The Toronto Raptors have been able to stay on track despite various injuries this season, but veteran experience after their tenth man was non-existent prior to president and general manager Masai Ujiri picking up big man Jason Thompson on March 1 after he was waived by the Golden State Warriors. It was a smart move by Ujiri, Thompson has already been forced to step up the the face of a wave of injuries to Toronto’s bigs.
Starting center Jonas Valanciunas has been resting a bruised hand for a week. Forward James Johnson has been working thru planter fasciitis for a couple of weeks now. Power forward Patrick Patterson turned an ankle during the game against Boston. Plus, it’s easy to forget about combo forward DeMarre Carroll who as been out since January.
However, head coach Dwane Casey now has his insurance in the 29-year-old veteran Thompson who has stepped in, stepped up and performed.
Through his first six games in Toronto Thompson got 24 minutes against Brooklyn and little else, but starting a stretch of five games in seven nights against Chicago last Monday, Casey had to be thanking his lucky stars that Ujiri found him a proven veteran big man in the Warriors discard pile.
Thompson has averaged 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, a steal and 0.6 blocks in 19.6 minutes over the past five games and played some pretty solid defense for someone who’s had to learn the playbook on the fly. He’s still learning his place in the offense, but Casey almost doesn’t care about that and Thompson brings a pretty useful offensive repertoire with him once he figures out how the Raptors play at that end of the court.
With no Patterson available against the Magic on Sunday night, Thompson played 28 minutes and came just one bucket shy of posting his first Raptors double-double in the 105-100 Toronto victory. Also, the Raptors were a team best +13 points with Thompson on the court.
“You need players,” Luis Scola told Pro Bball Report after Thompson’s arrival. “You need a solid team of players you can trust, so it’s a good thing for us. (Thompson) is a good player. He’s been playing for quite a few years. He wants to have an opportunity to be on a winning team. He is going to help us. For us it’s a race for how fast we can adapt him to what we do here by the time the playoffs come.
“It’s very important because stuff is going to happen. You just have to make sure you overcome whatever happens. Stuff is going to happen. Bad things are going to happen to every team. You are going to go through a slump, somebody is going to get hurt, you are going to get a bad matchup. Stuff is going to happen. It’s a long road to the playoffs, a lot of time, a lot of games. Good teams (just) walk around whatever happens and become even stronger after that. So you need guys like (Thompson) for that to happen.”
At 35-years-old, Scola is the voice of experience. Stuff has happened and Thompson has been the guy who is letting the Raptors walk around simultaneous injuries to Valanciunas, Patterson, Johnson and Carroll. When everyone gets back, the Raptors are going to be even stronger because Thompson is available and will be ready to step in when needed again.
“Obviously this team is very established,” Thompson explained to Pro Bball report. “Got a lot of positive things going, so I just want to be part of the ride and help as much as I can (if) guys are banged up or injuries. Be ready if my number is called.”