‘Pure energy and hustle.’ Scottie Barnes has infused Raptors with a youthful exuberance and his teammates love it

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It was a chance meeting in the hallways just days before the Raptors training camp began, the kind of time they go through endlessly in a season.

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Pascal Siakam going one way, Scotty Barnes on the other and the usual greeting could be a fist-bump or a hello or some basic acknowledgment of a teammate.

“We were doing physicals and I was going out and he was in the hallway, and he was trying to give me one of those highs (chests) like you do in sports,” Siakam recalled. “And I just love walking into the facility; It’s like I hit a game-winner or something.”

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Welcome to Scotty’s world, where everything is new and fun and exciting and energy is flowing like lightning through him, no matter how mundane the task may be.

“I think he’s just an exciting kid, just like he’s exciting to be around,” Siakam said, “he just has a great presence and it’s actually really fun to watch.”

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The Raptors took to a court in public for the first time, fast-forward a few days, to an open scuffle on a lazy Saturday afternoon in London.

It was the same players who were doing the same exercises and scuffles against each other like they have been doing since the end of July.

But it was far from just going through the motions for ardent rookie Barnes.

“You saw Scotty screaming and screaming and jumping around today,” said teammate Fred VanVallet, laughing after the 90-minute workout. “He (unintentionally) kicked someone so you never know what you’re going to get.

“You never know what to expect, but you just have to love the pure energy and the hustle and the people who are out there, just that joy for the game.”

If nothing else, in his short time with the Raptors, 20-year-old Barnes has infused the team with a youthful enthusiasm that has been absent over the past few seasons.

“I would say it’s just me, I’m on the court,” Barnes said. “I like to win. I like to make winning plays. I like to put my energy into practice.

“No matter where I am, I’m going to be who I am. That’s what you’re going to see of me, being enthusiastic, bringing positive energy to the team, lifting everyone up, just us whatever.” Should be trying to prepare for that.”

So far — and even as the pre-season is still in its infancy — Barnes’ enthusiasm has been impressive. He has a way of energizing the players on the court, helping them to make an impact across the field. He’s young and spirited and if that allows him to make an impact on the game, that’s great.

“At this stage, you can’t be shy,” he said. “You can’t try to look great. It’s just the dirty stuff you need to do on the floor, that’s what needs to happen.

“It’s really not that hard. I’m not a shy guy. I’m going to be who I am no matter where I am.”

The aspect of Barnes that allows his older, more calm teammates to acknowledge his spirited nature without rolling their eyes is that he has shown that he has some very solid, multi-dimensional skills that can help the team. Will help you win the game.

Coach Nick Nurse is adamant that Barnes will receive a heavy burden in his rookie season, which will shift across the court. In only two pre-season games, Norse has used him as a primary ballhandler, a power forward, and a winger, a sort of jack-of-all-trades piece to become the team that fit well into the roster. sits.

Barnes took a liking to the team brass long before taking him with Toronto’s fourth pick in last summer’s draft. Team President Masai Ujiri, General Manager Bobby Webster and Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman, were tracking Barnes with United States national age-group programs and at Florida State for a year before selecting him.

He knew what kind of player – and person – he was getting and didn’t hesitate to make him Toronto’s highest draft pick since Andrea Barragnani’s No. 1 choice in 2006.

There are certainly parts of his game that need improvement but this is not an issue for an organization that has shown that its player development program is one of the best in the NBA.

Barnes still isn’t a great NBA shooter by any means and his free throw shooting is questionable, but he could still have an impact on the game while perfecting those skills.

And the same thing is going to be liked by his companions, who used to be infatuated with his personality.

“He brings energy to everyone,” Ozzy Anunobi said during training camp. “He’s singing along to the music, he’s always dancing. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be around.”

The act may already be out of date, except Barnes is able to return his enthusiasm and his talkative nature with his own drama. Teammates notice those who talk big and play small; They are not seen in the six foot seven natives of Florida. He is loud and he is energetic but he is also good.

“We’ve all got to communicate with someone on and off the floor, so I definitely listen to him a lot,” VanValet said after Barnes’ pre-season debut on Monday against Philadelphia.

“Even better, you have to hold your own when you talk a lot, so it’s great that he’s speaking up because now the headlines are going to be even more so with his teammates, so I think That it was great for him and he’s been outspoken since coming here.”

Barnes’ influence has already made him a fan favorite, even though he has only been on the court in Toronto once in the pre-season. But it made him a hit with all of his teammates, including veteran 35-year-old Goran Dragic, who has seen some baddies come and go in his career and seems to have developed a unique relationship with Barnes.

“I mean, that’s hilarious,” Dragic said. “He’s so funny. Good kids. Works hard, you know you’ll see him go out to the gym first, last. He’s got that personality that’s unique, and I really like him.” So we hung out a couple of times. And, yes, he has a bright future. I can see it already.”

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps
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