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During the three weeks that Patrick Patterson was sidelined with a right elbow injury, he got to know Air Canada Centre quite well.
Desperate to get back onto the floor with his teammates, Patterson’s rehabilitation process went around the clock. Whether his teammates were traveling to road games or suiting up in front of the home crowd, Patterson spent the majority of his days in the training room receiving treatment on his arm.
Learning plenty about the history of the team during conversations in the therapy room, as well as spending lots of time staring at the four walls around him, the arena became Patterson’s home away from home. To get back to playing form after being diagnosed with a right ulnar collateral sprain in his elbow, there was plenty of work to be done.
On the days when the Raptors were home, Patterson arrived at the arena roughly two hours before his teammates. He remained in the back.
“[I did] a bunch of ice and electrical stimulation, some rubber band stuff,” Patterson said the day before returning to the court. “[It was] an ongoing process. I tried to get as much done as I could to get back as fast as possible. That’s why I wasn’t on the bench during the course of games. I was back getting treatment.”
Since being traded to Toronto in the December trade that sent Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to Sacramento in exchange for Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Chuck Hayes, Patterson has fit in seamlessly with the Raptors. Sliding into the sixth man role after he went out with the injury, the bench had trouble trying to find a rhythm without him.
“It’s been extremely tough process, a painful process as far as not being able to be out there with my teammates,” Patterson said. “Being able to contribute, being part of these wins that they’ve been putting up and also some close games that I thought I could have had some sort of impact to help out, it’s been tough from that viewpoint.”
Studying From The Sidelines
While the time off was excruciating for Patterson, he watched each of Toronto’s games closely to try to take advantage of the different perspective that comes from observing from the sideline. Patterson did his best to make the most of the extra hours with the team’s support staff.
He studied his teammates, looking for strengths and weaknesses he hadn’t previously picked up on. Patterson made it a goal to become familiar with the tendencies of each Raptor so he could figure out how to better assist the team when he returned to the lineup.
“[I picked up] areas of the game I feel I can improve on,” Patterson said. “Being more interactive with my teammates on the floor. Being more vocal. Being a better screener and passer. Providing more opportunities for my teammates while being more involved in plays, learning certain plays my teammates like, knowing certain movements, certain cuts they do every game.”
Now that Patterson is back, his personal challenge of getting used to the black brace he has to wear on his shooting arm remains. Weighing only a couple of ounces, it’s still an adjustment. Whenever Patterson releases a shot, the brace is not only added weight, but visible within his peripheral vision.
Patterson said the brace will stay for the rest of the regular season and likely through the entirely of the postseason. Coming from Sacramento where the Kings will not make the playoffs, Patterson is beyond grateful for this opportunity with a group of players who have meshed together almost instantly after the trade.
With respect flowing through the locker room and spilling over onto the court, the Raptors have built the type of chemistry that can occur only when every player is on the same page.
“We’re all for the team,” Patterson said. “We all buy into what the coaching staff tells us. Everyone understands their roles. No one wants to step outside their roles and their jobs. We’re all comfortable in our own skin and what’s going on here. We’re focusing on the bigger picture.
“Not a lot of guys on this team have been to the playoffs. Those guys who have been to the playoffs have talked to us and told us what it’s like and I think that’s motivation for the rest of us to continue doing what we have been doing.”
Allowing himself to think ahead to experiencing the postseason in a city he is still getting familiar with, Patterson reflected on his first impression of Toronto after arriving post-trade.
“Canada, I figured, of course it’s hockey,” Patterson said. “I never would have imagined that the fans would pretty much sell out every game we play here. The first game I came here, I was shocked. It was packed and we were playing Philadelphia and fans were passionate through and through. They knew about basketball and they cared about the Raptors. They actually know the game of basketball. I was happy. I was stoked and excited.”
After seeing what Patterson can do for this Raptors team, and seeing how much they missed him while he was sidelined, Toronto faithful are excited to have him back on the court. Patterson has been touched by the reaction he has received through his rehabilitation process.
“Probably the most surprising thing I’ve seen here since I’ve been here, [is] the fan support,” Patterson said. “Throughout the course of this season the fan support has been so great,” Patterson said. “Everything has just been good.”