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End of Bench Chronicles: The Raptors continue to shorten the rotation

The Raptors welcomed back Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry, which means there are some changes coming to the end of the bench. Here’s where things stand now.

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Some big changes are afoot in the world of the Raptors, bigger even than the ones that came before. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The shock of injuries to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were a huge deal to Toronto and in one sense came to define the early season. The team was thrust against its will into a situation it had not been in before. That’s the definition of big — but there was also no choice to it.

Now Lowry and Ibaka are back and, as such, the Raptors’ rotation is changing again. It could be a big turn — as in, it could make the team even better — or we could see merely modest gains. (That Heat game on Tuesday night still sticks in my craw.) Either way, we may have seen the last of those wild, chaotic, and bench-heavy units the Raptors were using just to make it through the schedule. That the team is 15-5 despite its obvious roster shortages is perhaps the biggest (or most surprising) change of all.

Let’s see where things stand now with the end of the Raptors’ bench.

Eighth Man Title Holder

Tie: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis

Trust Meter: 9 out of 10 for both

Happenings: I couldn’t decide! By two major counting stats — minutes and points — Rondae should get the nod; but it feels weird to discount Davis who once again played with a solid head on his shoulders. Oh, and TD II also led the Raptors in plus/minus for the week across his 17.6 minutes per game. That’s impact, folks, even if (or perhaps especially if) we’re talking about a small same size. If it was me, I maybe would have tried Davis a bit more against Miami too. He’s a guy that can definitely roll with their rough-and-tumble ways — even if he is still not getting any calls!

Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson did his usually thing and continues to affect the game in positive ways for the Raptors. He worked his magic in the dunker spot, facilitated ball movement, and hustled. RHJ’s fit with the returned Ibaka is still a tad suspect, but we do have to give him some added respect for this look here, a fadeaway jumper followed by, well, you’ll see:

Roster Roll Call

Patrick McCaw

Trust Meter: N/A

Happenings: Take your time, Pat!

Inspiration: I just finished reading Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, which I recommend to anyone who is trying to figure out how to untangle themselves from the attention economy in a useful way. The title is perhaps a tad misleading — it’s not about doing nothing, it’s about figuring out how to do something in a way that actually satisfies and connects you with the world and with each other. Here’s hoping McCaw can ruminate on such an idea.

Matt Thomas

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Nothing happened on the court for Thomas, thanks to an injury to his hand, but we do have this tweet from Blake Murphy, who apparently stepped in it a bit:

To be fair, he didn’t really! I happened to see the start of this exchange which was quite good-natured. Thomas seems like a really chill dude, and it’s cool that he’s on the Raptors — even if he’s not playing. I will admit though, since I couldn’t find the original tweet be referenced there, I did spend a few minutes trying to imagine what it could have been. The mind boggles!

Inspiration: For the relaxed player, Zen koans are the obvious thing here, what with the “one-handed workout” verging in on “what is the sound of one hand clapping” territory.

Stanley Johnson

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Inspiration: Not Joey Graham.

Chris Boucher

Trust Meter: 5 out of 10

Happenings: This one hurts. Despite being one of the few consistently healthy players on the Raptors (with, easily, the slightest frame on the team), Boucher is back to the dreaded DNP-CD. Yes, Ibaka is a better player, but it’s a shame coach Nick Nurse couldn’t find a way to give him some minutes against Miami after his recent body of work. (Would Bam Adebayo have destroyed Boucher? Who’s to say really.)

Inspiration: Knives Out, but it’s a plot by Boucher to try and loot some minutes from Toronto’s rotation. In this scenario, I like to imagine Nurse in the Daniel Craig role, complete with an exaggerated southern accent.

Malcolm Miller

Trust Meter: 3 out of 10

Happenings: Miller’s week was extremely quiet, with just nine minutes total in two (out of three) games for the Raptors, and a pair of donuts in the scoring line. This, after Miller exploded for 13 points in garbage time minutes against the Knicks the week before. He’s got the ability, is my point — it’s becoming more of a right place, right time situation for Miller. That is, unfortunately, why he remains at a three on the trust meter, despite his best efforts.

Inspiration: Speaking of right place, right time, having immense ability, and donuts, it’s not a stretch to suggest Miller should approach next week with the energy and confidence of this kid right here.

Saying Doug Ford “is a Timbit himself” is perhaps the most perfect distillation of the man’s politics I’ve ever seen. This kid should be commended, and I literally applaud his heroic efforts to put the craven and disingenuous provincial government on blast. Solidarity!

Dewan Hernandez

Trust Meter: 2 out of 10

Happenings: Because the Raptors couldn’t maintain their 40-point lead against the Jazz on Sunday, Hernandez only got 1:41 minutes of action. He went 0-for-3 from the field but did hit a pair of free throws and grab three rebounds. Somehow Dewan also drew two fouls, which seems impossible. That said, Hernandez did put up 22-and-8 and 12-and-9 for the 905 in the two games he played for them this week in the G League. The squad lost both games (including one just this afternoon), but still, he’s working!

Inspiration: If someone could please provide Dewan with an audiocassette version of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, I would be forever grateful. I’m positive my mom threw out our copy. Such is life, and the passage of time.

Did the Two-Wayers Play?

You bet! Thanks again to that wild game against Utah — seriously, the Raptors led by 40 points at halftime — both Shamorie Ponds and Oshae Brissett got a few minutes of play this week for Toronto. Their numbers:

Brissett — 1 turnover.

Ponds — 1 block and 1 missed shot.

The long journey to the NBA continues.