Raptors’ Anunoby takes pride in his two-way game

TORONTO – O.G. Anunoby admits he’s “wrung out” after Toronto Raptors games this season.

It’s easy to see why.

The 25-year-old has developed into one of the Raptors’ most consistent two-way players, and one of the league’s finest defenders. He scored 32 points and hauled down 10 rebounds in Toronto’s 112-104 win over Miami on Wednesday, and was doling out brilliant passes as naturally as he was throwing down dunks or scoring three-pointers.

“I’ve never just thought of myself as a defensive-only player,” Anunoby said Friday. “I’ve always thought I was a two-way player. That’s always what I want to be.”

Playing hard on both ends of the floor certainly isn’t for the lazy.

“Wrung out (after games), but that’s what you work on in the summer, to do these kind of things,” Anunoby said.

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How does he remain focused on both offence and defence?

“Just competing, whatever the task is, I’m just going to have to chase people all over the court, sometimes I’m going to have to be in the paint, some games I’m going to have to score more, spot up, shoot, cut,” Anunoby said. “Just whatever the game presents itself, like whatever I have do to. Just doing that.”

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Fans remarked on Anunoby’s apparent weight gain during the off-season, after Toronto’s pre-season roster listed him at 250 pounds. The London-born player looked shocked when he heard that number. He said he’s not even 240, but wouldn’t divulge the exact number.

Anunoby took pride in posting up former Raptors star Kyle Lowry, who’s famous for taking charges, on Wednesday.

“Oh, yeah, I thought he was going to flop . . . I was waiting for him to flop but he didn’t. Surprised,” Anunoby said with a laugh.

Anunoby’s 2.5 steals a night leads the league, putting him squarely into the early conversation around defensive player of the year honours.

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His emergence is perfect timing on a Raptors team rife with injuries. All-star forward Pascal Siakam is recovering from a Grade 2 groin strain and just returned to on-court activity. Coach Nick Nurse said he would likely have an update on Siakam next week.

Neither Dalano Banton, who sprained his ankle against Miami, nor Gary Trent Jr. (hip soreness) will travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game.

“(Banton’s injury) was not as bad as I was given the impression after the game the other night,” Nurse said. “He’s walking, no damages. It’s a sprained ankle, it shouldn’t be too, too long.”

Nurse wore a Toronto Argonauts hat and sweatshirt at Friday’s practice, in support of the team’s Grey Cup appearance on Sunday versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Nurse said the Raptors borrowed an idea from the CFL game — movement before the ball is snapped.

“We went over (to an Argos game) a few hours early and were watching them do their plays and stuff before the game, that’s kind of where we got it,” Nurse said.

Players moving when the ball is inbounded can befuddle an opponent’s defence.

“We do it on dead ball things ’cause you can move whenever you want to,” Nurse said.

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There was also talk at practice about the upcoming World Cup. Canada kicks off against Belgium on Wednesday.

Juancho Hernangomez was asked his prediction.

“Yeah probably Spain first,” said the Spaniard. “If we don’t win, I would go with probably Argentina. If not them then Portugal. So, those three.”

What about Canada?

“To be honest with you, I don’t know any (Canadian) player,” he said.

Hernangomez, who’s been seeing the floor much more recently as Toronto’s injuries pile up, is arguably much better known for his starring role alongside Adam Sandler in the Netflix movie “Hustle.”

Anunoby was asked if he’d seen the movie.

“No. I told him I want to be in the next one,” he said.

“I haven’t watched it yet. I don’t know my Netflix password,” Anunoby added, laughing.

The Raptors could face a stiff test against the Hawks, who are 9-6 and third in the Eastern Conference, a half game and two spots ahead of Toronto.

The Raptors return home to host the Brooklyn Nets, who should have embattled guard Kyrie Irving back. Irving was suspended by the team and has missed the last seven games after sharing a link to a documentary film with antisemitic views on social media.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

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