Slowly over the past few months, Mickael Pietrus believes a perception has begun to spread across the NBA about his health and capabilities to still be a rotation player. The Toronto Raptors’ management was ecstatic about the signing of Pietrus in late November and his freshness for the season, but tendinitis in his left knee spiraled toward 34 straight games benched.
Pietrus had moments when he was ambiguous about his left knee with the Raptors, and he was mostly battling himself on how severe it could be after having surgery on the right knee. And ultimately, it turned out to be just tendinitis. Pietrus played his first game Wednesday since Jan. 9 despite being fully healthy for a while now, and he’s adamant both his knees are strong and should help him last four to five more seasons in the NBA.
“My body has stayed healthy so whenever the Raptors call my name, I’ll be ready to go,” Pietrus told RealGM in a recent phone conversation. “I have many years left playing in the NBA and I want to get better every day. I think 10 years went too quick. … I haven’t won a championship yet. I want to win two, three [championships] before I retire because I think I had a great run throughout those 10 years and my body is healthy now.
“I’m feeling really healthy. The doctors really took care of me and my knees, so I’m feeling better than ever.”
Even so, the Raptors’ wing depth has made Pietrus the odd man out of Dwane Casey’s rotation. Pietrus has had extensive dialogue with Casey, leaving the conversations understanding that Casey will aim to play Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas more minutes and establish chemistry between Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan as the end of the season nears.
When he signed with the Raptors, Pietrus was confident he’d play a key role in helping Toronto reach the playoffs. The Raptors have spent most of March far behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, though. Pietrus, 31, didn’t want a buyout due to falling out of Casey’s rotation, but he’s been benched more than ever and had expected a playoff push at some point after playing as a contributing reserve for the Boston Celtics’ long postseason run a year ago.
“I think we're trying to do something bigger than everybody in this locker room and bigger than myself: We were trying to make the playoffs, trying to make a push,” Pietrus said. “We have a great group of guys and I thought that we really had a chance to make the playoffs this year.”
As much as Pietrus acknowledges the transition phase that the Raptors are undergoing, he still hopes that the team trusts his ability to produce on the court when needed. In his mind, a strong push to close out the season will help players enter the offseason with a more positive outlook.
“I want to be part of it and it’s very important to finish off the year strong, especially with me having so much experience in the league,” Pietrus said. “At the end of the day, going into the [offseason] you want to have a great taste in your mouth. But my body is healthy.
“I’m really happy going to the summertime with no injury and feeling good about myself.”