Toronto Raptors: Catching up with former players who laid path for turnaround

Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Charlotte Hornets reacts during the second half of their game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Charlotte Hornets reacts during the second half of their game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Checking in with some of the caveats of the Toronto Raptors culture, including P.J. Tucker, Tyler Hansbrough and Greivis Vasquez.

Culture. It’s been a buzzword around the Toronto Raptors since days long before Masai. Whether it was in reference to a lack thereof or in praise of what has been created, the now-established Raptors culture deserves much of the credit for bringing a championship to Toronto. But, in all of its glory, the Raptors culture can be harsh.

A certain level of detachment is needed in a cutthroat business like the NBA, and the Raptors have proven that no player is untouchable. A revolving door of bench players and complementary pieces have helped the Raptors to become a perennial playoff team. Let’s take a look at what some of the guys who laid the groundwork for the culture are up to now.

Quincy Acy

Known for being one of the all-time best dudes to ever play in the NBA, Quincy Acy only played 36 games as a member of the Toronto Raptors, but quickly endeared himself to fans through his hard-nosed played and humble demeanour.

Acy moved on to stints with the Kings, Knicks, Mavericks, Nets and Suns before leaving the NBA to play overseas. He currently is applying his trade with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League. As stated in his player profile on the team’s website (which is undoubtedly translated from Hebrew), Acy “trains hard, doesn’t complain and has long hands.” Well, I’m not sure what long hands are, but Raptors fans can certainly vouch for two of those.

Tyler Hansbrough

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Affectionally dubbed “Psycho T” early in his college days at North Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough did pretty much everything one can do as a Tar Heel. He was a first-team All-American in all four of his collegiate campaigns, and won all six major college basketball awards in his junior season at Chapel Hill.

While Hansbrough was certainly the man in college, he turned out to be more of a role player in the NBA, with stops in Indiana, Toronto and Charlotte. While with the Raptors, he too endeared himself to fans through hard play, although that only bought him two seasons in Toronto. Nowadays, Hansbrough can be found in Sichuan, China, playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Greivis Vasquez

Sports teams aren’t always reflections of the cities that they are located in, but the Raptors’ focus on multiculturalism throughout their squad has only charmed Toronto even more. A native of Venezuela, Vasquez spent two seasons with the Raptors as an integral bench player and played a key role in breaking the Raptors’ long playoff drought.

Basketball can be cruel on the body, however, and after stints with Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Vasquez was out of the league in 2017, having undergone seven (7!) right ankle procedures. The Athletic reported that “Vasquez, 32, can barely walk, jog or run correctly.”

But, Vasquez has landed on his feet, although hopefully not too hard on that right ankle. He is an assistant coach with the Erie Bayhawks, the G-League affiliate of the Atlanta Hawks.

Lucas Nogueira

Now, on to one of more melancholy entries on this list, but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. After four seasons with the Raptors in which he saw limited playing time, the Raptors chose to move on from the Brazilian big man. Recently, Nogueira opened up about his battles with depression and admitted to having a “drinking problem” during his days playing in Spain, before he made the jump to the NBA.

"“I went out a lot,” said Nogueira, about his time in Spain. “We had one game per week. You’re young, you have some money and no limits. You eventually find the party. It’s Europe. I had no work ethic whatsoever.”"

But, as is proven by Nogueira’s case, it is always helpful to talk things out, and Nogueira has returned to Spain with Montakit Fuenlabrada for another chance in Europe.

Bismack Biyombo

Although he was only in Toronto for one season, Bismack Biyombo, along with Jack Armstrong’s infamous “NO NO NO” block calls, will live in Raptors fans’ hearts forever. Although still in the league with the Charlotte Hornets, the native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has found time to get involved with Masai Ujiri’s Giants of Africa foundation.

He was present for the opening of the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Centre in Alego, Kenya, joining other notables, including Barack Obama and Raptors 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela. Biyombo is still going strong with the Hornets, logging over 18 minutes per game in his ninth NBA season.

Luis Scola

Luis Scola is a testament to the love of the game. The 39-year-old is still kicking, applying his trade in Italy with Olimpia Milano. He even played for Argentina during this years’ FIBA World Cup in China, helping them to their first finals appearance in 70 years. Scola said that the tournament meant “everything” to him.

Simply put, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has gotten more run than Scola. He logged 34 minutes in Argentina’s finals loss to Spain, pouring in an NBA Luis Scola-esque eight points, but adding priceless levels of leadership and stoicism.

He has played with five NBA teams, five teams in Spain, China and Italy, and participated in five FIBA World Cups. At this point, it looks like Luis Scola is going to hoop until he can’t no more.

P.J. Tucker

Let’s be honest. Most of the players on this list ended up being pretty replaceable for the Raptors. But, if there was one player who Masai Ujiri and crew may regret not trying to lock down (aside from Lou Williams, we all know how he’s been doing lately), it would probably be P.J. Tucker.

Pops Junior (yes, that’s what P.J. stands for) was drafted by the Raptors in 2006, but only got into 17 games before shipping off to Israel to hone his craft. Then came Ukraine. Then Greece. Then Italy. Then Germany. Fresh off of literally becoming a globetrotter, Tucker returned to the NBA with the Phoenix Suns.

There, he played four and a half seasons before things came full circle and the Raptors came calling again. In a stat that genuinely shocked me while writing this, Tucker only got into 24 games in his second go-around with the Raptors, before he was headed for Houston. He has since become a pillar of strength for the Rockets, factoring into 82/82 games in his first two seasons with the team.

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His defensive prowess and improved three-point shooting have turned him into a weapon that would fit perfectly into the Raptors system. Who knows? Maybe third time’s the charm?