With Rob Babcock still doing damage control based on his comments surrounding the team last week, the Raptors' GM also confirmed to the Toronto Media yesterday that the team is attempting to sign former Duke and Chicago Bull point guard Jay Williams. The signing of Williams would be a coup for the Raptors who are not only in desperate need of a body at the third point guard position, but also in continual search for prospects to help upgrade their roster. Williams at one point was the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft after Yao Ming and looked to be a guaranteed All-Star point for years in the league. However on June 19 , 2003 Williams was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident which left him with a severed main nerve in his left leg, a fractured pelvis and broken NBA dreams. For a while it wasn't so much of a question as to whether Williams would play in the NBA again...but whether he'd ever be able to walk again. However a bound and determined Williams has picked up the proverbial pieces and under the tutelage of uber-trainer Tim Grover has not only gotten almost fully back to his original self, but has also improved in various areas. While admittedly he's still not 100%, (reports say he's closer to 85%), a player with the dedication, work ethic and talent of Williams would be a HUGE boost to an unproven Raptors backcourt and would be a perfect motivating (or replacement) candidate for Rafer Alston. Williams could be brought along slowly and allowed to grow with the young Raptors squad. As discussed yesterday, Williams has been working out for various teams in the past two weeks however it looks like the Raptors, Heat and Cavaliers are the front runners for his services. All three squads could provide a steady backup role for the time being and a situation in which Williams could grow into the permanent point guard role. The Raptors perhaps offer the best opportunity however as both the Heat and Cavs have players ahead of Williams locked into secure deals whereas the Raptors have only the mercurial Alston who may be better suited to coming off the bench.
The strong interest in Williams combined with other point guard rumours effectively means Omar Cook will not be brought back to camp this year. Cook had a disappointing summer league stint with the Raptors and it now appears that Babcock has decided to look international again, this time for other possible training camp invites. Babcock though is not only looking at the other side of the pond but across the even more expansive Pacific. Apparently Raptors fans should be expecting former Phoenix Sun point guard Yuta Tabuse to be fighting it out in St. Catherines with 2 or 3 other invitees for the final roster spot as a 3rd PG.
Tabuse, born in Japan, is a 5'9", 165 lbs PG who played his college ball at Division II BrighamYoung University-Hawaii. Last year Tabuse played 4 games with the Phoenix Suns averaging 4.3 minutes with little to show on the score sheet (1.3 ppg, .8 apg). Although he signed a multi-year contract with the Suns, in the middle of December he was waived. That being said in the 2004 season Tabuse played for the ABA Champion Long Beach Jam posting 5.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and a staggering 6.3 apg in 18 games.
Tabuse was also the property of the Denver Nuggets prior to joining the Suns last year where he practiced with Earl Boykins. Considering the similarities in height here and reputed style of play, this is definitely not a bad thing. But what does Tabuse bring to the table? What is his game all about?
Tabuse is what most teams would call a "change of pace" player who wants to use his quickness when getting up and down the floor. This was the Raptors' style of play last year so Tabuse wouldn't be so much of a "change of pace" guard in the Raptors' system but would be another quick, athletic (albeit undersized) point guard in Sam Mitchell's arsenal. Tabuse's contract is not likely to be guaranteed and it will be interesting to see the names of the other players that will be brought in to compete for this guard position.
From a PR standpoint, considering the international flavor of the city, this can be seen as nothing but a positive move in terms of ticket sales and exposure. This site gives you a good idea of his international appeal.
However we are disapointed by the fact that the Raptors won't be extending an offer to Omar Cook to come in and try to play his way into the 3rd PG spot. It seems that an invite is a low cost and potential high reward proposition with the worst case scenario being that Omar turns the invite down or is simply outplayed in camp for the point guard spot. In any event, the next few weeks will probably go a long way in determining which direction the Raptors will be going in addressing what appears to be this final roster spot.