allow him on-court time to develop.
It’s the most difficult part of our jobs,” Ujiri said of delivering bad news. “It’s the part I hate the most, when you have to cut a young player. It demoralizes the player in some way or the other. It demoralizes all of us if we get cut or we get let go. That’s just the nature of those things. I feel he’s going to get another opportunity, but it really should be an opportunity where he gets to play a little bit because he does deserve that and I think he’ll show.”
As the Raptors aim to close the season on a high note and continue their success in the playoffs, adding veteran leadership and experience at the power forward position became a priority. The opportunity to bring Thompson into the fold was too good to pass up.
“I think he’s going to be an excellent addition,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a veteran player. He’s been through the wars, he’s seen everything and he’s come from a winning program in Golden State. He’s a high IQ player, a guy who’s going to play hard. He gives us an insurance policy for Luis [Scola] and Patrick [Patterson] down the road.”
When Thompson was waived by the Golden State Warriors to make room for Anderson Varejao, the eight-year veteran was an obvious choice for Toronto. After entertaining a few potential suiters, Thompson made the decision to come to Toronto where he felt he’d be the best fit.
“I just think the comfort level [was the difference here],” Thompson said. “Some of the relationships I have with some of the guys already on the team, I’m not trying to come in here and mess up a great thing. I just want to be a part of something and help, kind of continue to make this ride go and see how it goes.”
The 6-foot-11 big man has appeared in 569 games in his career, averaging nine points, 6.7 rebounds, and 25.5 minutes per contest. He spent the first seven years of his career with the Sacramento Kings before joining the defending champion Warriors this season. Although he played sparingly with the Warriors, averaging 6.4 minutes in 28 games, he’s had a first-row seat to watch a team on pace to set the greatest regular-season record in NBA history.
“I’ve been around winning this season and you have a lot of winning ways out here in Toronto,” Thompson said. “I know a lot of the guys playing against them, and former teammates in Patrick and James [Johnson] and the list goes on. [This is] a top-notch organization. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
In addition to playing with Patterson and Johnson in Sacramento, Thompson also knows Kyle Lowry. Ujiri said calls around the league about Thompson resulted in positive feedback across the board and Casey said he spoke with all of his former coaches. While teams can sometimes be hesitant to bring in a new personality to a tight-knit locker room so late into the season, if you find the right personality, it can be exactly the boost needed. Having played alongside Thompson before, Patterson was effusive with praise for his new “old” teammate.
“[He’] a hard-working individual,” Patterson said. “On and off the court, [he] always does the right thing. Never back-talks, great rebounder, great mid-range jump shot, great defensive player, great mindset, a veteran. He’s been through it all.
“He’s going to learn his role and he’s going to play his role well,” Patterson continued. “He’s going to be happy and we’re going to be successful with him on this team. He’s a great guy. He’s a hard worker and that’s what we desperately need right now.”