Raptors hope Fred VanVleet returns for matchup vs. Magic


When the Orlando Magic visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday night in Tampa, Fla., they could be dealing with the return to action of Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, who had a career night against them the last time the teams met.

VanVleet scored a Raptors franchise-record 54 points while sinking 11 3-pointers in a 123-108 victory over the Magic on Feb. 2.

The guard has been out since April 5 with a left hip flexor, missing seven games.

VanVleet could return Friday, however, after serving a one-game suspension on Wednesday when the Raptors defeated the visiting San Antonio Spurs 117-112. The suspension was for him coming off the bench to participate in an altercation between the Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers on April 6.

Asked if serving the suspension meant VanVleet was ready to return, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, “I would assume so, yeah.”

When it first happened, the injury did not appear severe.

“Then they had to take a second MRI and didn’t like what they saw,” Nurse said. “I can only go with what the medical people tell me. Now they tell me he’s ready to go. So I’ll play him as soon as I can.”

The Raptors also were without Kyle Lowry (rest), DeAndre’ Bembry (hamstring) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle) against the Spurs.

The Magic are coming off a 115-106 victory over the host Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. With James Ennis scoring 22 points, the Magic snapped a six-game losing streak.

The Magic were busy at the NBA trading deadline March 25, giving the team a different look from the one that faced Toronto the last time the teams met.

They acquired Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round draft picks from Chicago for Al-Farouq Aminu and Nikola Vucevic; they acquired R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris and a first-round pick from the Denver Nuggets for Gary Clark and Aaron Gordon; and they got two second-round selections and Jeff Teague from the Boston Celtics for Evan Fournier. Teague was waived.

Vucevic scored 29 points for the Bulls on Wednesday.

“It was kind of different,” Ennis said. “We’re usually used to playing him at practice on the other side.”

Carter had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando against his former team.

“First of all our defense,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “We had 48 deflections, which just shows effort into the ball, (and) the ball pressure. And then the guys that to me stood out, James Ennis, obviously, with his defense and his shooting. Wendell had a terrific game. A lot of guys played well. Gary (Harris), MCW (Michael Carter-Williams).”

Harris and Carter-Williams each scored 15 points.

The Magic waived center Khem Birch on April 8, and he now is with the Raptors, getting 14 points and six rebounds as a starter on Wednesday.

The Raptors used Birch and another newcomer, Freddie Gillespie, at center in a victory that was needed to keep playoff hopes alive. Gillespie had nine points and eight rebounds, Pascal Siakam had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and OG Anunoby had 22 points.

“They were organized at both ends,” Nurse said. “If we didn’t have something, we’d just go right to the next thing, and (if) that wasn’t there, we’d go right to the next thing.”

–Field Level Media