Where other general managers were waiting for bought out players to clear waivers before adding depth for their playoff runs, Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri did his work early sending seldom used forward Austin Daye to the Spurs for backup guard Nando De Colo a week and a half ago. It didn’t take long before Head Coach Dwane Casey was calling on De Colo to be the next man up in Toronto.
“(Lowry) stayed in the game, but he turned his ankle real bad,” Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey said after Thursday’s triple overtime game against the Wizards. “Also, Terrence (Ross, ankle injury), both guys, so we’ll have to see for Sunday what they are going to do. Next man up, someone is going to have to step up and be ready to play. We have to get Nando (De Colo) ready.”
There is no way Ujiri could have known just how timely the trade would become, but it’s been just that kind of season for the Raptors GM this year.
The 26-year-old De Colo has played with the senior men’s French national basketball team since 2009 and spent three seasons in the Spanish ACB league before joining the Spurs last year. Between his international experience and a season and a half under Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, De Colo brings more to the Raptors than the typical NBA sophomore.
“Everyone says (Popovich) is a tough coach, but he knows when he must be tough with the team and when he must take care of the team, so he is exceptional and it is not only with Coach Pop, it is with the assistants too,” De Colo said. “They are a long time with the team, a long time in the NBA, so they know everything and they can help you get better. They know every year what they want and what their goal is and they just keep the same team, just build the team. They try to play together and get better every day.”
Getting traded has been a new experience for De Colo, but it didn’t take long for De Colo to adapt to his new situation and in the 5 minutes he has played for Casey so far, he has surprisingly not looked out of place.
“I am happy to be here,” De Colo said. “It was something new for me to be traded because playing in Europe, it is not something that happens, but it is okay, I am here, it is a new team.
“It is just basketball to know exactly what the team wants. The first day you just see what’s (happening) on the court and you (try to) move like the (other) players.”
The 6’5 De Colo can cover a variety of spots on the court, from shooting guard to small forward and even as a point guard to initiate the offense. He likes to have the ball in his hands on the fast break and can do a little bit of everything.
“I feel better when I play the two, but I like to have the ball in my hands sometimes,” De Colo said. “So more like a two, but in rhythm when you just grab the ball and go on offense, I can help the point guard.
“My game is to do a little bit of everything. I can shoot the ball, I know I can pass too and I try to be aggressive on the court. What is good with the Raptors is, this year when I watch the games, they try to play together. It is not, I’ll just go by myself and we’ll see what happens, they want to win the game together and every time, they find the extra pass and that’s what I like.”
De Colo sees a good fit for himself with the Raptors. From his observations, this team plays a style that he is comfortable with and he likes what he has seen from Coach Casey.
“It is what I like to do,” De Colo said. “They play pick-and-roll (a lot) and all these situations, its more or less my game, so I am happy to be here and we’ll see when I get minutes on the court.
“I think (playing for Casey) will be good for me. From what I saw, he is a good coach. He is very close with his team and all his players. I think he knows what the team can do on the court and he tries to push every day to be better.”
Landry Fields returned to lineup at almost the same time as De Colo arrived, but he’s been out for a while and lost his spot in the rotation to Ross a long time ago. Now that Ross is expected to miss some time with an ankle injury, it really is next man up and under the circumstances that is mostly likely to be De Colo.
Also, Lowry insisted his injury was minor after the game, even though he looked like he was in a lot of pain when it happened and he was noticeably hobbled in the overtime. If Lowry misses any time, Greivis Vasquez will start and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if De Colo is next man up in this situation as well.
Once again, Ujiri seems to have found a player that fits just when his team needed him.
Also check out:
Raptors Greivis Vasquez Has Played Big Time Lately
“I finally feel like I can move at high speed and I still believe I can do so much better,” Vasquez said. “When you are healthy and you know your body is backing you up, it is extremely helpful for me especially because I am not the quickest or the most explosive guy, so I need my savvy but also I need to be healthy and now is as healthy as I have felt.”