TORONTO — DeMarre Carroll remembers the moment he came down awkwardly on his knee. It was Nov. 13 against the New Orleans Pelicans — just 10 games into his first season as a Toronto Raptor.
Carroll grit his teeth and tried to play through it for nearly two months before he had arthroscopic surgery to "clean up some things" on Jan. 6.
The athletic forward, signed by the Raptors in the off-season to strengthen their defence, spoke with the media Monday night, revealing he hasn’t been healthy for a long time.
"I was playing with a lot of inflammation in my knee for a long period of time, and (the surgeon) was kind of surprised I hadn’t done it sooner," Carroll said. "I tried to fight through it, but everybody can’t be ‘He-Man."’
Carroll said the injury worsened when he and DeAndre Jordan banged knees in the Raptors’ Nov. 22 game versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
"That’s when my knee said ‘Ah, you need to do something about it,"’ Carroll said. "I tried to play through it for a long time… but sometimes you’ve got to listen to your body."
Carroll missed nine games with the injury, returned for five, then sat out a game before having surgery in New York.
The 29-year-old, who was one of the keys to the Atlanta Hawks’ 60-win team last season, said the time off the court has been a blessing in disguise. He’s able to heal his ailing foot — he also suffers from plantar fasciitis.
Carroll said he hasn’t been given any indication on when he might return, but that he’s ahead of schedule.
"I just want to get back out there and play at a level that I know I can play at, and I should be playing at," he said.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said the team is taking a patient approach.
"It’s one of those things, it’s not going to be rushed… it’s going to happen when it’s going to happen," Casey said.
Carroll has plenty to keep him busy during his rehab. His wife Iesha gave birth to their second child last week — son Amare. The couple also has a two-year-old daughter Lailah.
"No sleep, but it’s very exciting," he said.
Carroll showed reporters a picture on his phone — he’s on the couch, surgically-repaired right knee propped up. He’s feeding his newborn son in one arm while simultaneously cradling his daughter.
Carroll has averaged 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 games, and Casey said the Raptors have been filling the hole left by Carroll’s absence "by committee."
"But it’s hard to replace a guy with his experience, how know-how and respect he has around the league," Casey said. "Our whole philosophy is the next man up, make sure we take care of it, no matter who it is."