TORONTO – On the eve of his first post-season appearance with the Toronto Raptors, oft-injured DeMarre Carroll declared himself healthy and ready to the battle the Indiana Pacers. At the very least.
“I’m good. Great. If you see me in a fight with a bear, you’d better help that bear,” Carroll said, prompting loud laughter from reporters Friday.
Carroll was intended to be the Raptors’ most significant off-season signing last summer, acquired for his defensive intensity and outside shooting. But he struggled with injuries from the outset, and finally underwent knee surgery that sidelined him for a 42-game stretch. He returned on restricted minutes in the last couple of weeks of the regular season.
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“I’m just happy to be here,” Carroll said. “I love playoffs, it’s a great experience and I’m just happy to be back on the court, get out there and really try to get past this first round.”
Carroll was a key piece of the Atlanta Hawks’ team that made the Eastern Conference finals last season.
He’s expected to play a key role in this opening round series against the Indiana Pacers, particularly in defending multi-time all-star Paul George.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Carroll’s body will determine how many minutes he’ll play. As for how exactly he’ll be utilized, Casey remained mum.
“We know exactly how we are going to use him, but we will keep that in house,” the coach said.
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Carroll was asked if he knew what to expect from the noisy Air Canada Centre fans – touted as the loudest in the league – plus the thousands more who will watch Saturday’s game on the giant screen in “Jurassic Park” outside the ACC.
“I’ve seen the footage,” Carroll said. “Last year while we were getting ready to play our game, for some reason Toronto was always playing early, we were watching you all’s game, and we seen it, and it was a great scene just to have the fans come there and support you like that, give you extra and make you want to play hard.
“Toronto has some of the greatest fans in the world.”