Fred VanVleet is ready to make his return, but he’ll look a little different when he does.
The Raptors guard has been cleared for Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors but will wear a mouthpiece when he takes the court.
“I’m a gambler. I gambled and sometimes it comes back to bite you in the butt,” VanVleet said following Sunday’s practice, via The Canadian Press. “All kids out there, wear mouthpieces. It was a weird play and I took an unfortunate shot. Now I will be wearing a mouthpiece for as long as I can manage it.
“I’ll probably throw it (away) at some point, but I’m going to try.”
VanVleet was left with blood streaming down his face in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Game 4 victory after he took an inadvertent elbow from Warriors guard Shaun Livingston.
He was clearly dazed on the play and received seven stitches but did not have a concussion, adding Sunday that he hasn’t suffered any symptoms of a concussion since the hit.
He did, however, say the facial swelling is bothersome and has left his sight “a little blurry” and his eyes “watering a little at random points.” Other than that, he’s feeling fine.
“No symptoms, no concussion,” VanVleet said. “We have great doctors … they’re very annoying. They make sure we’re in the right state of mind before we go out there.
“I’m not trying to be a martyr out here. They can give my tooth back. You’re not going to get knocked around like that if you don’t stick your nose in there sometimes. It was an unfortunate play, but it happens. It’s basketball. If you haven’t got your eye cut up or got hit in the mouth a couple times playing basketball then you might be playing it the wrong way.”
VanVleet, 25, has averaged 12.8 points, three assists and 1.5 steals off the bench in the postseason. He posted a playoff career-high 21 points Friday.
Toronto, up 3-1, will have a chance to close out the series at home and stop Golden State from winning its third straight championship and fourth in five years.
Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.