'Next man up:' Raptors' Barnes has surgery, no update on Poeltl

TORONTO — Two of the Toronto Raptors' most important players are out for an unknown amount of time. That means it's time for the next two to clock in.

All-star forward Scottie Barnes had surgery to repair a fracture to the third metacarpal bone of his left hand on Monday, a day after centre Jakob Poeltl dislocated the pinky finger on his left hand. Canadian forward RJ Barrett, one of the players expected to shoulder Barnes and Poeltl's workloads offensively and defensively, said situations like this are what basketball is all about.

“Next man up. That's why we're a team," said Barrett, who is from Mississauga, Ont. "It's not just one guy on any given night, even though we are healthy, we need our whole team.

"We had a good practice today. We've just got to see what our team looks like moving forward."

Barnes broke his hand in Friday's 120-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors. There was no update from the Raptors about Poeltl, who hurt his hand on Sunday as Toronto earned a 111-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

The Raptors did not give a timeline for Barnes's return from surgery.

Barnes and Poeltl have been two of the most reliable players on a Raptors' team that has had significant turnover thanks to four major deals ahead of the NBA trade deadline.

Barnes played in his first All-Star Game and has averaged 19.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists this season. Poeltl has started in all 50 games he's played in, missing 11 games with a sprained left ankle. He is averaging 11.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists over 26.4 minutes per game in 2023-24.

Barrett said after practice on Monday that he expects that in Barnes's absence, he and point guard Immanuel Quickley will be the focus of Toronto's offence and read the game as it comes to them. As a wing, Barrett expects he'll have to be especially flexible.

"Just working on playmaking, working on guarding different positions and just taking my game to the next level, being an all-around player even more," he said.

The Raptors first challenge comes Tuesday night as Toronto (23-38) hosts the New Orleans Pelicans (36-25).

New Orleans has a talented frontcourt with power forward Zion Williamson and centre Jonas Valanciunas, who started his career with the Raptors, dominating the paint.

Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic echoed Barrett's attitude that his team has to have a "next man up" attitude.

"You bring the fight to them and we've got to be very competitive from the start of the game," he said courtside at OVO Athletic Centre. "They have a very good frontcourt, but they also have all-star-level guards in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

"Those guys, they can score 30 on any given night. So we'll need everybody to step up tomorrow and to bring a lot of physicality."

Rookie forward Gradey Dick is another Raptors wing who will be relied upon to fill the void left by Barnes and Poeltl.

"I'm just coming in and doing whatever the team needs, trying to help in any way I can," said Dick. "If coach wants me to make a shot I'm gonna go in there and try my best to do that. If he wants me to get on the ball, get a loose ball, take a charge, whatever, I’m going to do that.

"That's my mindset. Just go in there and try to make winning plays."

Toronto signed forward Mouhamadou Gueye to a two-way contract on Monday. In a corresponding move the Raptors waived guard Markquis Nowell.

The six-foot-nine Gueye is averaging 14 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 31.5 minutes in 21 regular-season games with Raptors 905, Toronto's G League affiliate this season.

The five-foot-eight Nowell appeared in one game with Toronto after signing a two-way contract in July 2023. He averaged 15.3 points, 8.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 33.1 minutes in 20 games with Raptors 905

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2024.

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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press