Raptors’ Khem Birch relieved he was vaccinated before contracting COVID-19

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It was not the start of an important season that Khem Birch was hoping for.

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The Montreal bigs arrived in Toronto on September 18, after signing a three-year contract with the Raptors for $20 million in the off-season, the closest he came to some safety in a five-year career, mostly spent on the league. Were. edge.

The Raptors impressed after a promising 19-game audition at the end of last season, after being bought by the Orlando Magic.

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Birch – who turns 29 next week – showed some shooting range and some play experience, which had previously been his calling card, while continuing his versatile and athletic approach on defense.

Given that the Raptors were very low on center last season and little to backfill last summer, it looks like there’s a huge opportunity for Burch to establish himself as a first-time NBA starter.

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But about a week after arriving in Toronto and engaging in an informal workout with the team at the OVO Athletic Center, Birch, his wife and their young daughter tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’re all 100% fully vaccinated, so thank God,” said Birch, who was cleared to return from quarantine on Sunday and will begin pre-season on Monday night, because The Raptors hosted the Houston Rockets in their fourth of five. – Season Games. If we hadn’t (vaccinated), maybe it would have been worse. So, like you said, it was really nice to have my whole family with me during that process. “

Birch said he lost his sense of smell and was tired after the diagnosis; His wife lost both smell and taste but their daughter was asymptomatic.

Now his attention turns to trying to set himself in the rotation.

“I think I can be the kind of person who shows by example. Helping my teammates, showing off the little things on the court,” Birch said. “Just to get everyone involved and playing winning basketball A lot of young people come in thinking they have to get the stats and all. I just want to show them how to play winning basketball and get everyone involved.”

The precious Achiuwa—received from the Miami Heat during the off-season—begins at the center for all of the Raptors’ pre-season games so far.

Birch is hoping he can get up to speed quickly.

“I can probably feel better tonight or after tomorrow’s game,” he said. “I usually get in shape quickly. Luckily… we have a whole week of practice before our first game. Right now I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can, worrying about box scores. Don’t, just worry about getting the W. …. I don’t think I’m about to start [tonight]I think we will take things slowly. It doesn’t matter whether I come off the bench or start, it doesn’t matter. As long as we win, I don’t care.”

The Raptors are still without Chris Boucher, Pascal Siakam due to a toe as he recovers from shoulder surgery and Yuta Watanabe due to a calf strain.

They finish their exhibition slate Tuesday night in Washington and open the regular season against the Wizards on October 20 at Scotiabank Arena.

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