Entering his ninth season in the NBA and joining his fifth franchise, Aron Baynes could have been fooled into thinking he had seen it all.
Yet, here he is at Toronto Raptors training camp in Tampa Bay, Florida, far from Canada, preparing for season tip-off that is now just two weeks away.
"I signed in Toronto and it's usually a winter sport and now I get to spend Toronto winter in Tampa so there's some benefits to that," Baynes told reporters with a smile. "As much as we'd love to be playing up there in front of home fans, my little ones will be able run around outside for the time being."
Having endured his own battle with COVID during the summer, Baynes knows how impactful and harmful the virus can be, though he is plowing through training camp with full confidence in the NBA's health regulations and protocols.
"We're in the best possible circumstance to be doing what we're doing, they look after everything for us so it's really not much stress in terms of what we need to do in a day-to-day schedule. The hardest thing for us is having to remember to go and get a test every single day, that's as tough as it gets for us.
"We're protected, we're looked after so well. Sure, we can't go out and do some things, but at the end of the day we are lucky to be able to do what we do. Every need we have is taken care of. There are a lot of people out there doing it a lot worse. If that's the biggest stress for us it's fine, it's no skin off our nose."
Only joining his Raptors teammates roughly a week ago after signing a two-year, $14 million deal, Baynes has found one part of the introductory process a little challenging.
"I think the biggest challenge for me is that I'm crap with names and better with faces and the masks cover up the faces of the staff so I'm walking around continually asking 'what's your name again?'"
Coming off a career-best season where he averaged 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, the 34-year-old projects to slide straight into the starting lineup with both Marc Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers) and Serge Ibaka (LA Clippers) departing in free agency.
Known for his presence on defence, priority one for right now is becoming accustomed to Nick Nurse's varying schemes on that end of the floor.
"There's a couple nuances, but all in all the NBA game comes down to pick-and-roll defence," Baynes said. "Nick throws in a few different looks and a few little other things, there's some changes in the vocabulary but it's very similar, it's things I've done here and things I've done there so it's just a matter of putting it all together and also getting on the same page with everyone."
"The more you practice it will become second nature. Right now I may say the wrong word so the defender jumps on the other side of the body but that's going to clean up in the next couple of days and we'll be good to go pretty quickly."
Welcome to the House of Bayne.@aronbaynes | #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/byLGBlNuJ9- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 26, 2020
On the offensive side of the ball, Baynes continues to develop his outside shooting, having connected on 35.1 percent of his 168 attempts with the Phoenix Suns last season. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Baynes had only attempted 89 in his entire regular season career.
"That's something that I work towards every single day so hopefully I am getting better. I feel that I'm more consistent and my form is better. Even just the last week working with these guys, just a change in other things and a few nuances that they are getting me to focus on is helping me improve."
"It's something that I've been working on the last few years. When I got to Boston they gave me the confidence there, I had the confidence of Brad [Stevens] and Danny [Ainge] and they told me I was hurting the team if I wasn't taking those open threes. The same thing happened in Phoenix, I'm just trying to carry that over and improve."
As for his old team? There's no hard feelings.
"I enjoyed my time out there, I enjoyed the freedom they allowed me with my game, I enjoyed being a part of trying to help them take that next step. Free agency was crazy this year, I didn't actually speak to them, that was my agent's job but beyond that I didn't really speak to them but they reached out to me and congratulated me on this contract.
"Now it's all business, I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing against them ... it's always fun going against your mates."
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