TORONTO – Scottie Barnes has yet to play an actual NBA game, but the gregarious rookie is quickly becoming one of the most popular Raptors.
It’s a cheering and applauding human energy drink, and his new teammates smiled during Monday’s media day as they recounted stories from their time so far in Toronto.
If it’s rare for a 20-year-old rookie to instantly take on a vocal role on a new team, Barnes shrugged and said he didn’t think twice.
“At this level, you can’t be shy. You can’t be trying to look too cool, ”Barnes said after his first training camp practice Tuesday at the OVO Athletic Center. “It’s just the dirty things you need to do on the floor, that’s what will have to happen. It really is not that difficult. I am not a shy boy. I’m going to be who I am no matter where I am. “
The Raptors selected the Florida State forward, known for his suffocating defense, with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. Twice before the Raptors chose fourth: Chris Bosh in 2003 and Antawn Jamison in 1998, who they traded for Vince Carter.
Expectations for the young player will be high this season, but so far he has earned nothing but praise, including from head coach Nick Nurse, who said Barnes will play a “big role” this season.
“I imagine he’s going to do as many reps as possible, and that starts next Monday night (when Toronto hosts Philadelphia in the preseason opener),” Nurse said.
“It’s a clapper, you know, like, ‘Come on, come on, let’s play D.’ He just likes to talk, he likes to smile and he enjoys himself, he loves the game and he plays like that. “
At five feet nine, with a six-foot wingspan and two massive hands, the size of Kawhi Leonard, Barnes has long been touted for his versatility. He has the ability to play all five positions and, with his speed and ball handling, he has been compared to a point guard in the body of a forward.
If you left a box unchecked, it was your shot. In college, he shot just 27.5 percent from three-point range, and his robotic shooting style has drawn some criticism.
Not surprisingly, he spent a good chunk of his off-season time working on his shooting.
“Each and every day, just getting more and more reps, it’s a process where I get more reps every day, just constant shots,” he said.
What adjustments have you made?
“Just the release of my shot at my fingers. Shooting with two of my fingers and pushing myself a little to the side. It has been (feeling more natural). We have been working hard the last two months. I feel like I’m getting better every day. “
Barnes, who tested the NBA during summer league, said the college’s biggest adjustment is game speed.
“It’s a constant race, the floor is longer, bigger, so you have to be in very good condition,” he said. “The guys are bigger, stronger and you can really feel it at this level. So that’s really it, just staying in shape, doing the right wind, being able to run up and down the ground where a high level of conditioning will be needed. “
It seems like hard work won’t be a problem for Barnes.
“Work hard, they’ll see you be the first in the gym, the last out,” said Goran Dragic, the 13-year NBA veteran who came to Toronto as part of the sign-and-trade deal with Miami. for Kyle Lowry. “He has that personality that is unique, and I really like it. It has a bright future. I can already see that. It’s funny, it’s really funny. “
Pascal Siakam snickered as he recounted passing Barnes in the hallway after team physicals recently. Barnes hit Siakam in the chest, as if he had just scored a winning goal.
“He’s just an exciting kid, he’s exciting to be around, and he has a great presence and he’s very, very fun to watch,” Siakam said. “I feel like he could beat me in terms of energy just because he’s always happy, always excited.”
It is in part his humor and good-natured demeanor, evident in his social media presence, that has made him loved by Toronto fans.
Immediately after the draft, he wrote a letter in The Players’ Tribune titled “What’s okay, Toronto?” in which he spoke about his enthusiasm for playing for Toronto and the love he had already experienced from Raptors fans.
Fans followed him on Instagram Live as he walked around Toronto exploring his new city, and he earned thunderous applause when he threw the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game, further fueling the excitement around the young player.
Fans will get their first glimpse of his enthusiasm on the court Monday against Philadelphia.
“I think he wants to be part of the team, it’s like ‘Let’s all do this together,'” Nurse said. “I think he’s vocal and demonstrative in that, and who doesn’t love that?”
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 28, 2021.
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