Kurt Helin

D'Angelo Russell, Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto Raptors to get Jonas Valanciunas back on Monday

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The Toronto Raptors are getting healthy again. DeMarre Carroll was back in the lineup for their last game.

Now comes the good news that big man Jonas Valanciunas will return on Monday against the Bulls, as reported by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.

Head coach Dwane Casey said after practice on Sunday that starting centre Jonas Valanciunas will play against the Bulls on Monday after missing 17 games with a broken finger on his non-shooting hand.

Toronto already boasts the NBA’s fourth-best offence and now returns its most efficient scorer, who averaged 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in 14 games before getting hurt, on 55.6% shooting.

Toronto was 11-6 without Valanciunas, but they will be better with him — on the season, they are nine points per 100 possessions better when he plays than when he sits. To go into more detail, when Valanciunas is on the court the Raptors shoot five percentage points higher from three, they assist on a higher percentage of their shots, Toronto’s defense is a little better, its offense is 6.1 points per 100 possessions better. He is their anchor inside.

At 19-12, the Raptors are the current four seed in the East, but they have done much of that without two key players. If you’re looking for a team that could break out of the pack to become the two seed in the East, keep your eyes on a healthy Raptors squad.

Suns’ Eric Bledsoe has torn meniscus, will require surgery

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) grabs his leg after falling to the floor in the first half after being injured in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Phoenix. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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We have been telling you it wasn’t good since Eric Bledsoe collapsed to the court and was grabbing his knee, then had to be helped off the court. The Suns called it a sprain at first, but it always seemed worse than that.

It is — a torn meniscus that will require surgery, something first reported by Paul Coro at the Arizona Republic, and later confirmed by the team. From Coro:

An awful Suns basketball night turned worse after the Suns learned that leading scorer and playmaker Eric Bledsoe suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during Saturday night’s home loss to Philadelphia, according to sources. The injury is expected to require surgery that could sideline Bledsoe for several weeks or longer.

Several weeks is kind; it is expected Bledsoe will be out until after the All-Star Game in February.

It adds to the chaos around a team where coach Jeff Hornacek’s job is reportedly in danger, where management is interviewing players to see what is going on in the locker room, and forward Markeiff Morris threw a towel at the coach and now pops up in trade rumors.

Bledsoe is also the primary playmaker and leading scorer at 20.4 points per game. Without him — and considering all the other issues around the team — making the playoffs in the West will be a challenge. Especially without Bledsoe.

Spurs’ Tony Parker on Boris Diaw’s lack of rest: ”Pop wants him to lose weight”

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 20:  Tony Parker #9 and Boris Diaw #33 of the San Antonio Spurs talk during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 20, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Spurs defeated the Nuggets 109-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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It’s a joke, people. Every team has guys talking trash and making jokes at each other’s expense once the media is out of the locker room. But the Spurs have no fear poking fun at each other through the media.

The latest was a little back-and-forth between Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. The topic was the Spurs rest, and how 33-year-old Diaw rarely gets any the way Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili do. From the Associated Press (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

”I think it’s because Pop wants him to lose weight,” Parker said about his friend and fellow Frenchman. ”But I have to give credit to Bobo though he’s been playing very well and been taking care of his body. He’s looking good and he played great tonight.”

Diaw sees his lack of rest differently.

”Why would I? I’m so young,” he said. ”I’m same age as Tony, but I don’t age as much as much as they do. I stay young.”

Diaw’s weight has been an issue as long as he’s been in the NBA, but he has been more committed to conditioning since arriving in San Antonio. Also, remember that Parker and Diaw are both French, grew up playing together on national teams and the like, and are good friends. This is just guys being guys.

And the Spurs being the Spurs.

Jazz guard Alec Burks out indefinitely with fractured fibula

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Alec Burks #10 of the Utah Jazz dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during their NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on December 23, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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It looked bad when it happened (you can see the video below). Utah’s Alec Burks attacked the rim, Paul Pierce rotated over and fouled him, and Burks landed awkwardly.

It is bad — Burks has a fractured fibula and is out indefinitely, the team announced Sunday. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports says Burks will be out at least six weeks. From the team’s official press release:

Following today’s examination, Jazz physicians Dr. Travis Maak and Dr. David Petron confirmed that Burks suffered a fractured left fibula. Burks was also previously diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms by the Jazz medical staff…. No surgery is required and Burks will remain out indefinitely.

Burks joins point guard Dante Exum (ACL injury, out for the season) and Rudy Gobert (knee injury) as key Jazz players to be sidelined for extended stretches due to injury. None of that was pretty, but Burks was hard to watch.

The Jazz at 12-16 are still battling for a playoff spot in a down bottom of the Western Conference, but this will be a setback (however it does not end their chances entirely). Burks had played in every Jazz game this season averaging 14.3 points a contest (third on the team) and shooting 38.7 percent from three. Burks being out means more Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles at the two spot. Utah will need their depth to step up if they are going to hold on to the eight seed.

Report: Suns’ Eric Bledsoe may be out until All-Star break with knee injury

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, center, is helped off the court after being injured in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in Phoenix. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGAZINES OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Non-contact knee injuries are always the scariest.

That’s what happened to the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe Saturday night against Philadelphia, and he was moving across the court to cover his man and just went down.

While the Suns officially called it a sprained knee after the game, the rumors have been it is more than that, more likely it’s a meniscus injury. Brian Windhorst of ESPN has the lastest rumor (we are still awaiting an official announcement from the Suns).

Combine this with coach Jeff Hornacek’s job being in jeopardy trade rumors swirling around this team, and some internal dissension, the Suns’ playoff chances are setting. (although with the weak bottom of the West they may not fall out of contention).

Bledsoe leads the Suns averaging 20.4 points per game, he has an above-average true shooting percentage of 55.7 percent, he dishes out 6.1 assists per game, he hits the three, and his PER of 20.9 is the kind of number you expect of an All-Star. That is production the Suns cannot easily replace.