Raptors' OG Anunoby could be out 'a while' with hip pointer

Toronto Raptors' OG Anunoby (3) dunks the ball in front of New York Knicks' Julius Randle (30) and Mitchell Robinson (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, in New York, NY (Frank Franklin/AP).

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- The NBA season is like a marathon run uphill. It starts out manageably and with great promise and generally gets more difficult from there. Not everyone survives.

The Toronto Raptors are starting to feel the legs get a little heavy and the breathing more laboured as they approach what is only the quarter-mark of the 82-game season.

Having just got Pascal Siakam back and rounding into form after his off-season shoulder surgery the Raptors learned Thursday that forward OG Anunoby will be out against the Utah Jazz and likely for some time after that due to a hip pointer suffered in practice on Wednesday.

“They just said it’s a hip pointer and according to Alex McKechnie [Raptors vice president of player health and performance], it’ll be a while,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse at his club’s morning shootaround.

The Raptors (7-8), who have lost two straight and five of their past six, start are playing three games in four nights beginning with the highly-rated Jazz, then a visit to Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back before taking on the red-hot Golden State Warriors in San Francisco on Sunday. The Raptors finish the six-game trip in Memphis and Indiana.

Losing Anunoby is less than ideal. He’s second in the NBA in minutes played, averaging 37.3 per game and has continued his development into one of the better all-round players in the league.

After a shaky start offensively, in his past 13 games Anunoby is putting up 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals with shooting 39.8 per cent from deep on 7.5 attempts per game. He’s the Raptors most versatile defender and an emerging cog on offence.

Also out against the Jazz are Precious Achiuwa (shoulder) and Yuta Watanabe (calf).

There has been plenty of optimism that Watanabe would provide a good dose of defensive awareness and some floor-spreading and cutting action to an offence that would benefit, but having missed the entire exhibition season and the first month of the regular season with a calf strain, his return is still to be determined.

“Oh my god, really frustrating,” said Watanabe, who was hoping for a breakout season after a strong showing for Japan at the Olympics this past season. “I mean, you know, my leg is painful but you know, what is the most painful is now that they're playing basketball. like that's what I love doing it. So, it's been very stressful to be honest. I just love playing basketball.”

He’s going full speed in workouts but has yet to elevate to playing with contact, so his return is likely a week away.

The Raptors could use him.

Toronto has only played lineups featuring Anunoby, Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, and Gary Trent Jr. 42 minutes this season. A similar lineup featuring their best big, Khem Birch, in place of Barnes, has been together for six minutes.

The Raptors haven’t done a great job figuring out how to deal with a lineup that’s been in flux for most of 15 games, but they have to again.

“It’s part of the deal man,” said Nurse.

You can watch the Raptors face the Jazz on Sportsnet ONE and SN NOW Thursday night. The game tips off at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.

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