Mon­roe brings vet­eran touch to Rap­tors’ bench

Third-string cen­tre able to fill in ad­mirably when Ibaka, Valan­ci­u­nas need a rest

StarMetro Vancouver - - DAILY LIFE - Laura Arm­strong

Near­ing the four-minute mark of the sec­ond quar­ter against the Utah Jazz on Mon­day night, Nick Nurse had a feel­ing he needed a backup plan at cen­tre.

Cue Greg Mon­roe.

The mix of Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas and Serge Ibaka in that role has been a rev­e­la­tion so far this sea­son. Toronto has reaped the ben­e­fits of one of Nurse’s ma­jor moves since tak­ing over as head coach, with the two big men av­er­ag­ing 31.6 points and 14.6 re­bounds a game.

But early in Mon­day’s game, it didn’t quite look like their night — though they would even­tu­ally com­bined for 28 points and 11 re­bounds.

Valan­ci­u­nas had played hard on Sun­day night against the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, putting up 14 points and eight re­bounds in just over 17 min­utes. He worked more than 13 min­utes in the first half against the Jazz, go­ing 2-for-7 with three de­fen­sive re­bounds and a foul. Nurse saw some fa­tigue in the 26-yearold.

Ibaka still had a hot hand, but sat af­ter rack­ing up three fouls early in the sec­ond quar­ter.

So, Nurse looked down the bench to the vet­eran Mon­roe with 3 1/2 min­utes to play be­fore the break.

“That’s kind of what Greg’s there for,” Nurse said fol­low­ing the game. “He’s that third in­sur­ance pol­icy guy and that just felt like the right mo­ment, and he did a good job.”

Hav­ing an 11-year league vet­eran on the bench is a lux­ury that has been easy to over­look dur­ing the Rap­tors’ 9-1 start. Di­vid­ing the five spot be­tween Valan­ci­u­nas and Ibaka has lim­ited what was al­ready ex­pected to be min­i­mal play­ing time for Mon­roe when he signed a one-year, $2.2-mil­lion (U.S.) deal in early Au­gust. But get­ting back on the court for a sub­stan­tial shift looked like sec­ond na­ture to the sea­soned big.

Get the full story at thes­tar.com/rap­tors

STEVE RUS­SELL/TORONTO STAR

Greg Mon­roe has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with er­ratic play­ing time bounc­ing be­tween Mil­wau­kee, Phoenix and Bos­ton last sea­son.

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