Pre-game news & notes: Carroll getting closer, Scott out for Hawks, Powell starts

The Toronto Raptors host the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on TSN 2. I’d give you some preamble and analysis, but I wrote the game preview, so I’ll just direct you there.

Let’s get on with some notes.

DeMarre Carroll in New York for check-up
Out since Jan. 3 due to a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, the marquee offseason acquisition of the Toronto Raptors is nearing a return. He’s practiced in full view of media this week and was out of sight Thursday for the best reason imaginable – according to a report from the excellent Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Carroll is in New York visiting the doctor who performed the surgery, seeking clearance for a return to full practice.

Were Carroll to get the nod, he’d probably need a week of practice before the Raptors look to get him into game action. He’s been out of action for a long time, unable to keep his cardio up for the most part, and the Raptors are entering a stretch of schedule where they won’t have a great deal of practice time. It’s also possible he could see a game with Raptors 905 as a conditioning stint, as the 905 are at home for the bulk of March (Carroll and the union would have to give permission.)

They’ll be cautious and take a long-view to make sure he’s ready to return. At that point, he’d probably be working under a minutes restriction for at least a few games. The Raptors have enough of a cushion that they can afford to bring Carroll along slowly, and the fact that he’s even nearing a return is encouraging.

The initial timeline put forth by the team (on Jan. 7) was six-to-eight weeks, though they were never locked into that formally. Some, including Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, were skeptical of that time frame. He’s already pushed past the eight-week mark, but the actual return date doesn’t matter much as long as he’s back in time to shake the rust off and rediscover some chemistry with the starting lineup. If his first game back was, say, the team’s home game on March 28, nearly three weeks away, that would give him 10 games down the stretch, less maybe the two back-to-back scenarios.

Getting others some rest?
It doesn’t seem likely that Atlanta would be the team the Raptors picked to rest players against, but head coach Dwane Casey has been consistent in his message that he wants to find guys some rest down the stretch, particularly Kyle Lowry. Basically, we can all be on the lookout for a short-notice “DNP – Rest” for Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Luis Scola, or others over the next while.

Lowry ranks fifth in the NBA in minutes even after the night off against Detroit, and he’s on pace to top his previous career-high in minutes played. DeRozan ranks ninth, though he’s fairly used to this workload over the past six seasons. Scola, nearly 36 years old, is averaging more minutes than he has since 2012-13. And Cory Joseph’s already reached a career high in total playing time.

So…nothing to report at this moment, but check back before game time in this next section.

Raptors updates
We just gave you updates! No pleasing you, ever. Carroll’s out, the Raptors recalled their three players from the D-League mere hours after assigning them, and so it’s most hands on deck Thursday, barring a late scratch.

PG: Lowry, Joseph, Delon Wright
SG: Norman Powell, T.J. Ross
SF: DeRozan, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo
PF: Scola, Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

As noted in the game preview, it’s unclear whether Johnson or Powell will draw the start, tasked with chasing Kyle Korver around. I’d go with Powell to see how he does, but the Raptors may want a sturdier player who can switch onto a big more freely if necessary. UPDATE: Powell is starting, none of the regulars are sitting out.

I also suggested Nogueira get some run since he played well against Atlanta earlier in the year and stands as a nice option against a stretchier, five-out attack, but we’ll see.

Hawks updates
With Tiago Splitter out and Lamar Patterson and Walter Tavares in the D-League, the Hawks could ill afford to go down another body. But they did, as Regional Manager Mike Scott will miss the game due to his wife going into labor. Best wishes to the Emoji family.

That leaves the Hawks looking something like this:

PG: Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroder, Kirk Hinrich
SG: Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway
SF: Korver, Thabo Sefolosha
PF: Paul Millsap, Mike Muscala
C: Al Horford, Kris Humphries

The line
The Raptors have held as four-point favorites, with the over-under bouncing back to 200.5 after dropping from 200 to 199 initially. In my pre-game, I picked against the Raptors for the first time in a while, as the Hawks come in really hot (having won five of six, with their only loss coming on the road in overtime to Golden State). I have to stick with that now. Hawks 99, Raptors 96.

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