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Haddadi gets traded to Toronto Raptors.

In a surprise move, the Memphis Grizzlies traded two players, including Hamed Haddadi, to the Toronto Raptors last Wednesday.

Haddadi will get more playing time in Toronto. He has only played an average of six minutes in those games in which he has played over four years in Memphis.

Haddadi was the second and clearly less important part of the trade for Toronto. They clearly wanted the other player they got, Rudy Gay, who is the leading scorer with the Grizzlies.

Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo was quoted as saying of Gay, "Players like this don't come along that often in terms of their availability. This was a very unique circumstance. We feel like we took advantage of it."

The unique circumstance was that Gay was paid a huge amount of money by Memphis and its new owner is trying to cut the payroll.

Colangelo was not quoted in the media as saying anything about Haddadi.

But Toronto may want him to draw fans from the Toronto Iranian community. The 2001 Canadian Census indicated about 40,000 Iranians live in the Toronto area, the largest Iranian community in Canada by far. Local community leaders believed the actual number is closer to 100,000.

Memphis, on the other hand, does not have many Iranians. The 2010 US Census shows only Iranians living in all of Tennessee. Haddadi drew a lot of Iranians when the Grizzlies were on the road playing in cities with large Iranian populations like Los Angeles. The Raptors may be thinking of him as a draw.

One disadvantage for both Haddadi and Gay is that they are shifting from a winning team to a losing team. Memphis has struggled for some years but right now is second in its division while the Raptors are last in their division. Of the 30 National Basketball Association teams, Memphis now ranks 7th with a .652 winning percentage. Toronto ranks 23rd with a .362 winning percentage.

Haddadi seemed a bit dazed by the sudden change. Now, he will have to learn to master the Canadian accent instead of the southern drawl.

In a phone interview with the Iranian Students News Agency, he said, "I have to say thanks to all the Grizzlies' fans because they've been very nice to me and they always supported me. I'll miss the fans. They've sent me so many messages since I left the Grizzlies. They told me they wanted to see me on their team. But it's a business after all. I hope the Raptors' fans will support me on their team."

He said, "I will work hard at my new team to find a place in the starting lineup. I don't know why [Grizzlies' coach] Lionel Hollins didn't play me more. I was under pressure on the Memphis Grizzlies since I was forced to sit on the bench."

Bryan Rudnansky, a basketball analyst writing on the website BleacherReport, said Haddadi has limited utility for any team, but is still useful.

"Most importantly, Haddadi is a very efficient rebounder. In his five seasons in the league, he's posted a rebounding rate of 20.6 (an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs when he's on the floor)O. Only five players in the entire NBA have a higher rebounding rate this season," he wrote last week.

"Also, against true centers, Haddadi has some defensive merit. He's averaged 3.1 blocks per 36 minutes for his career and a lot of that has to do with his size (7'2", 265 pounds), which makes him a capable post defender against the bigger bodies in the league."

But then there are downsides, Rudnansky said. "Offensively, he's not much to look at. ... There's a reason Haddadi received just over six minutes per game in Memphis. In addition to his limited offensive abilities, he's not very athletic and doesn't have a very good motor," which means he can't accelerate and shift quickly.

John Hollinger, who is a former ESPN analyst and now the Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations, told ESPN: "He can only impact the game in a short zone around the basket area, which means he can't be asked to defend mobile bigs, or three-point shooters, or pick-and-rolls, or teams that run, or--well, you get the point." That may explain why Memphis traded Haddadi.

Rudnansky said, "The 27 year-old is not exactly going to raise eyebrows and he's not well-rounded enough to get a lot of minutes for the Raptors, but the Grizzlies showed in prior seasons how to make him a plus on the court, rather than a minus."

Haddadi was paid $1.3 million for the season in Memphis.
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:1U6TN
Date:Feb 8, 2013
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