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End of Bench Chronicles: The stars align or don’t in Toronto

The Raptors looked like they were building something up once again — even if it cost some of the rotation their minutes — and then injuries flared up once again. Trouble?

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Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

For most of the week, the Raptors looked like they were trending upwards. Yes, they were merely beating up on mediocre teams — Brooklyn and Cleveland — but they were mostly handling business, and gradually putting themselves back together as a full unit. It was encouraging for the squad, even if it meant a little less floor time for some of our end of benchers. Hey, we’re always looking out.

Then last night’s game against the Pistons happened and now Toronto will be without Marc Gasol and Norman Powell for some time. Early in the contest Gasol was struck by a non-contact hamstring injury while running back on defense (of course), while Norm’s pain was of the direct contact variety right to his shoulder. This means two things: first, the Raptors are once again not whole, and will likely strugge to put their rotation together with consistency; and second, the Raptors’ deep rotation will likely get some extended burn once again. The last time this happened with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, it turned into a good thing. Now, with Gasol and Norm, we’ll have to wait and see.

Let’s get into the Chronicles, find a little inspiration — and try not to be make this all into some sort of extended Star Wars metaphor about best laid plans and narratives going awry out of nowhere.

(No promises.)

Eighth Man Title Holder

Patrick McCaw

Trust Meter: 8 out of 10

Happenings: For all his efforts, McCaw continues to operate in the uncanny valley of NBA players. He looks the part — long, lanky, quick — and he appears to be doing the right things — sticking with his man on defense, swinging the ball, even taking an open shot or two — and yet it somehow adds up to... less. (Here is one good highlight.)

And this is after McCaw just spent the week averaging more minutes per game than both Ibaka and the now-injured Gasol. He’s gone from being an injured non-entity for the Raptors to playing almost 26 minutes per game as the team’s main backup guard off the bench. What’s more, with Powell’s injury and Fred VanVleet’s continued absence, McCaw is now the only non-rookie guard the team has aside from Lowry. Not for nothing: he averaged 3.3 points and 2.3 assists per game for the week.

Roster Roll Call

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Trust Meter: 6 out of 10

Happenings: As the rotation piece who previously stood to gain the most from injuries to the Raptors, Hollis-Jefferson probably should have seen the reduction of his role coming. He only appeared in two games this week (a tweaked groin or hamstring was the apparent culpret vs. Cleveland), and his minutes per game have dipped to 10. There’s also the matter of what he’s doing out there when he’s playing, with recent discussion of Rondae’s play turning to trust. The guy in the 8th slot (McCaw) has it; RHJ might not right now.

Inspiration: There’s still time for Rondae to have his Han Solo-esque moment in the sun though. That’s part of the reason the Raptors were able to weather the storm during the team’s other injuries. It was Hollis-Jefferson coming out of nowhere with reckless abandon to save the day.

Terence Davis

Trust Meter: 6 out of 10

Happenings: Much like Rondae, Davis came back to Earth over the past week — including a brutal 0-for night against the Nets — and with the return of a more fulsome Toronto rotation. Now of course, his minutes will likely spike back up (with Norm and maybe FVV still out), I just wish we had more to report here. Davis went 1-of-6 from three for the week, and didn’t exactly pop off the page. On top of that, the deal Terence is getting from the refs keeps getting worse all the time!

Inspiration: Terence is Lando. We know this to be true.

Matt Thomas

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Less than zero. And as someone who recently dislocated his finger somewhat violently, let me tell you, it sucks to just... not be able to play.

Inspiration: Wedge Antilles. Just kind of show up and shoot some shit and get the hell outta there if it all goes sideways. Hero.

Stanley Johnson

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Not a dang thing.

Inspiration: Not Joey Graham. (Stanley also gets the distinction of being the most Boba Fett guy on the team. Looks cool as hell, but then when he’s actually supposed to do something? Well...)

Chris Boucher

Trust Meter: 5 out of 10

Happenings: Boucher’s minutes continue to hover on the low end too, what with Ibaka and Gasol back in the lineup (for about two seconds). Boucher was a +20 against the Cavaliers, an environment he was certainly going to excel in, but his utility against good teams remains inconsistent. Not saying he’s been figured out, just saying he’s got more to prove.

Inspiration: Who’s the most chaotic character around? I was racking my brains for a podracer to include here and decided Sebulba is the only one who applies — willing to do what it takes to win and confident enough to assume he’ll always win. That’s Boucher to me! (Also, are their hairstyles that far apart?)

Malcolm Miller

Trust Meter: 2 out of 10

Happenings: Do we round Miller’s 16 seconds of play time against Detroit up to a minute? How about his 1:52 against Cleveland, does that go down? Either way, Miller has the unfortunate distinction of putting up the (very funny) triple trillion. Three games, three minutes (rounded up or down), and zeroes across the board. You have to laugh.

Inspiration: Babu Frik, who perhaps will be the only good thing to come out of The Rise of Skywalker — a beloved figure who does his bit, generates a few laughs, and then disappears for the rest of the film.

Dewan Hernandez

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Despite all the tweets from Raptors PR announcing the team had recalled and then re-assigned Hernandez, he never did get on the court for the NBA squad. In the G League, things are happening — you can read all about this week’s 905 related events here and here. But with the Raptors: nothing.

Inspiration: That kid at the end of The Last Jedi whose presence implied a whole new astounding and fun direction for the franchise, one that was thoroughly trampled on and undone by the latest film. I’m not bitter.

Did the Two-Wayers Play?

Not even close! Get Oshae Brissett and Shamorie Ponds into an X-wing with Greg Grunberg and get them back to Mississauga. (Just, uh, don’t do any trench runs along the way.)