Immanuel Quickley woke up Saturday morning and felt he was having a dream when informed he had been traded to the Raptors.
For RJ Barrett, it’s a dream to be playing for his home-town team he’d often attend games with his dad and fellow hoopster Rowan Barrett, who once auditioned for the Raptors back in the day under head coach Lenny Wilkens.
Barrett and Quickley, the two newest Raptors, were formally introduced on New Year’s Day, which seemed quite fitting.
A new team, a new opportunity, a renewed sense of purpose, a new year.
A man of faith, Quickley took the news in stride once he was fully awake.
The set of events began when his agent called, imploring Quickley to quickly reply. At the time of the call, Quickley was asleep in his hotel room in Indy, where he expected to play that evening.
Both Barrett and Quickley expressed excitement at joining a Raptors team that fully embraced its newest teammates.
Of the two, Quickley arguably brings the most intrigue and potentially the biggest upside.
In New York, word is he was never able to fully unleash his talents. Admittedly, the energetic Quickley approaches every day with a similar mind-set.
“I try to find new ways to be better on and off the court,’’ he said. “That’s part of who I am. I feel I fit right in.”
The Raptors gathered at their practice facility Monday, the two newcomers in tow, in preparation for their home game against Cleveland later in the day.
It’s a site very familiar for Barrett, having trained with Canada’s national team, which qualified for this summer’s Paris Olympics. Rowan Barrett serves as GM and was a member of the team when the nation last qualified for the Olympics in 2000, with Steve Nash as its face in Australia.
RJ Barrett has decided to take up a residence in downtown Toronto, a sign that he wants to continue to adhere to his strong work ethic. The expected cascade of warm messages were sent to Barrett once word of his trade became official.
“My family is very supportive, my friends are excited,’’ said Barrett. “It’s been a great welcome. I’m very appreciative. The one thing I tell people when you play for the Raptors is that you play for a whole country … I want to make the fans proud.
“Any time you go home it’s a different feeling. Basketball is a sport I play, it’s my job, but this feels even better. I believe in this team and we’ll figure out how to be one of those top team. When we get there it’ll feel even sweeter.”
The Raptors of Barrett’s youth included names such as DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon. He also recalls the trade that brought Kyle Lowry to town.
It’s now Barrett getting traded, a first for a player who was taken third overall in 2019 by the Knicks after Duke teammate Zion Williamson went first overall, followed by Ja Morant. Barrett’s run in the Big Apple can be best summed up as underwhelming.
While there were moments of high-end play, Barrett left many wanting. In many ways, his trade to the Raptors represents a fresh start.
“Whether it was needed, whether it was wanted, it’s happening,’’ said Barrett. “I come here, a fresh start with a new team and now I try to see how I can help.”
Being home should help.
“I mean who doesn’t want to come home and play in front of family and friends and get a team that I’ve always loved so much back to where they were in 2019?”
Barrett and Quickley were more than just teammates in Gotham. The two quickly bonded and forged a strong friendship.
“Toronto’s a great city,’’ said Quickley. “I’m glad to be here and excited to get started.”
With the Knicks, the ball was often in the hands of point guard Jalen Brunson, who has emerged as an elite facilitator and scorer when he wants. Julius Randle was the focal point in the frontcourt, leaving Quickley cast in a subordinate role.
“I feel I’m an on-the-ball player,’’ he said. “I’ve always trained to do both. I feel I can spot.”
Creativity is one area Quickley was never able to showcase in New York. He should have an extended runway in Toronto, given the team’s lack of creative players.
“I want to show I can make guys around me better,’’ added Quickley.
When he entered the media room located a stone’s throw from the team’s practice court, Quickley beamed with his authentic smile. He oozed positivity and expressed a legitimate joy in embracing his new challenge.
“God is good,’’ said Quickley in describing his jovial presence. “He’s the head of my life. I hope to show everybody else that there is hope in life.
“It drives me every day to be a better person. I am someone who is driven.”
Part of the appeal surrounding Quickley’s acquisition is the hope he’ll make an ideal complement for Scottie Barnes.
“How he transformed his shot is the biggest thing,’’ began Quickley in breaking down Barnes’ growth. “He’s taking and making a lot of threes. Everyone knows his versatility.
“With that type of talent it’s easy for players (such as Quickley) to thrive.”