In the first pre-season game against the Warriors, someone stepped on Jared Sullinger’s foot. No big deal, right? Curiously, Sully missed a game. Then another. Then the entire pre-season. The word around the team was he was dealing with foot soreness. Then the narrative shifted — it was pre-season, you see, the Raptors and Sullinger may as well be cautious. The soreness persisted, but we were assured he’d be playing if it was the regular season.
Then, this afternoon, this:
Toronto forward Jared Sullinger will undergo foot surgery Monday and miss extended time to start season, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) October 23, 2016
Jared Sullinger will have surgery Monday to place screw into fifth metatarsal to alleviate stress reactions. Status updates as appropriate.— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) October 23, 2016
I know I say this a lot but: gotdamn.
Sullinger, as you know, was signed by the Raptors for the mid-level exception at $5.6 million. This year was supposed to be the one where he proved himself as a viable NBA starting power forward, which would have been great for Jared and great for the Raptors.
Ah, but the foot soreness. The Raptors are calling the procedure a preventative measure, but, as per Woj, Sullinger is due to miss “extended” time, which is as ominous as that sounds. Much like poor DeMarre Carroll last year, it’ll probably be some time before we see a fully healthy Sully on the court. Likewise, the injury couldn’t come at a worse time.
The Raptors power forward (and backup centre) spot is already acknowledged as the thinnest spot on the team. With Sully out, the Raptors will have to lean heavily on Patrick Patterson, the rebuilt Carroll (depending on matchups), and youngster Pascal Siakam.
Of course, Patterson has shown to be most effective as a bench player not to be unduly taxed with long, long stretches of minutes. Carroll’s natural position is the three, despite the edicts of the modern NBA (and his surgically repaired knee). And while Siakam has shown he can run around and provide energy for the Raptors, he’s nowhere close (yet) to the polished player that Sullinger is at this stage of their mutual careers. The Raptors will need Siakam to hold the fort as much as possible now and while I think he can definitely show something, it really does put Toronto at a disadvantage right from the jump. So yes, this sucks, is what I’m telling you.
The additional trickle down effect here may mean some minutes for Lucas Nogueira at the 4 (maybe?), or brief runs of that insane small ball lineup we saw in last year’s playoffs featuring Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Norman Powell and DeMar DeRozan. Though without, Bismack Biyombo there to provide rim protection, playing small is a bit of a scarier proposition as well.
Baseline here: Sullinger is not the key for this Raptors squad, but him missing extended time strains an already strained situation. We wish him the best in his recovery.