Raptors bubble players have one last shot to shine

TORONTO – An untimely hamstring injury will keep Montreal native Chris Boucher out of the Toronto Raptors’ lineup when they play Boston in Boucher’s hometown on Friday.

“Just wanted to make that clear since we’re going back to Montreal that he will not be playing in that game,” coach Nick Nurse made a point of mentioning on Wednesday.

But Friday’s game isn’t just a final chance to develop chemistry before the real NBA season tips off next week. It’s also about players on the bubble, such as Justin Champagnie, who hope to shine one last time before the team announces its final roster on Saturday.

“I think each guy takes their own shape on it depending on their personality,” Nurse said.

The Raptors must slash their roster to 15 players, plus two players on two-way deals between the Raptors and their G League affiliate Raptors 905.

Story continues below advertisement

Toronto native Dalano Banton seems a lock for a spot as one of the pre-season standouts. He had 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 high-energy minutes in Sunday’s 115-98 loss to Chicago.

That leaves Champagnie, Josh Jackson and DJ Wilson fighting it out for the other.

Champagnie made his pre-season debut against the Bulls — lingering hip pain kept him out of the team’s three previous games. He had a point and a rebound in just eight minutes against the Bulls.

Related Videos

“I sensed some urgency from Justin,” Nurse said. “I think some other guys just kind of let their game each day do what it does. It’s hard to get all excited one game and be not so excited the next because they play good and then not so good. Then they come back in practice and light it up again and get you thinking again.

Story continues below advertisement

“(Making cuts) is always a tricky thing. We’ll see how it all shakes out. I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered.”

Champagnie, who appeared in 36 games for Toronto as a rookie last season, estimates he’s 90 to 95 per cent recovered.

“Still feel a little bit of pain but it’s nothing crazy,” he said.

He chalked up Sunday’s performance to being rusty and out of rhythm.

The 21-year-old, whose twin brother Julian is on a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, has had a rocky off-season, breaking his left thumb during Summer League.

“It’s tough. Especially with the situation I’m in, it’s tough,” Champagnie said. “You go through injuries and know you have to come back and fight for that last spot … Just have to keep my mind focused on what I can do to be better … control what I can control.”

Raptors veterans Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, who like Champagnie were unheralded when they entered the league, have been a steady source of positive encouragement.

“(VanVleet) told me to keep just going, keep fighting, keep doing the treatment that’s going to make you feel better when you get on the court,” Champagnie said. “Just be a dog when you get out there … just be a dog and it will work out.”

Story continues below advertisement

Siakam told the sophomore to keep his mind on what he can control — his work ethic.

“Come in, show your work and at the end of the day that’s really all you can do. Just show your work, be dedicated to it and they’re going to make whatever decision,” Siakam said after Wednesday’s practice at OVO Athletic Centre. “You can’t control that but you can control what you can control. Do what you do and work hard.”

Veteran Otto Porter Jr., who’s coming off an NBA title with Golden State, won’t play on Friday either. He’s also sidelined with a hamstring injury. Nurse isn’t certain whether either Boucher or Porter will be healthy enough to play Wednesday, when Toronto tips off the regular season against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. But that’s the goal.

Meanwhile, Nurse is juggling potentially giving the starters an extended run in Friday’s pre-season finale and trying to nail down the final roster spots, and so he’s not sure how he’ll divvy up playing time.

“That’s a tough part. I think we haven’t decided on that yet. You guys know a year ago we played the starters a lot more, and in (last year’s final pre-season) game they didn’t play at all,” Nurse said.

“That won’t be the case this Friday. I think they’re more ramping up so could make the (final roster) decision a little harder if I don’t get a chance to play those guys.”

Story continues below advertisement

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

View original article here Source