The all-star point guard won’t take the court tonight, as he has been ruled out with an adductor strain, but the emotions are still all there.
Fred VanVleet said he was OK with not playing vs. Raptors tonight (he’s out with adductor strain) … until he got to SBA this AM for shoot around. “I’m a little sad [not to be playing] but in all, happy to be here.” Enjoyed last couple of days, took his teammates out, etc. pic.twitter.com/bH1GCXWZuE— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) February 9, 2024
A champion and an all-star with the Raptors, VanVleet became a fan favourite and impact player during the Eastern Conference Finals versus Milwaukee in 2019 and never turned back. Fittingly, the Raptors have already welcomed him back in style with a massive return message on the video screen outside of Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto fans will have to wait another season to see VanVleet take the SBA court once again, as tonight is the final matchup between the Rockets and Raptors this season.
Taking his place in the starting lineup tonight will likely be rookie guard Amen Thompson, who was the fourth overall pick in this past year’s draft. Due to injury and Houston’s free agent additions this past offseason, Thompson has only started in two games to this point in the season.
In coming off the bench, the rookie guard posted a career-high 19 points last week when the Rockets blew out the Raptors by nearly 30 points. Likely in an increased role as a starter, Toronto’s defence will need to make the athletic rookie a focal point on the defensive end as the Raptors look to get revenge for their loss a week ago today.
Toronto’s starting lineup will look largely the same as that loss, but the bench has seen some adjustments after yesterday’s trade deadline. Gone are Dennis Schroder, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr., with the additions of Ochai Agabji and Kelly Olynyk likely making their Raptors debuts tomorrow vs Cleveland.
With a depleted bench, the starting lineup will be heavily relied upon to carry the water. Notably, RJ Barrett is back to full health after missing four games on the road trip with a knee injury. His scoring prowess will be much needed against one of the league’s underrated defences. Barrett missed the game in Houston last week, but tonight we should see the Mississauga-on-Mississauga matchup of Barrett versus Dillon Brooks.
The first game Toronto will play at home in roughly two weeks, there should be a great environment at Scotiabank Arena tonight as they welcome back their team and a former fan favourite in Fred VanVleet.
How to Watch:
Sportsnet at 7:30 pm ET
Toronto: Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., RJ Barrett, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
Houston: Amen Thompson, Jalen Green, Dillon Brooks, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun
Toronto: Ochai Adbaji (questionable - trade pending), Spencer Dinwiddie (out - not with team), Kelly Olynyk (questionable - trade pending), Jontay Porter (questionable - back)
Houston: Steven Adams (out - knee), Tari Eason (out - leg), Fred VanVleet (out - groin)