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New Raptors finding their way in Toronto after whirlwind couple of days

New Toronto Raptors player Chuck Hayes keeps an eye on the action during a team practice in Toronto on Wednesday December 11, 2013. Hayes was acquired as part of a package deal with the Sacramento Kings for forward Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - Chuck Hayes was parked on the couch watching some football, with plans for Christmas shopping later that day, when he got the news.

Patrick Patterson was walking into "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" with his mom when his phone started ringing.

It's been a whirlwind couple of days for Toronto's newest Raptors, who were acquired in a trade announced Monday that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento. They say it's unfortunate part of the business that virtually every player goes through, but it helps that they arrived in a group.

"In the airport with them, on the plane, it's like we ain't left each other's sight the last 24 hours," Hayes said, laughing. "I'm not going nowhere without them if we're in a city we don't know."

Hayes, Patterson and John Salmons arrived in Toronto after the seven-player deal that sent Rudy Gay, along with Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy, to the Kings. The Raptors also acquired Greivis Vasquez, who wasn't in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon as he worked through immigration red tape.

"I was sitting on my couch watching TV," Salmons said. "We had an off day so I wasn't doing too much, started getting these texts.

"(I was) shocked, just because it was out of the blue, I didn't hear any rumours or anything like that, just all of a sudden I was traded, so I was just shocked. It's a process, your life is just flipped upside down from moment to moment."

Hayes, a 6-6 forward, said he was "hit blindside by the news" with Christmas right around the corner.

"If it was February, you know the buzz, and that's when trade talk starts kicking up, and you wouldn't be so surprised," Hayes said. "But it happening right before Christmas, it's kind of like 'Ah! What do you do now?' But you live and learn, you have to pick up and move on the fly.

"I called all my loved ones and said 'Do you guys have your passports?' And jackets. My son didn't have (a passport) so I was busy working on him, getting his paperwork together, birth certificate. Daddy stuff."

Patterson, a 6-9 forward who made a good impression in his draft workout with the Raptors in 2010 (the Raptors eventually drafted Ed Davis instead), didn't tell his mom until the movie was over that he was headed to Toronto.

"It was a good movie, I couldn't let it ruin the movie," Patterson said. "(My mom) saw my phone blowing up left and right, she kept looking, but I didn't tell her. Even my father knew, he was the one calling me. But my mom was sitting there, I wanted her to enjoy the movie, have a good time. After the movie, when we got into the car, then I told her."

Salmons almost was a Raptor in 2006, but the swingman backed out a sign-and-trade deal, saying at the time "I didn't really feel (Toronto) was where God was leading me." He signed with Sacramento instead.

"It was a difficult decision for me, I had a couple options on the table, I just felt like it was a thing that I relied on my faith and I felt it wasn't the place for me at the time," Salmons said Wednesday. "Hope the fans aren't going to hold it against me. It was just something I had to do because of my faith."

The new players will make their Toronto debut Friday when the Raptors (7-13) host Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia 76ers (7-15 prior to their game Wednesday versus Minnesota).

They watched some film at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday morning.

"It is (tiring), I'm pretty beat right now," Salmons said of the hectic couple of days. "We were up there watching film, and I was nodding off in the film."

They all met with coach Dwane Casey, who fielded plenty of questions from Hayes.

"I just asked. . . how we play, the plays, defensive schemes, what's this call, what's the call if we do this or that?" Hayes said.

The eight-year NBA veteran was thankful for the couple of days of practice before they played their first game as Raptors.

"If I had to play today, man, I'd look so bad. They'd probably ship me back," Hayes said.

Casey said he's pleased about the mix of the players he's acquired, saying they all have basketball IQ, but added it will take some time for his revamped Raptors to develop chemistry on the floor.

He says they all have the toughness that's needed in the gritty Eastern Conference.

"They're the kind of guys that you have to have to physically go against the Brooklyns, the Bostons, the New Yorks, the Miamis, the Indianas," he said

And he hopes they'll be a big boost to the Raptors' second unit that has been one of the team's weak points this season.

"Our problem — nobody is missing it — is our second unit," Casey said. "We've got to develop our second unit, get some guys in there that can bring some punch. We're wearing our first guys down, they're playing too many minutes, we've got to have a unit that comes in and gives us some punch both offensively and defensively."

NOTES: Landry Fields didn't practise Wednesday after a neck injury suffered during the Raptors' 116-103 loss to San Antonio sent him to hospital. A Raptors official said Fields was hit in the head and jammed his neck, and was hospitalized briefly for precautionary reasons.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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