Anunoby injury latest frustration for short-handed Raptors – Toronto Sun

Author of the article:

Ryan Wolstat

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) take a shot defended by Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) during the first quarter at Vivint Arena on Nov. 18, 2021.
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) take a shot defended by Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) during the first quarter at Vivint Arena on Nov. 18, 2021. Photo by Rob Gray /USA TODAY Sports

Nick Nurse, like most Raptors fans, just wants to see what the team’s front office has assembled.

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The bad news that OG Anunoby will miss a period of time due to a hip pointer suffered in practice was the latest blow to a group that has yet to be at full strength more than a month into the season.

Anunoby had been in the midst of a breakout campaign, averaging career-bests in points (20.1 per game), assists (2.7) three-point makes, minutes and free throw percentage, while also drawing many of the toughest defensive assignments.

“He wants to play. He’s obviously disappointed he can’t play,” Nurse said via Zoom from Utah before Thursday’s game against the Jazz.

“He’s anxious to know when he can get back and I’m not sure we know that right now.”

Toronto had only recently returned former All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam to the lineup and has also missed star rookie Scottie Barnes, potential all-star Fred VanVleet and big men Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch and Chris Boucher at times, as well as Yuta Watanabe, who has yet to play.

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“It seems like we’ve had a minimum of three or four guys out for every game this year,” Nurse said.

“It’s a little frustrating but what do you do? We’ve had to take some steps back and reconfigure but that’s part of it,” Nurse continued.

“But gosh, I’d love to see the team whole at some point.”

As would Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and the rest of Toronto’s executives. The franchise is in the midst of a retool and needs to know how the players fit together and what they might be capable of as a unit.

That’s hard to glean when every other night the rotation is different due to injury absences.

Nurse inserted Birch for Anunoby on Thursday night, restoring a traditional centre to the first group against Utah behemoth Rudy Gobert. Anunoby will be replaced by committee for as long as he’s out. That likely would mean more time for a shooter like Svi Mikhailiuk, as well as Birch and Dalano Banton.

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MORE THREES, PLEASE

Nurse wants certain Raptors to start launching more three-pointers. He mentioned Barnes and Birch specifically pre-game. Birch was letting outside shots fly like never before when he joined Toronto for 19 games last season, putting up 1.9 attempts a game. This year he’s back down to 0.4, what he was averaging in his final year with Orlando.

But it’s Barnes who really needs to start expanding his game, Nurse said.

“What are we waiting for,” Nurse asked, mentioning his strong work from the free throw line (79%) and excellent mid-range shooting.

“I’m disappointed that Scottie isn’t taking three or four threes a game.”

Barnes had only attempted 11 three-pointers in 13 games before Thursday, making only two of the shots. He’d only attempted one over his previous four games and two over his previous six.

AROUND THE RIM

The Raptors get no time to rest, with a date at Sacramento looming Friday night. The Kings will be looking to turn things around, having lost 5-of-6. The poor start to the season has put head coach Luke Walton back on the hot seat. Sacramento ranked seventh in offensive efficiency before Thursday’s games, but just 23rd on defence … Nurse said Watanabe “is getting pissed” about how long it’s taking to get healthy. Watanabe badly wants to play and would be in line for some minutes with Anunoby out.

@WolstatSun

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