Mickael Pietrus has always had an affinity for the city of Toronto and on numerous occasions has publicly expressed his desire to be a Raptor. He has now had his wish granted.
“Excited about playing in Canada, I have wanted to play here for years,” Pietrus told me via text message after making the trek from Paris.
With the Raptors sitting at 3-13 and reeling thanks to a six-game losing streak, a change had to be made and something had to be done. Dominic McGuire was released to make room for Pietrus on the roster.
So what will Pietrus bring to the team?
Management and the coaching staff hope that the presence of a 10-year veteran will provide some sort of spark. Pietrus most prominent NBA time period came in Orlando as he was a key piece at both ends of the floor in the Magic’s run to the NBA Finals in 2009. During the Magic’s playoff success, Pietrus averaged just over 10 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the floor and close to 39 percent from beyond the arc.
But for a defensive-minded coach like Dwane Casey, who is partial to veteran players, he is hoping the French national team player can recapture his offense and give him the defensive toughness he demonstrated during that postseason.
It was Pietrus who was responsible for guarding LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland when the Magic defeated the Cavs, and then he shadowed the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during the Finals.
The Raptors have had their issues getting consistent offensive production from their perimeter forward players.
McGuire started nine games and was in the line-up primarily for his defensive capabilities but did not contribute much offensively. If Pietrus, an athletic small forward, is healthy, and in reasonable game shape, both his shot-making and defence will be welcomed by the coaching staff, as the team looks to turn its fortunes. Pietrus is a capable perimeter shooter who in the past has demonstrated the ability to get to the basket and needs to make attacking the hoop a priority.
A season ago after being released by the Phoenix Suns, Pietrus landed in Boston and played well. Injury concerns may have been a factor in Pietrus not landing an NBA roster spot at the start of the season.
Pietrus had the opportunity to watch the Raptors game against Memphis and is eager to get some playing time and make a positive contribution. He hopes to be in the line-up and get on the floor when Toronto takes on Phoenix at the Air Canada Centre and is not worried about learning the system. As an experienced player, he says this situation is akin to being traded during the season and is ready to learn on the fly and realizes it may take a couple of weeks to fully learn the Raptors system.
Will he be the saviour that Raptor fans are looking for right now?
Don’t count on it, but if he is able to give them a lift and help win some games it may be a step in the right direction.