Rookie centre Jonas Valanciunas suffered a whiplash-type injury in the final seconds of the Raptors’ 101-98 road win over the Bulls on Tuesday night and was sent to Chicago’s Rush Presbyterian Hospital for further precautionary testing.
That was the word from team officials after the scary play in the game’s final seconds saw Valanciunas take an accidental elbow from teammate Rudy Gay in the head/neck area following a jump ball. The rookie instantly grabbed the back of his neck and appeared to be in pain, before somehow getting up to attempt to box out Carlos Boozer on a last-second heave from Nate Robinson.
Valanciunas managed to walk to the bench under his own power after the final horn sounded, but he sat there relatively motionless for a lengthy period while team athletic trainer Scott McCullough looked him over. Valanciunas was put in a neck brace before he got up under his own power and laid down on a stretcher to be taken to hospital.
Any loss of time for the fifth overall pick from the 2011 draft will slow down some of the incredible momentum he’s built up in the second half of his rookie campaign. Valanciunas is coming off an impressive March that saw him recently earn Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honours and his play has been even bit as potent in April.
We’ll have more on the status of Valanciunas in the coming days pending test results. For now, it’s just good to see the 20-year-old still smiling after a freak play like that.