Well, this is a little concerning.

According to tweets from Chris O’Leary of the Toronto Star and Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, Jared Sullinger may not be ready when the Toronto Raptors open the 2016-17 season on Wednesday.

As a refresher, Sullinger injured his left foot when it was stepped on in the preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors. After trying to practice through it but experiencing setbacks, Sullinger was pulled from practices and relegated to conditioning work and trying to learn the team’s systems from the sidelines. The Raptors have maintained optimism that Sullinger would be back in short order – he’s basically been day-to-day since getting hurt – and the team isn’t panicking as the issue lingers, correctly opting to play it cautious here in October.

Sullinger is still dealing with pain in the foot despite the rest, and it sounds as if he could be set for additional testing to make sure nothing is structurally wrong.

I’ll refer you to the piece linked above for reaction to Sullinger’s continued absence, but obviously the longer it persists, the more concerning it becomes. It’s still too early for too much worry, given how little is at stake here early in the season, though I’d understand if anyone is waiting eagerly for word that another MRI (or whatever) came back clean. The team has every reason to play it safe if Sullinger is feeling even an inkling of discomfort, and with foot injuries being notoriously difficult and inconsistent person-to-person, it’s far more preferable for the team to go without Sullinger for a bit now than risk the problem flaring up again later.

And before you jump to any jokes – the team has been adamant that Sullinger’s conditioning remains at a high level. He spent a lot of time in Vancouver this summer preparing for the season with a focus on conditioning, and he’s been able to do non-practice activities to try to maintain it while on the shelf (he was drenched when I saw him Tuesday and looked about identical to how he looked on media day, for whatever that’s worth).

If Sullinger can’t go in the opener, it would appear that Pascal Siakam may draw the start at power forward. While Patrick Patterson would be an obvious fit alongside the starters – let’s just all agree to holster our “Patterson should start over Sullinger, anyway” takes for a few games, however justified – Siakam has drawn the start in preseason games, and the team has long preferred Patterson in his sixth man role. Siakam has shown some nice energy and hustle, defending actively and leaking out in transition, and the fact that he’d be tasked with a minimal role alongside the starters could help limit some of the mistakes that come with a rookie learning curve.

Personally, I’d be starting Patterson until Sullinger’s ready to go, but head coach Dwane Casey has always seemed hesitant to go that route. The Sullinger injury would theoretically mean a bit more small ball with DeMarre Carroll at the four to start the year, freeing up additional minutes for Terrence Ross and Norman Powell in the process. I’m skeptical the Lucas Noguiera-at-power forward experiment would continue into the regular season.

The other question that comes up is whether Sullinger’s health and a desire to keep Carroll’s workload reasonable may shift the battle for the 15th roster spot, pushing the team to keep Drew Crawford for additional wing/forward depth over the presumed favorite Fred VanVleet, who fills a need as an interim third point guard and whom the team is very high on. That decision doesn’t have to be made until Monday, so the team can at least wait for any test results on Sullinger to come back.

In other news, Cory Joseph will sit tonight with the flu and Terrence Ross will return from his minor knee injury. We’ll have more in the usual pre-game news and notes, but I thought the Sullinger item was important enough to pass along early.

  • LeeZ

    I would have no problem starting Pascal. Love the kid, and your point about him having less of a burden on him since he’d be playing with the starting unit is well taken. But I would be equally fine with starting DC at the four and having Powell at the three. That way you’d have three proficient distance shooters on the court to start the game, and it might help the Raps get off to better starts (we were saved by our second unit much of the time last year). Rebounding might be an issue, I’ll grant you, but defensively that would be a sounder unit, I believe (I have no doubt Pascal will develop into a solid defender, but he’s not there yet).

    • bizzy

      I wouldn’t want Carroll to go up against 4s, not now atleast. His knee still isn’t 100 percent, chasing rebounds and blocking out bigger and stronger 4s would just aggravate it. Besides facing the cavs twice in our first ten games, our schedule isn’t too scary. It would be a good experience for Pascal, the kids a stud.

      • LeeZ

        I don’t know about that (pf = more demanding on DC’s knees than sf). I think it’s a wash. Yes, pf’s have to box out and chase rebounds, but sf’s have a lot more running to do to keep up with 3’s coming off screens and such. I’m actually quite concerned about DC in general. He took a good couple of months off and his knees still aren’t close to 100%. And he’s a player who plays a very physical brand of ball. I’m no doctor (don’t even play one on tv), but it doesn’t take an orthopedic surgeon to know that once you get to a certain age and experience recurring knee problems, there is a far greater chance of them deteriorating further than improving. I hope he gets off to a good start, and then I’d trade him if there’s a team out there willing to give back a decent return. And I’m no DC hater. I just don’t see this ending well.

        • Jo6ix

          Don’t even play one on tv lol

        • Noelle

          What have you got that says his “knees still aren’t close to 100%” ? Seriously, I’m curious about what I may have missed. Talk all you want about your layman’s understanding about knee deterioration, but you do actually not only need to be a doctor, but have had to actually examined his knee to have a clue how close it is to 100%.

          What is evident is that he has played in as many games as Kyle and DeMar, exactly the number of minutes as DeMar, and just behind Kyle, and his defense, the far more demanding on the knees of his duties, has been stellar while playing his physical brand of ball, including a 3 STL and 4 STL game. As far as I know, there is zero evidence that his knees aren’t 100%, never mind “not close”.

          • LeeZ

            Well, there’s this piece for starters, which quotes DC himself as saying his knees aren’t 100%: http://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/raptors-demarre-carroll-knee-injury/ It features a discussion between Zarum and some hipster blogger dude named Blake Murhphy (any relation to our Blake Murphy? I think our Blake Murphy probably has better hair). There’s also this: Casey says a healthy DeMarre Carroll would be huge for them but he’s still not 100%. They’ll monitor his minutes.
            — Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) September 26, 2016. I’ll concede, I threw in the “aren’t close to 100%” gratuitously (it’s the year of the Trump; people are allowed to make shit up) to beef up my argument. Consider it retracted. I would take issue, though, with your characterization of his defence as “stellar”. During the first, I dunno, seven or so games of the season last year, I thought I had died and gone to heaven: FINALLY we have an elite perimeter defender! But then came the various injuries (plantar f. and then the knees), and his defence deteriorated. He gave an absolutely gallant effort in the playoffs, but you can’t possibly with a straight face tell me that his defence was stellar. His EFFORT was absolutely stellar.

            • Mike$

              Yeah not close is an exaggeration, but there is plenty of evidence that Carrolls not at 100%. Hopefully he’s getting close

      • Henry Swagson

        Guys like the Morris twins (see & wizards) or draymond aren’t true PFs. 5 years ago they would be considered true SFs.

        • Truth Teller

          Isn’t Pascal exactly the type of PF to counter those guys? Granted, if he had a post game he would be kryptonite, but destroying small 4s on the glass is the counter to the small ball trend.

          • Henry Swagson

            Casey said he’s more of a 3/4 combo forward just like those other guys and I agree. Yeah the best way to take advantage of those guys would be to punish them with strength/size but I don’t think Siakam has that advantage on strength yet or ever will. However, I think a JV+Sully frontcourt combo can do that, similar to what kanter/ibaka-adamas combo of okc had done against the dubs in the playoffs last year.

  • Pong

    Hope this isn’t some bigger issue with his foot

    • bizzy

      He did have a stress fracture in that foot a year and half ago that caused him to sit out the 2015 season. Hoping this didn’t aggravate it, regardless at this point its all speculation. Just got to hope for the best I guess, it kinda sucks because I was super excited to see him play with our squad, next man up I guess. That worked with Biyombo.

      • Pong

        He was also my late round pick in my fantasy team haha. I was expecting big things from him on a contract year

  • Dunkenstein

    It’s still too early for too much worry>>>…Are you kidding? It’s time to panic!

  • Jo6ix

    It’s all hearsay now, apparently, but I’d say throw siakam into the fire that is starting. Why not? He’s got very little onus with that group. Just hustle and things will turn out ok. How could they not when you’re filling our (much loved? and) dearly departed argentinian friend’s slow-ass shoes?
    I do wonder what Jared has going on in his shoe, though. #keep them guessing.
    Bring on Detroit….just after we play tag with (our bitter rivals?) Washington. Ahem

    • Jo6ix

      I’m gonna go ahead and reply to myself and say I really do love scola. Consummate professional.

  • R.D. Vaughan

    I’ve read various comments of the possibility that Pascal being this season’s Norman Powell (surprise player) and shake my head at the way this déjà vu injury is having those stars aligning. Lets hope if he starts for an extended period of time that he plays within himself and runs with the opportunity.

    • Jo6ix

      So you’re saying no more early clock threes?

  • Red Baron

    I’m not panicking yet, but is it just me or do the Raps, as an organization, seem a bit less-than-transparent sometimes when it comes to injuries or more specifically status of injuries to players? I never trust a “day-to-day” assessment from them…hopefully it’s nothing serious.

    • BlakeMurphy

      They definitely are, by design. It sucks from the perspective of the fan or writer, but they believe telling as little as possible is the way to go.

  • Tragic Mugatu

    I’d be interested to see where Siakam stands relative to the rest of his draft class after such a strong SL and preseason. The other day Kevin Pelton said he could be the most impactful guy out of the rookies on good teams, but that’s obviously tied as much to raps being a presumed top-7 team as it is to Pascal’s value in his own right.

    Since the story on the ’16 draft was that it was unspectacular in lotto but really deep from 20-40, I’m wondering if there’s tons of teams/fanbases who see similar promise in their late first / early second picks. Or has Siakam made a real impression beyond Raptors circles to the point of being pencilled in as one of the more impressive mid-draft picks?

  • Truth Teller

    This team should win 48+ games easily. No need to rush things.