Raptors' Christian Koloko gets positive update in battle with respiratory illness

Koloko is slowly working his way back.
Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors have been unable to measure just how much big man Christian Koloko has grown in the last few months, as we haven't seen the gargantuan Arizona alum and former second-round pick suit up for the Raptors in eight months due to his health.

A vague respiratory illness has kept Koloko out for all of Summer League play and the first quarter of the 2023-24 season. Due to his absence, the Raptors have had to forge on without a genuine backup center, again using players like Precious Achiuwa in out-of-position roles.

Koloko coming back would help the Raptors maintain some of their defensive integrity while also seeing if the offensive issues that made rotation time hard to come by in the middle of last year have ironed themselves out. While he's certainly not close to playing NBA minutes, it looks like Koloko is taking steps forward.

Koloko, as confirmed by Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated, is doing more on-court work and shooting lately. Darko Rajakovic said there is no change to his status so far, but the fact he's taken a step like this in his recovery is quite enticing.

Christian Koloko close to returning for Toronto Raptors.

Koloko averaged 3.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game as a rookie. Those numbers may not sound too earth-shattering, but he did come into plenty of games as a late substitution when the outcome had already been decided and he barely played at all.

Koloko started 19 games last year before the Jakob Poeltl trade, a sign of both their poor depth and the trust Nick Nurse had in him. The defensive potential was real, as he was blocking shots and making life tough on any Raptors opponents who sauntered into the paint expecting a quick bucket.

It remains to be seen if Koloko would earn a rotation spot upon his reactivation, as he is yet another non-shooter. However, if he can become a worthwhile offensive finisher outside of dunking and his shot-blocking remains elite, it will be hard for Rajakovic to turn him down.

Koloko was dealt a very rough hand by the basketball deities, as he has already missed a huge chunk of a season that was supposed to be a breakout campaign. In a year that hasn't given fans a ton to smile about, Koloko roaring back to full strength would be a much-needed boost of positivity and hope.