In an 82-game season, there are big goals and mini goals. One of the Raptors’ goals as their 15-game winning streak began to take shape was to be in second place in the Eastern Conference by Feb. 2, and thus guarantee head coach Nick Nurse and his staff the honour of coaching Team Giannis (since Mike Budenholzer of the first-place Bucks coached the All-Star Game in 2019, he was ineligible).
“We go through all of it together. All the hard work, they put in hard work. I think it’s just important that we do that for them, too,” said Lowry before heading off to Chicago where he and Pascal Siakam will play for Team Giannis. “Not that we didn’t want to win [and] be in second place or whatever. But knowing that is an extra motivation, and something that we felt like we’ve got to go out there and do it and make sure they get an opportunity to be out there too.”
But within every team there are alliances and partnerships; micro-units that weave together to make the whole stronger. And while the entire Raptors staff gets to coach in Chicago, the honour carries a little more weight for Nurse and his right-hand man Nate Bjorkgren, a couple of Iowa-born hoops junkies who have known each other since Bjorkgren was a walk-on point guard with a full head of blonde hair and Nurse was a young assistant coach at the University of South Dakota in 1993-94.
It’s only taken 25 years, but the two Iowa boys have arrived at the centre of the basketball universe.
“I mean, I did a couple [of All-Star weekends] as a D-League coach,” said Nurse referring to years when the G League All-Star Game was an undercard to the main event. “And we got to kind of, you know, cross paths with the NBA guys when we were coming off the practice floor and they were going on. That was cool to us. Nate and I were going like, ‘Oh my God, that was LeBron James.’ And now we devise plans to beat those guys.”
47. Vince Carter, All-Star Game 2003: 25 minutes, 9 points, 2 assists, 4-9 fields made-attempted
Obviously, Carter’s line is run-of-the-mill. This gets the last spot because after weeks of peer pressure from the likes of fellow starters Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady (Et tu, Brute?) to give up his starting spot for Wizards-era Michael Jordan, playing in his last All-Star Game, Carter relented. The consensus was Carter did not deserve the starting spot because he had played only 10 games that season before the starters were announced. However, tell that to the fans, who gave Carter the third-most votes. The league bullied Carter, and he eventually gave up his spot to Jordan, and things went terribly: Jordan shot 9-for-27 from the field, his would-be game-winner was erased when a referee called a shooting foul that sent Kobe Bryant to the line at the end of regulation, and the Western Conference won in overtime. Jordan would have gotten Mariah Carey to serenade him in a Michael Jordan dress if he were a starter or a reserve. I remain convinced that the specific outcome was karmic retribution for how the league treated Carter, and how he succumbed to that treatment. (For the whole story of what seems like a nice gesture, this piece covers it.)
In the city that Drake grew up in, there’s a lot of respect around his October’s Very Own brand. It seems like any time Torontonians see the gold owl or the letters “OVO” brandished on apparel, they just have to get their hands on it. And it turns out that Raptors OVO gear like the team’s practice jerseys is so popular that when the shirts were released a couple of months ago, a waiting list of over 7,000 built up. The jerseys sold out in 10 minutes flat.
Drake’s brand’s sponsorship of the Raptors training gear was the first practice partnership of its kind in NBA history, according to Forbes.
The story reported that the waiting list for these jerseys grew to over 5,000 between their announcement in March 2019 and their release in November.
However, Charzie Abendanio, manager of corporate communications at the Raptors’ parent company MLSE, told Narcity in an email that the line for demand was actually 7,000 long.
“The practice jersey was initially announced on March 14, 2019 along with the OVO Athletic Centre but it was noted that the jersey wouldn’t be available until the off-season,” Abendanio told Narcity in an email.
And when the gear finally did go live on November 20, 2019, the sell-out time was absolutely incredible.
“We’ve only released the jersey once this past year, along with an apparel collection that included OVO/Raptors branded pants, hoodies, etc,” says Abendanio.
Two-time NBA champion and 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh did not make the finalist cut for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
Ex-players Kobe Bryant, Tamika Catchings, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett all landed on the finalist list, per an announcement from the Hall.
On the coaches’ side, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Rudy Tomjanovich moved forward.
Per the press release, a finalist will make the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, if he or she gets 18 of a possible 24 votes from the Honors Committee.
Bosh averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds over a 13-year NBA career for the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat.
The former Georgia Tech star’s best individual five-year stretch occurred from 2006-2010 with Toronto, when he averaged 22.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
After the season, Bosh joined forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to form a powerful Big Three on the Miami Heat. That group stayed together for four years, winning the Eastern Conference title each season and the NBA Finals twice.
Nav Bhatia, widely known as the Toronto Raptors‘ superfan who has attended almost all of the franchise’s home games, will become one of the first honourees into a new “Superfan Gallery” at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Toronto-area businessman and philanthropist found out about the honour ahead of the NBA’s All-Star weekend festivities.
“Can’t say this is a dream come true because this isn’t something you dream about as a fan,” Bhatia tweeted. “To be honoured into the [Hall of Fame] as the first honouree into the Superfan Gallery. What an incredible day. Don’t wake me up please. Thank you to the Hall and the Raptors organization.”
Born and raised in Delhi, India, Bhatia moved to Canada in the 1980s and attended his first Raptors game in 1995. Three years of attending games later, he was given the title of “Superfan” by former Raptors general manager and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.
This past year, following Toronto’s historic NBA Finals win, he also became the first fan in NBA history to be given a championship ring.
With all due respect to Mike Budenholzer, Erik Spoelstra, Frank Vogel and Billy Donovan, they’re all playing for second place when it comes to this season’s Coach of the Year.
The reason why? Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors should be the Coach of the Year in 2019-20, and it’s not even close.
What Nurse has done with this Raptors team is otherworldly. And while he and his coaching staff will celebrate their success so far this season by coaching Team Giannis at this weekend’s NBA All-Star 2020 in Chicago, he should also start preparing his acceptance speech for the Red Auerbach Trophy later this year.
Each of the coaches in the field that Nurse is up against can certainly make cases to win it. Budenholzer, who won it last season, has the Milwaukee Bucks playing at an even higher level than a season ago. Spoelstra, who surprisingly has never won the award, has surprised many with his young Miami Heat squad. Vogel has the Los Angeles Lakers at the top of the toughest conference while Donovan is the guiding the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been the biggest surprise in the NBA this season, to a likely playoff berth.
And yet, none of them have had to endure what Nurse has had to in just his second season as the Raptors’ bench boss.