PHILADELPHIA — The long road back is finally over for Jared Sullinger.
After injuring his left foot in Toronto’s first pre season game on Oct. 1 in Vancouver, the big man opted to have surgery later that month and has been recovering ever since.
“I’m happy, I’m happy,” he said. “Just ready to try and make an impact on this basketball team some way, some how.”
Sullinger’s return may have been accelerated a bit as well. Talk was the team had pegged Friday as the unveiling but recent injuries to Patrick Patterson (knee) and Lucas Nogueira (concussion protocol) forced the Raptors hand.
“Circumstances kind of made it happen," said Sullinger. "You just got to be ready to play, that’s it.”
Sullinger will undoubtedly be brought along slowly after being sidelined for the last three months. Head coach Dwane Casey was not available for comment before the game but it may be safe to assume that a minute-restriction could be in place for the forward -- at least for his first few games.
The 24-year-old isn't aware of how much playing time he'll receive and says that the coaches and trainers are keeping it a secret.
Sullinger had a screw inserted into the fifth metatarsal of his left foot back on Oct. 24. During recovery he spent time in a walking cast and even used a scooter for his leg too which limited any weight-bearing moments as much as possible.
"I’m going to be gassed out there but, oh well, I’ll still play my hardest," he said. "That is always the biggest thing especially when you don’t play for three months. Everybody is kind of in tip top shape just because everyone knows their minutes and what they need to do. I just have no idea what is going to happen next so you just got to be ready."
Sullinger signed a one-year, $6-million free agent deal with the Raptors last summer. With exactly half of the 2016-2017 regular season remaining, he can show Toronto's fanbase why Masai Ujiri pegged the former Boston Celtic as a projected starter for his club this season.
The six foot nine, 260 pounder averaged 10.3 points and a career-high 8.3 rebounds last season with the Celtics. He hopes to contribute a strong defensive presence especially in the rebounding department.
“I’m just excited to play with these guys," Sullinger said. "Watching these guys for X amount of games and being out and watching the enjoyment they have out there, how they play for one another … there’s nothing like having teammates that play for one another so it’s going to be a lot of fun."