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Sonny Weems Is Soaring As Toronto Raptors Find a New Wing

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IDecember 21, 2009

TARRYTOWN, NY - JULY 29:  Sonny Weems of the Denver Nuggets poses for a portrait during the 2008 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on July 29, 2008 at the MSG Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

During the preseason, it became apparent that last year’s forgotten rookie on the Denver Nuggets was an outstanding athlete.  Sonny Weems is obviously faster than the typical NBA shooting guard, and he has leaping ability that rivals Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan.

But last season, Weems couldn’t crack the deep Nuggets rotation and played just 55 minutes in the NBA.

“Weems spent most of last season in the NBADL with the Colorado 14ers where he played in 22 games and averaged 20.5 points on 48.8 percent shooting and collected 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.8 turnovers, and 3.0 personal fouls in 28.3 minutes.”  Sonny Weems

For practical purposes, Sonny Weems is every bit as much of a “rookie” as DeMar DeRozan.

Throughout this past preseason, Jay Triano brought  Weems off the bench and even started him at shooting guard beside DeRozan, creating an up tempo, high-flying duo that was exciting to watch.

In the preseason Fight for Minutes, Sonny Weems Impressed.

“Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Antoine Wright’s unfortunate incident in the Raven’s gym during training camp has been Sonny Weems.  As Wright sits resting a bruised knee, Weems has been showing that he’s the most deserving shooting guard when it comes to minutes this preseason.”

But Jay Triano was more impressed with the fifth-year player Antoine Wright’s ability to pick up on the Raptors new defensive schemes in classroom settings and one preseason game.  When the season started, it was Wright and not Weems who had the coach’s confidence.

For the first 25 games this season, Weems was only getting minutes in about half of the games.  And, the only time Weems saw double-digit minutes was during blow-out losses.

Perhaps fortunately for Weems, double-digit losses were happening a lot more than expected this season.

The first real sign that Weems may have caught his coach’s attention was in the 146-point debacle in Atlanta.  Weems played 29 minutes in that game and while his stat line might not have been outstanding, no one could say Weems wasn’t trying.

The public comments about the coaches and players from Jack and Wright that followed the Atlanta game and a “clear the air” players meeting seemed to spark a Raptors three-game winning streak.  But in the two losses that followed that brief revival, Weems played 19 and 18 minutes, respectively.

Since then, it has been Weems who has had the coach’s confidence and Wright who can only get minutes in garbage time.

Weems has been in the Raptors rotation for five games now.  Coming in early in the first quarter to be paired up with DeMar DeRozan while Hedo Turkoglu takes his first scheduled break.

And the change appears to be working.  The Raptors have three home wins and two road losses in that stretch, which includes wins over Houston and New Orleans.

Weems has averaged 8.4 points while shooting 50 percent, and had 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, 2.6 fouls in 24 minutes over the past five games.  A statistical line that towers over what Wright has been able to provide this season.

And Weems seems to be getting more effective the more he plays. As evidenced the game against New Orleans where he played 30 minutes.  In part because of his energetic defense, but in part because when Weems and DeRozan were on the floor together, they ran the ball down the Hornets throats.

In the third quarter, it was Weems feeding DeRozan for the alley-oop dunk on the fast break and both players drove into the paint for easy scores off half-court sets.  These guys were fun to watch.

Weems finished the New Orleans game with seven points, five boards, five assists, a block, and a steal.  A good night off the bench.

The last time the Raptors had two exciting young “rookies” on the floor together were Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham.

But right now, the show belongs to DeRozan and Weems.  It’s looking like there is some excitement ahead for Raptors fans this season after all.

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