Toronto Raptors: Linas Kleiza Makes His Return

Hasib MoeenAnalyst IIJanuary 11, 2012

Toronto Raptors fans watching Wednesday's game against the Kings may have noticed a familiar face on the court that they hadn't seen in a while.

Raptors forward Linas Kleiza played his first game in a little under a year after having microfrature surgery and arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus. His performance was refreshing, as he scored 10 points in only 14 minutes and helped the exhausted Raptors stay in the game until the very end.

Last year Kleiza was solid for Toronto, averaging 11.2 points per game, but his nagging injuries limited him to only 26.5 minutes per game.

In the summer of 2010, the Raptors signed Kleiza to a four-year, $18 million contract to help take over some of the scoring load that Chris Bosh had previously carried. At that time, Kleiza was leading the Lithuanian national team during the FIBA World Championships before they eventually fell to team USA and won the bronze medal.

The Raptors have struggled to get production from the wing positions, as Demar DeRozan and Rasual Butler produced a combined average of 12 PPG the past four games.

The addition of Kleiza will give Toronto a spark on offense, while having another veteran in the lineup could also result in fewer turnovers and forced shots.

Kleiza likely won't play heavy minutes early on, but if he can still produce at last year's rate, a lot of defensive pressure will be taken off DeRozan's shoulders and Toronto will be able to stay in games much longer while playing back-to-backs.

With only three of their next 10 games at home, it's nice to see a reliable talent like Kleiza back on the court.

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