Raptors Cage

DeMarre Carroll: Where is he?

raptors-forward-demarre-carroll@JLew1050: Casey, asked if he expects DeMarre Carroll to play again this season: “I expect him (to), I’ve heard nothing else other than that”

But…

@JLew1050: Asked if the players expect Carroll back, Lowry said they’re in the same boat as the rest of us. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on”

Hearing absolutely nothing about DeMarre Carroll‘s progress was very suspicious for Toronto Raptors fans, until Carroll addressed the media, Wednesday afternoon.

@JLew1050: Team shut Carroll down for 3 weeks after swelling but he’ll resume on-court work over coming days in hopes of returning before end of season

@JLew1050: Carroll said knee started to swell during rehab process 3 weeks ago, saw severals docs since then but has been given green light to practice

DEMARRE CARROLLAt one point during rehab, Carroll was listed day-to-day with several reports by the Raptors’ beat guys he was participating in several practice scenarios: set jump-shots, light one-on-one, with apparent reports he was to be cleared for contact and a return to a full five-on-five practice. However, prior to finally Carroll addressing the media and getting the green light to continue, there was an eery silence from the Raptors’ organization.

According to Toronto Sun reporter, Ryan Wolstat, there was speculation that Carroll may not even return this season, unless the Raptors make a deep playoff run.

Just in case any fans have forgotten, Carroll was the prized free-agent claim in the off-season after signing a large contract that made him the highest paid player on the team — four years, $60 million dollars approximately.

He provides a variety of skills on both ends that translate well in playoff basketball: toughness, lock-down defence, help/rotation ability, communication, perimeter shooting, off-ball movement, etc.

Problem is, he hasn’t played a game since Jan. 3, and even between the start of the season till that date, he’s missed several games. Carroll has missed exactly 53 games thus far, with only seven games remaining on the schedule. For a player who was supposed to be the solution for the Raptors, has now become the main concern going into the playoffs.

Not having Carroll hasn’t been that bad of a challenge for the Raptors to overcome, considering Terrence Ross‘ rejuvenation in the second half of the season, Norman Powell‘s impressive play stepping into the starting role and James Johnson‘s ability to step in as Coach Casey’s utility guy.

CARROLL BOYBut, Carroll is a one-of-a-kind, all-around junkyard dog, hence the major cash the Raptors threw at him. He was signed in order to guard the best perimeter talents on the opposing team and to relieve Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of extra, unnecessary burdens. If the Raptors really want to have an effective and successful playoff showing, Carroll would have to be a big contributor.

His rehabilitation thus far hasn’t exactly been on par with what was initially expected, but after hearing about his setback, it’s a scary thought that the Raptors will be unhealthy once again going into the playoffs after a very strong regular season, identical to last season’s ending — including the decrease in defensive efficiency.

On the other hand, Carroll expects to be back before the end of the season, stating that the only problem he has is his conditioning level:

“The only thing I have to worry about is conditioning. Fatigue will make a coward out of you, right?” Carroll said, in his media scrum on Mar. 30.

The timing of Carroll’s return is crucial, however.

The importance behind Carroll’s return isn’t necessarily him 100 per cent healthy — obviously everyone wants him back healthy – but it’s his integration into the team’s system. He hasn’t played for nearly three months, and the team has been successful without him. Carroll himself touched on the issue of scrambling a good thing and the chemistry of the team.

“I can impact the game defensively for this team & don’t have to take a shot. All I need is a couple games,” he said, elaborating on how much he needs to get back into rhythm.

Regardless of whenever he does make it back on the court prior to the end of season or in the playoffs, the Raptors would welcome it. There wouldn’t be much of a setback, considering Carroll’s team-first mentality and the coaching staff likely sticking him on a minutes limit.

caroll driving on lbjIt’s unfathomable how much the Raptors need him to have a deep playoff run. He’s one of the select few capable of guarding LeBron James for a playoff series — that is, if the Raptors make it that far to face them.

Finally hearing from Carroll himself is a very good sign for things to come for the organization and the fans: given the green light to continue to practice, with an expectation to return for the final bouts of the season. Again, questions are whether or not he returns fully healthy, or even full integrated into the team’s system on both ends, but having his presence alone would be a major development in the Raptors’ chances of going far into the playoffs.

When you play like a dog, you can’t go out there being passive. I don’t want to be a poodle out there. I want to be like a bulldog,” said Carroll.

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