You might have thought a plane full of injured, wealthy individuals leaving Canada for the U.S. was some kind of commentary against socialized medicine. It wasn't.
The Toronto Raptors practiced at the Air Canada Centre Thursday — sort of — and then departed on a four game road trip that begins tonight in Los Angeles against that city’s uglier, less talented basketball team, the Clippers.
But if head coach Jay Triano had his way, his players would not have boarded the five-to-six hour flight.
Instead, he would have locked them up in the trainer’s room.
The Raptors departed for Los Angeles with a worrisome number of “banged up” players — mainly the result of the team’s hard-fought 99-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday. Triano’s club is so battered and bruised, Thursday’s practice featured all of nine players, and even then it was cut short.
“(Hedo Turkoglu) couldn’t go 100%. (Andrea) Bargnani couldn’t go 100%. (Chris) Bosh couldn’t go 100%, (Jose) Calderon couldn’t go, (Antoine) Wright couldn’t go. But the coaching staff was intact,” Triano said with a laugh, when asked about his roster.
Throw in the fact that forward Reggie Evans is still out with a left midfoot sprain, and the Raptors face the 3-6 Clippers with one hand tied behind their backs, though Triano is hopeful nobody actually misses Friday’s game, other than Evans.
“The ideal thing when you’re injured like that is to give it a little bit of rest and treatment and not have to jump on an airplane, where swelling can intensify,” Triano said. “But there’s nothing we can do about the schedule and there’s nothing we can do about bangs that happen in a game, especially when you play as hard as we did.”
The Raptors did play hard against Chicago in a game where the two teams exchanged the lead 15 times. The win lifted the Raptors to 4-4 and put the side in a good frame of mind (despite the injuries) heading into the four-game Western Conference swing.
After Friday’s game in L.A., the Raptors are in Phoenix on Sunday, Denver on Tuesday and Utah on Wednesday, before returning home to host Miami next Friday. The Raptors always have had trouble winning in the West.
“There’s very little practice and you really can’t control where you practice. That makes it tough,” Triano said. “I think the biggest thing is rest. I don’t think these guys are too enamored about being in any of the cities that we’re going to in the next week. The best thing is, get away, get rest and perform for the two hours you have to perform.”
One player who is enamored with playing in La La Land is rookie guard DeMar DeRozan, who grew up there and attended USC. The 20-year-old was almost bouncing off the walls yesterday in anticipation of playing his first NBA game in front of family and friends.
“It’s going to be great,” said DeRozan, who played arguably the best game as a pro against Chicago, picking up nine rebounds, two blocks and nine points, including a huge slam in the third quarter that electrified the ACC faithful.
“He’s been pretty level-headed about everything he’s done,” said Triano, when asked if he was worried about DeRozan becoming distracted. “He’s taken training camp and his first start and his first NBA game all in stride. So I don’t have any concerns.”