BURNABY, British Columbia (AP) — DeMarre Carroll is ready to start over.
A prized free-agent acquisition for the Toronto Raptors last year, Carroll played only 26 regular-season games because of a right knee injury that had to be surgically repaired in January.
The small forward worked hard to rejoin the club in time for Toronto’s run to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, but wasn’t the same player the Raptors signed to be difference-maker from the Atlanta Hawks.
And while not yet 100 percent after a month of rest followed by a strenuous summer of rehabilitation, Carroll is looking forward to hitting the reset button.
“I look at it as basically my first season (with Toronto),” the 30-year-old Carroll said as the Raptors opened training camp this week. “A new season, a new beginning. I’ve just got to come in and get back to playing DeMarre Carroll basketball when I’m healthy.”
Apart from locking up DeMar DeRozan to a long-term contract and bringing in Jared Sullinger, the Raptors had a relatively quiet break.
However, finally having a healthy Carroll would be a major bonus for a club looking to take the next step.
“A big difference,” DeRozan said. “It was tough for us last year to figure out ways to play without him. Even when he was playing early on he was hurt (and) even when came back he wasn’t his full self and we still managed to make history.
“To have him back at the start of camp, start of preseason, to be able to implement him fully is going to give us everything that we’ve been searching for.”
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Carroll only returned to the court for live action last week, and said his offseason regimen included making sure all the proper steps were taken to ensure his knee is ready for the season.
“We took a hard approach about it and we did it the right way,” said Carroll, who took a month off after the playoffs in hopes of reducing the swelling. “Last season it was more of a rush, trying to get me back. We didn’t go through the whole thing we needed to go through to get the knee to where it needs to be. I feel that we’re on the right track.”
Carroll, who averaged 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds last season, came through the first two days of camp unscathed for the Raptors, who open their exhibition schedule on Saturday at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena against the Golden State Warriors.
“(The team) has talked about bringing me along slowly, not trying to kill myself in pre-season,” Carroll said. “Just be ready and healthy for the first game of the season.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Carroll’s presence on the floor, including his ability to hit from three, helps create openings on a team that is thin at small forward.
“Really gives us the spacing that we need with Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar handling the ball, attacking of the dribble,” Casey said. “That’s what we need from him, his spacing and his defensive presence. He did a great job accepting that role last year. He takes us from a good team to a pretty good team when he does that.”
For his part, Carroll said the mental side of the injury was tough, but something he forced himself to push through.
“You’ve got to stay strong, especially in this league. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you,” he said. “It can be draining to keep on going through the same thing, having the same setbacks. But I’m happy right now because I haven’t had any setbacks. I’ve just got to look at the positives and keep trying to work towards the future.”