The collective gasp at the Air Canada Centre when DeMar DeRozan crumpled to the court on Friday was noticeable all of the way up in the media gondola where I was sitting.
Then, when DeRozan writhed on the court as he was surrounded by teammates, an uncomfortable silence shifted into the arena as fans began to fear Toronto’s Iron Man might be seriously injured.
The immediate medical report during the game was that DeRozan had a groin injury. Then, Saturday afternoon word leaked that DeRozan had suffered a torn tendon in his left thigh.
After the game Toronto’s head coach, Dwane Casey, uttered his “next man up” mantra and that will be put to the test while DeRozan is out for probably at least a month.
“We gotta play, it’s next man up,” Lowry told reporters after the game against Dallas on Friday. “It’s a team. It’s not about one guy, it’s about every individual. So if anybody goes down, the next guy has gotta step up.”
As crazy as it may seem, the Toronto Raptors may not be in a horrible situation with their lone all-star sidelined.
Lou Williams is the current player of the week in the Eastern Conference and he’s averaging 17.2 points in only 22 minutes over his past 10 games. People will argue that DeRozan is one of Toronto’s top scorers – he’s leading the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game – but he’s also averaging a team-high 16.2 field goal attempts per game while only shooting 39% from the field.
Having DeRozan sidelined will also help Jonas Valanciunas see a bump from the 7.3 field goal attempts per game he has been averaging so far. Valanciunas sees the fewest touches of any Toronto starter and a big part of his development is getting more field goal attempts.
Casey likes having Williams come off the bench, so, while Williams may seem a bump in his minutes, it is likely that James Johnson will get the chance to start while DeRozan is sidelined. It was Johnson who was heralded earlier this month by fans as a better option in the starting five than Terrence Ross.
If James starts, Toronto will have two defenders in Ross and Johnson to harass teams and help make things even more intimidating for opponents on the defensive end.
While losing DeRozan due to an injury will be a tough adjustment for the Toronto Raptors, the reality is Toronto isn’t nearly as bad off as some fans initially worried when he was crumpled on the court Friday evening.