Raptors’ VanVleet (knee) exits early; Gasol returns

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet left Sunday’s 110-104 scrimmage victory over the Trail Blazers after banging knees with Portland guard Anfernee Simons in the first quarter, but isn’t expected to miss extended time.

“He knocked knees and I don’t think it was too bad,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “But it’s just a scrimmage. There’s no sense in trying to play him through that in this deal.”

VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, was trying to get in front of Simons in transition when he and Simons banged their left knees together. VanVleet immediately grabbed at his knee, signaled to the bench for a sub and got up and jogged off the court.

The Raptors ruled him out for the remainder of the game shortly thereafter, but VanVleet soon returned to the bench, and he remained there for the rest of the game cheering on his teammates. Still, for a title-contending team like Toronto, the last thing Nurse wanted to see was his starting guard hobbling off the court.

“There’s always a little immediate concern whenever anybody goes down,” Nurse said. “It’s such a funny feeling. … You don’t want to lose anybody in a scrimmage, right?

“He can play through a lot of pain, no doubt about it. But there’s no sense in going through that now.”

VanVleet’s quick exit put a damper on the return of Marc Gasol, who played in his first game in Orlando, Florida, and just his second game since Jan. 28. Gasol, who dealt with multiple bouts of hamstring issues throughout the season, dropped a significant amount of weight during the season’s hiatus, and the Raptors have openly talked about how excited they were to get him back on the court.

The feeling was mutual, as Gasol admitted that, despite being in the NBA for more than a decade and Sunday’s game not counting for anything, he spent the day excited to get back out on the court.

“Really good,” Gasol said of how he felt about getting to play again. “Really exciting. I know it might have been a scrimmage, but I was geeked up the whole day.

“Excited about it, and happy to help the team.”

Gasol, who only played in the first half as part of a predetermined plan to ease him back into things in Orlando, had three points and four rebounds in just under 10 minutes.

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