Nick Nurse: Raptors' Scottie Barnes playing 'catch-up' after minor ankle injury

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) shoots against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in New York. (Noah K. Murray/AP)

TORONTO -- Scottie Barnes, last season's NBA rookie of the year, has been slowed by an ankle issue that has affected his conditioning, according to Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse.

``Listen, Scottie is playing a little bit of catch-up here and it's noticeable,'' Nurse said after practice Tuesday. ``I don't think he has shown a whole lot here in the pre-season. I mean he was held out the last three weeks leading into training camp so that affected his conditioning.''

Nurse called it a ``light ankle issue.''

``But they held him out for all that, and now I think he's just behind a little bit, conditioning-wise, feel-wise, all that kind of stuff so yeah, that's it,'' he said. ``We just need to keep plugging away and get him feeling so he can feel like he can be out there playing really hard.

``I always say that is his key. Is his energy and enthusiasm going to remain at the same level it was a year ago as the new kid in the candy store? If it does, then he doesn't have much to worry about.''

In April, Barnes joined Damon Stoudamire (1995-96) and Vince Carter (1998-99) as Raptors honoured as the league's top rookie. Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.08 steals and 0.74 blocks in 35.4 minutes in 74 games. He led all rookies in minutes, ranked third in points and rebounds and fifth in assists, steals and blocks.

A starter in every game he played, the six-foot-seven Barnes became the first rookie in Raptors history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a season. He also set the franchise rookie record for offensive rebounds with a team-high 195.

In four games this preseason, the 21-year-old has averaged 6.3 points and 22.2 minutes while shooting 36.4 percent.

Nurse said he is not concerned about Barnes' road ahead.

``I'm just trying to answer the questions like what has Scottie got to do to go to this next level and all this kind of stuff,'' said the coach. ``I'm just trying to get him to bring that energy and competitive enthusiasm that he has because if he does, the skills and the shooting and all that stuff... learning when to play power ball and when to make skill moves ... will just get better.

``He has worked on a lot of stuff. He is going to play more game reps, all those kind of things.''

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