Game Preview: Raptors vs. Suns

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Raptors are back in Toronto after a three-game road trip that ended in disappointing fashion with losses in Philadelphia and Charlotte. They will take on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening, at the Air Canada Centre.

Tip-off: 6:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 / TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

DeRozan appreciative of All-Star support

DeMar DeRozan was named an All-Star starter for the second consecutive season. It is the third time he has been named an All-Star and it comes in a year where he is averaging a career-high 28.1 points per game. Prior to Toronto’s game in Charlotte, he spoke about the honour, as well as the support he has received from fans, his fellow teammates, and the media who voted for him.

“It’s definitely amazing to see the votes you got,” DeRozan said. “The respect from the players as well, and the media with the new system that they use, it’s definitely a big deal and I’m definitely appreciative of it.”

When a player is named an All-Star, it is an individual accolade, but one that wouldn’t be possible without the people around him allowing him to perform his best ability each night.

“It’s everything,” DeRozan said. “I give all my credit to my coaching staff and teammates for allowing me to be in a position to get voted in. Without those guys I wouldn’t be voted in.”

DeRozan looks at his accomplishment as a reflection of the team’s solid work this season and is ready to have his backcourt mate join him in New Orleans.

“It’s great,” DeRozan said. “We’re still building and trying to bring success for all of us with me making it. Hopefully Kyle, most likely, gets in it as well.”

Raptors slowly returning to health

The road was especially cruel to Toronto on its previous three-game trip. Already without Patrick Patterson who has missed nine of the previous 11 games with a sore knee, the team lost Lucas Nogueira in Brooklyn after taking a shot to the head. Nogueira has been going through the NBA concussion protocol since Tuesday’s game.

The Raptors lost DeMarre Carroll in the third quarter against Philadelphia after Pascal Siakam accidentally kneed him in the head as Carroll fell to the floor. Carroll played against Charlotte, but Nogueira did not.

“We’ll see,” Dwane Casey said on Saturday about the availability of Nogueira and Patterson. “We’ll see. We’ll find out, not sure 100 percent, but we’ll find out tomorrow how guys feel and where their bodies are.”

Sullinger’s basketball background benefitting Raps

Jared Sullinger is slowly working his way back into game shape after spending the first half of the season rehabbing from foot surgery. After such a lengthy absence from in-game action, he knows it will take awhile to get his conditioning and rhythm back. Still, having a player with Sullinger’s basketball IQ is a huge help for Dwane Casey and his coaching staff.

Casey has praised Sullinger’s basketball mind all season. On Saturday, he discussed how Sullinger may have benefitted from growing up in a basketball home where his father, Satch, is a coach.

“They see it, they live it,” Casey said. “They sit with their dads and watch film. They hear you talk about it as fathers. I’ve had a lot of guys, Luke Ridnour was a coach’s son, a lot of guys I've had in the past [who have had fathers that] were coaches. Cory Joseph’s dad is an AAU coach so he hears it a lot and understands it a lot. There’s a lot of guys like that, it just kind of, through DNA or osmosis, it rubs off.”

Despite his timing and conditioning being off, Sullinger’s understanding of the game will make his return to the court easier.

“It helps him a lot,” Casey said. “The fact that he can read situation, conditioning wise he’s still trying to get back there, but his mind is where it should be. He’s saying the right things.”