Nurse told the media he’d start Valanciunas off with 5-6 minute shifts to get him warm; JV, for his part, says he just needs to get his game speed back but he’s ready to go for the stretch run.
“I’m really excited...nothing crazy’s gonna happen.” Valanciunas expects to feel 100% other than game conditioning, thinks time off will have him well rested and hungry down the stretch.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) February 7, 2019
Valanciunas was injured on December 12 in a game against the Golden State Warriors, when Draymond Green attempted to slap a ball away from him. The injury was quickly diagnosed as a dislocated thumb, an injury that required surgery and caused him to miss the past 25 games. The Raptors were 16-9 during that stretch.
Greg Monroe filled in for the Valanciunas, and was serviceable enough, but the Raptors have definitely missed JV’s size, screens, rebounding... and even scoring. Before he went down, even in reduced minutes, Valanciunas was averaging career bests in scoring at 12.8 points per game, and in true shooting percentage, at 64%.
He started 10 of the team’s first 30 games, and it will be interesting to see if Nick Nurse continues to switch up Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka in the starting lineup, depending on matchups.
Either way, Ibaka stands to benefit the most from JV’s return, as he has played 30.7 minutes per night since Valanciunas got hurt. Ibaka could likely use a little bit of rest!
As of this writing, the Raptors don’t have a single player on the injury report tonight, which will mark only the second time all season that every player is available.