Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet out for Game 4 against Wizards

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) gestures toward the Raptors bench. (Kathy Willens/AP)

WASHINGTON – Less than two weeks ago Fred VanVleet was sprinting around a screen set by the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo when the Heat big man slid right and stopped the Toronto Raptors point guard in his tracks.

VanVleet clutched his right shoulder and his season his fine sophomore season hasn’t gone any farther since.

A shoulder injury originally described as a bruise was actually a first- or second-degree shoulder separation, Sportsnet learned.

Normally the minimum recovery time is two weeks and VanVleet suffered the injury on April 11 which explains why he was ruled out before Game 4 of the Raptors’ first-round series against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.

VanVleet was in significant pain after the injury but as the discomfort subsided he was able convince himself he was ready to play in Game 2. Three uncomfortable minutes later and he’s now acknowledging he’ll have to take his recovery with a little bit of a longer view.

“[It’s] a hundred times better, and that’s the problem,” said VanVleet. “That’s kind of why you saw me in Game 2. I was starting at negative a hundred, I got to zero and felt like I was at a hundred.

“The pain from that point on has gotten better with each day. I’m obviously still restricted in some areas. There are some things I can do and some things I can’t. As long as I can get to the point where I can play my game without dragging, that’s the goal thing for me.”

The problem is a lot of things are still uncomfortable.

“I can shoot through the pain, but passing, dribbling, running, fighting through screens, a little bit of everything was just uncomfortable and the pain is probably not the problem, just the lack of range, and strength would probably be the other biggest thing.”

VanVleet says he’s not too worried about the possibility of re-injury when he comes back because his shoulder will likely remain vulnerable to unavoidable knocks and bumps for several weeks to come.

“Honestly, that’ll be the risk for six more weeks, taking a hit,” he said. “Kyle took a crazy flagrant one when we were at home. I was kind of cringing [thinking] if that was my shoulder. Those types of things happen: chasing guys off of screens, [dribble handoffs]. I’ve just got to get a point where I can do those things comfortably. It will be painful for a while.

“The risk of reinjuring will be the same today probably as it will be for a few weeks. That’s not the concern so much as not being limited out there. Me at 50 per cent, that won’t help anybody. But I tried. It didn’t go as planned. Now I’ve got to take the opportunity to get back right.”

VanVleet’s absence has been significant. As the de facto floor general of the Raptors’ second unit, Toronto’s bench had the second-best net rating in the NBA during the regular season. And, coincidence or not, the bench has been badly outscored by the Wizards so far in the series with the the worst net-rating – -minus-20.4 – of any bench unit in the playoffs.

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