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End of Bench Chronicles: Injuries, opportunities, and Mamba inspiration

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A couple of injuries have left the deep bench rotation in flux. Can our guys take some inspiration from Kobe Bryant to make a mark?

End of Bench Chronicles: Can the Toronto Raptors take inspiration from Kobe Bryant? Terence Davis Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

With the passing of Kobe Bryant, we’re finding out just how much he meant to this generation of NBA players: a whole heck of a lot. Looking at the ages of the Raptors’ deep bench players (Chris Boucher is the oldest, at 27) you can imagine that all of them watched Kobe in Kobe’s prime, when he was winning scoring titles and MVPs and championships, in their most formative years.

And so, with heavy hearts, we offer our end of bench rotation some inspiration from Kobe himself.

Eighth Man Title Holder

Terence Davis

Trust Meter: 7 out of 10

Happenings: This was kind of a tough one! Even with two players hurt, none of the deep bench really stepped up last week: It was a 3-0 week fuelled by great performances from the regular rotation. But Terence Davis is trending upward. He had five points, three boards and an assist in New York, 9-3-1 in San Antonio, and a 15-6-1 against Atlanta. With three more sub-.500 opponents on the way, and Rondae Hollis Jefferson out of the lineup, Terence should have more time to shine this weekend.

Roster Roll Call

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Trust Meter: 8 out of 10

Happenings: Rondae down! Hollis-Jefferson twisted his ankle against the Spurs on Sunday, and at last report was out for tonight’s game in Cleveland. He had a typical Rondae game in New York last Friday, though: five points, two boards, two assists, two steals and a block in 19 minutes. Thankfully, the injury didn’t seem too serious.

Inspiration: Kobe with the game-winning OREB and score (May 12, 2002):

Rondae is probably the best offensive rebounder on the team, but hey, always room for improvement right? Kobe had a knack for tracking down rebounds in big moments — like in the final seconds of Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Semi-finals, where grabbed an offensive rebound (that seemed to be two feet behind him) and promptly dropped in the game-winning shot with five seconds left — and Rondae, assuming he gets healthy soon, should continue to take inspiration from that.

Chris Boucher

Trust Meter: 7 out of 10

Happenings: With Marc Gasol battling hamstring tightness, Chris Boucher got some action on Tuesday, following four straight DNP-CDs. Gasol will likely miss at least one more game, and Nick Nurse has not hesitated to use Boucher when one of Gasol or Ibaka has been out.

Inspiration: cKobe dunks on Dwight Howard (November 12, 2004):

The last time Chris got non-garbage time minutes before Tuesday, he got dunked on, hard, by DeMar DeRozan. Chris can fly himself, so let’s see him posterize somebody — Andre Drummond, perhaps? — this weekend, like Kobe did when he sailed over Dwight Howard in 2004.

Patrick McCaw

Trust Meter: 4 out of 10

Happenings: McCaw missed all three games with the broken nose he suffered against Philadelphia last week.

Inspiration: Kobe buries the Pacers on a busted ankle (June 13, 2000):

I don’t generally advocate players playing hurt, whether we’re taking about a sprained ankle or a broken nose. However, if McCaw is cleared to play, but is perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable out there or needs to get some confidence back, he can take inspiration from the king of “playing through it,” who took over in overtime of Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals after spraining his ankle and missing the previous game.

Matt Thomas

Trust Meter: 6 out of 10

Happenings: Matt Thomas played almost six non-garbage time first-half minutes against the Hawks! And, of course, he was perfect from the field in those minutes (1-for-1). He also played a few minutes against the Spurs, but didn’t get a shot up, which seems to be a massive indictment of whoever was playing point guard at the time.

Inspiration: Kobe hits an NBA record 12 three-pointers (Like it could be anything else?) (January 1, 2003):

Keep gunning, Matt! Then-Raptor Donyell Marshall tied this record in 2005, and although Klay Thompson currently holds the record at 14, Donyell’s Raptors record is still sitting there, waiting for you to beat it.

Stanley Johnson

Trust Meter: 2 out of 10

Happenings: Johnson played nothing but some garbage time in Atlanta, but he did head out to Mississauga for the 905 game yesterday, where had a 26-11 in a 905 victory. (I’ll retire Daniel’s Joey Graham joke for this week to keep my Kobe theme going, but am I wrong in thinking Joey Graham would have been one of the greatest D/G-League players of all-time?)

Inspiration: Kobe’s first game (November 1, 1996): Rookie Kobe Bryant got a DNP-CD in the Lakers’ first game of the 1996-97 season. He went to have a pretty decent career, by most metrics. Stanley is getting plenty of DNP-CDs this year, so, you know... there’s still hope!

Malcolm Miller

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Malcolm played a teeny tiny bit of garbage time against Atlanta.

Inspiration: Kobe drops a dagger three in Denver (May 22, 2009):

At this point, I fear Malcolm may not ever reach his potential, which remains a colossal bummer to me. With his size and stroke, couldn’t you see Malcolm knocking down shots like this over smaller defenders? (No? Is that just me?)

Dewan Hernandez

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Dewan continues to sit with his sprained ankle.

Inspiration: Kobe infamously airballs three clutch shots as the Jazz eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs (May 12, 1997): As with Stanley’s inspiration, it’s important to remember that you can’t get there all at once. It takes time and patience and hard work and failure and overcoming obstacles. Again, Kobe came back from this just fine, and Dewan can surely overcome this ankle injury.

Did the Two-Wayers Play?

Paul Watson has yet to play, but Oshae Brissett found himself on the floor in the closing minutes of the Hawks game. He had a rebound and a turnover.