Monroe brings veteran touch to Raptors’ bench
Third-string centre able to fill in admirably when Ibaka, Valanciunas need a rest
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.
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Greg Monroe has plenty of experience with erratic playing time bouncing between Milwaukee, Phoenix and Boston last season.