Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Wed, Apr 1

What’s Norman Powell’s favorite toenail?

Basketball notes: Chinese league has a setback | Toronto Sun

From the department of bad sporting news, we bring you Tuesday’s update from China:

The Chinese Basketball Association will not be re-starting soon, as had been hoped, after all, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

The CBA has been shuttered since January because of the coronavirus outbreak, but had been moving toward splitting its 20 teams between two cities where games would be played in empty arenas within a month, per ESPN. If that had occurred, it would have given other leagues — such as the NBA — an idea of how their own re-starts theoretically could work.

Instead, the waiting game is back on, though the report had teams telling their players — many of whom are from North America — that they still intend to resume the season this year. Some players had returned to China and were in the midst of 14-day quarantines, thinking the season was about to pick back up. Practices were happening, though that might be halted again.

“It’s looking toward the end of April, for sure in May, based upon what I’ve heard,” Stephon Marbury, an NBA star turned Chinese hoops legend, told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Monday. “Because of the severity of it, they don’t want a resurgence of the virus to come back. So they’re taking all precautions, making sure everyone gets tested. I’ve already been tested twice.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson talks Raptors 30-point comeback, favourite thing about Toronto in Q&A | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

The 30-point comeback

“It felt amazing, electrifying, awesome. I loved being a part of that 30-point comeback. To see Kyle [Lowry], the way he handled it and played his game, I loved it. Terence [Davis], Chris [Boucher] … you know, it was a joint effort. It was awesome. Shoutout to Malcolm [Miller], shoutout to everyone that was a part of it that was in the game, shoutout to the people on the bench that was cheering, shoutout to the fans. Love you, appreciate you, God bless.”

Which Raptor has the best kicks and style

“I’ve got to give that to Freddie, man. Kick game is definitely nice with AND1. Shoutout to Freddie.

“And then style … you know I’m going to give it to myself, but someone I like to give a shoutout to is Serge Ibaka. He loves his art.”

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1244717594264907787

Kawhi Leonard’s shot and the longest four seconds of my career – Sportsnet.ca

But back to “The Shot.” Since I was jumping in live to the post-game show with Brad Fay and Alvin Williams, I was watching from our broadcast position in section 105, which is kitty-corner to the Raptors bench — an excellent vantage point, it turned out.

I’m sitting there with my laptop open waiting for the unknowable to happen so I can jot the first thing that pops to mind, pray it makes sense, send to the folks at Sportsnet.ca and then close my laptop, pivot around to get on camera and try to make sense of it all on live television.

So, from a purely professional point of view, when Leonard’s shot — which was about 13/10 on the difficulty scale as he pushed hard right at full speed with Ben Simmons and then Joel Embiid in pursuit — hit the rim, I almost relaxed.

He missed. We’re going to overtime, and I have more time so sort out the mess I’d been typing into my computer.

Then it bounced again.

At this point, I was confused. I’d seen light around the backboard come on to signal the end of the game. The horn had sounded. The ball hadn’t gone in… what was going on?

Then it bounced again.

Damn. This ball might drop. This could get hairy.

I’ll always remember the silence in that moment. The entire fourth quarter had been a prizefight with the Raptors and Sixers trading body blows. Leonard had been great — on a rough, rough shooting night (10-of-30), he ended with a flourish, dropping 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in his 10 minutes in the fourth. The crowd at Scotiabank Arena was locked in for every possession. It reminded me of watching Celtics-Lakers when I was a kid when the energy poured through the (crappy) TV.

FIFA Plans Huge Emergency Fund to Support Ailing Soccer Industry – The New York Times

Faced with mounting concerns and daily updates about the crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic on the global soccer industry, FIFA is drawing up plans for an emergency relief fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The fund, should global soccer leaders sign off on it, would amount to the biggest response from any major sports governing body to the financial impact of the pandemic.

As in other parts of the global economy, movement restrictions to reduce the spread of the disease have halted the cash flow in a business in which long-term financial planning is typically treated as a luxury, with gate receipts and broadcast and sponsorship income largely committed to players’ salaries and transfer market trading.

That has led several federations, clubs and leagues to declare themselves to be in a state of financial distress. This week, MSK Zilina, a seven-time Slovak champion, declared bankruptcy, and Uruguay’s federation laid off 400 staff members because all soccer activities had been suspended.

Even the biggest teams have not been immune to the first shutdown of its kind since World War II. Barcelona and Juventus announced pay reductions for their multimillionaire playing roster, and others have followed suit.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday after publication of this article. “Therefore, we confirm FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

The scale of the crisis was brought into focus in a letter sent to the members of the European Club Association, an umbrella body for more than 200 top division clubs in Europe, by the organization’s chairman, Andrea Agnelli.

NBA, players discuss withholding pay if regular-season games canceled

The collective bargaining agreement maintains that players lose approximately 1% of salary per canceled game, based on a force majeure provision, which covers several catastrophic circumstances, including epidemics and pandemics.

Once there is a cancellation of games, the force majeure is automatically triggered under the language of the CBA.

Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and a group of league and union lawyers have been discussing a number of ways to prepare financially for how the likely canceling of scheduled games will impact some percentage of lost salary for players, sources said.

If there is no forthcoming NBA and NBPA agreement on beginning to withhold a percentage of players’ salaries with the April 15 paychecks, players would continue to be paid in full on a normal timetable. Under the guidelines in the CBA, players would be required to pay back the salary later, based on a formula of canceled games for a player’s individual team and salary.

The NBA has no plans to announce the cancellation of games in the immediate future, sources said. The league’s plan is to continue working on a number of contingencies for return from a hiatus that started March 11, based on how many days the league has to work with to salvage a season, sources said.

The NBA has committed to paying full salaries on April 1, but the league and union are discussing options for an orderly redistribution of money based on the number of regular-season games that could be lost in the 2019-20 season.

The force majeure becomes one more mechanism for the NBA to make the financial formula work on delivering the players to the agreed-upon 51% share of the revenues with owners.

Already, 10% of players’ salaries is held in escrow by the league. The significant decline in Basketball Related Income (BRI) would result in the projected $380 million of escrow returning to the 30 NBA teams after the season. The amount of projected revenue loss without the application of the force majeure would exceed the current amount of escrow available to teams. As a result, the NBA would need other means to offset the loss. In the case of salaries decreasing (as a result of games missed) to a point that there is a shortage in the escrow system, the 10% currently withheld would likely be returned to the players.

NBA Mock Draft: Projecting top prospects after March Madness cancellation – Sports Illustrated

Raptors – Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State

Height: 6’8” | Weight: 245 | Age: 21 | Junior

Tillman has a pretty clear path to being a useful role player and consistently made a winning impact on good teams at Michigan State, bringing toughness to the table defensively and also boasting a surprising level of versatility on the other end. He’s a useful shot-blocker, effective finisher, and also one of the better playmaking bigs in this class, with the knocks here being lack of elite athleticism, passable but average jump shooting, and some lack of upside due to his age and the fact he’s close to maxed out physically. Tillman is the type of no-frills, versatile guy the Raptors tend to like, and has the maturity to step into some minutes early on for a winning team.

What is the most important ability for each core member of the Toronto Raptors? – Raptors HQ

Norman Powell – Speed
With some of these picks I had to really think and perhaps even get a little bit creative in trying to define the best ability of some of Powell’s teammates. With Norm, however, it was actually quite simple: it’s all in his breakaway speed.

I still remember the first time I noticed that speed in a rookie Norman Powell. It was a regular season game against the Milwaukee Bucks, fittingly, and Powell was far from receiving consistent playing time. He recovered a loose ball and had a semi-transition opportunity. There were two Bucks in front of him with the angle to cut him off and force him to pull it out. Or so they thought.

Powell put his head down, took a few hard strides, and was at the rim dunking with both defenders on his heels. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the clip, but I won’t forget that play by Powell anytime soon. It is not the only time that Powell has used that speed to harm the Bucks, though.

For three key Raptors, the pandemic will test the notion that NBA stars always get paid what they’re worth | The Star

The immediate future of the NBA — when the suspended season might resume, and what it would look like if it does — is foremost in the minds of players, coaches, officials and fans.

That’s entirely normal and justifiable, especially in Toronto because there were, and are, realistic expectations that the Raptors can make a legitimate run at a second championship if only they get the chance.

But for three prominent members of this iteration of the team and a couple of fringe players, future implications have to factor into the current concern. Central to it is the one thing that drives the league more than anything else.

Money.

For key pending free agents Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, and less-heralded players such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher, a resumption of play will only lead to an off-season of uncertainty because the financial landscape will most certainly have changed.

How they deal with it — and how it is dealt with by their bosses here, and other executives around the league — could resonate for years to come.

There is one NBA truism, however, that should give the key Raptors some sense of security. It’s that NBA teams always seem to find ways to ensure that the players they want to keep, or players they feel they must acquire, wind up well paid.

Said one NBA insider, granted anonymity because the players in question are currently under contract to the Raptors: “Teams will always find the money” for substantial, top-of-the-rotation players like VanVleet, Ibaka and Gasol.

How are the Raptors staying in shape during quarantine? We asked their trainer

As soon as we got the news that some players had to self-isolate, we worked on getting as much exercise equipment to the players as quickly as possible. A few of us were cleared by the health department to make deliveries. We got stationary bikes, dumbbells, benches and resistance bands out to the players, all while social distancing. We just dropped everything off at the door. You never know when we’ll start playing again. My aim is to keep the players physically and mentally fit so they’re ready to go on short notice.

I put together an ISO (isometric) challenge that uses bodyweight for resistance. It can be done in a space the size of the exercise mat. All you need are running shoes, a stopwatch and 24 minutes. To ramp up the intensity, the players can add weights, resistance bands or even household items. For a makeshift bodyweight, load up a backpack with books or cans of soup.

The routine consists of three rounds. The basic formula is a two-minute warm-up, two-minute upper body exercise, two-minute lower-body exercise, and two-minute full-body exercise, with 30 seconds of rest between moves and one minute of rest between rounds. But the timing is completely customizable to your fitness level. The two-minute intervals are designed for the Raptors, so it’s quite challenging. Everyday people can start with one minute of movement and 30 seconds of rest—or vice versa.

Toronto’s large events ban doesn’t include Jays, Leafs, Raptors, TFC | CBC Sports

The Canadian Open, first played in 1904 and only not held during the two world wars, is the third oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA Tour. It has been played at several courses across the country.

This year’s edition is slated to be the 111th playing of the event.

“Together with the PGA Tour, we are assessing this recent development (of the Toronto event ban) along with other challenges posed by COVID-19 to determine the best course of action for the Canadian Open,” RBC and Golf Canada said in a statement.

Because the Toronto event ban announced Tuesday does not include pro sports, the Maple Leafs and Raptors still could hypothetically play games at Scotiabank Arena, the Blue Jays could play at the Rogers Centre and Toronto FC and the Argonauts could play at BMO Field.

However, almost all major sports leagues and events around the world have been suspended, cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis.

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