Sweden’s gonna Knick.
Nurse has been using this time to take a bit of a break from basketball and focus on what’s important. He was an early proponent of the guidelines most people are now following to stop the spread of COVID-19 – things like social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Occasionally he’ll flip on the TV and watch an old game or jump on a conference call with his coaching staff to “divvy up some projects” in the interest of “staying sharp”. But, mostly, he’s been spending time with his young children, playing his beloved piano or guitar, or starting to learn Portuguese.
Like a lot of people, he’s itching to get back to work. This is the time of year he and his staff would usually be ramping up their preparation for the playoffs, which were scheduled to begin on April 18 – two weeks from Saturday.
He was also looking forward to coaching the Canadian senior men’s team in Victoria, B.C., this June, as they made a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics the following month. With the Olympics rescheduled for next summer, and the qualifying tournament likely to follow, Nurse remains “100 per cent” committed to the cause.
However, as Nurse stressed, the Raptors, the NBA, the Olympics, professional sports in general – all of those things can wait.
“I think that if they can figure out a way to play and it’s safe and we’re not putting people at risk, then I think we’ll play, if we can,” said Nurse. “But I don’t know anybody that has any feel for any of that stuff right now. I don’t know if anybody around the world’s figured out how to resume things at all and I guess we’ve just got to wait and see. But, I mean, I think that’s everybody’s hope. We all want to get back to work. Whether it’s basketball or reporting or writing or restaurant, whatever. We all want to get back to work and I think we hope and pray that when there’s a time that it’s safe for us to do so we’ll all join the world again, hopefully, in a healthy way.”
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement:
“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15. While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.”
The advertising information company released its findings showing how the virus would affect ad spend for the sports industry. The analysis found that combined, the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball would generate a roughly $1 billion for broadcasters.
And that number could significantly increase if the National Football League experiences any delays due to coronavirus. The NFL’s season isn’t scheduled to start until September.
Todd Krizelman is the co-founder and CEO of MediaRadar. He said viewership is usually at its highest during this time, with the NBA playoffs taking up the bulk of ad spend.
“There is a lot of lost revenue as a result because there is so much spend concentrated because audiences levels are expected to be much higher in the last quarter of the season,” Krizelman said.
Projecting leagues would resume in June at the earliest, MediaRadar used ad spend data from March 2019 to May 2019 to determine its recent forecast. The data revealed the partial regular season and playoffs of NBA telecasts generated more than $800 million in ad revenue during that period, while the NHL brought in more than $120 million.
The MLB generated roughly $60 million in ad revenue for its first three months of the season in 2019. Krizelman said the estimated total is a result of data showing cheaper price points for the MLB from March to May as ratings aren’t high.
To calculate its totals, MediaRadar records every minute of advertising for sports broadcast and estimates price points of ad spots.
“We literally added up what all those advertisers were doing for specifically those three sports, and basically it’s a little over a billion dollars over that short period time,” Krizelman said.
If the NFL season is delayed or canceled later this year, MediaRadar’s data shows losses of up to $6 billion from 3,000 advertisers.
MediaRadar ran data from March 2019 to December 31, 2019, and included the MLB postseason, the World Series, the NFL season and additional revenue from new NBA and NHL seasons.
The NBA is "angling" to cancel the 2019-20 season after China's CBA shutdown, per @WindhorstESPN
"There is a significant amount of pessimism right now." pic.twitter.com/memSPluBxQ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 4, 2020
The news came down that Utah’s Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 the same night that Nurse hosted a charity event. That was obviously a scary time.
“It hit really close to home because it was, really, a member of the NBA family. (And), as everybody knows, we just returned from (playing in Utah against the Jazz). So I think the … immediacy of it. And the closeness of it I think made it very serious for all of us.”
Now that this has become a new normal for now, Nurse has at least been able to spend lots of time with his two young children, work on his guitar and piano chops, try to learn a new language (Portuguese) and also to pause and reflect on how glorious last season was, really, for the first time.
“It was a pretty good, from June 13, 2019 (when the Raptors won the NBA title in Oakland) on, it was a pretty fast, fast, fast lane life for a little while,” Nurse said.
“Really moving in from one thing to the next constantly. So it has enabled me to slam on the brakes and catch my breath a little bit, which is good and I don’t feel like I really needed it. You know what I mean. But now that it’s here, when you’re looking for silver linings or positives about it, you can say it’s been OK.”
Nurse said he re-watched Game 7 against Philadelphia and Kawhi Leonard’s now classic game-winner for the first time when it re-aired last week and got a kick out of that. “I didn’t really realize that Kawhi put so much arc on that shot,” Nurse said. Nurse added that he and his staff have also been going over game footage from this season “and (that) gives you some thoughts and ideas about things that you’re doing. Doing well and not doing so well,” he said.
Does his team’s success have him wishing for at least some kind of post-season?
“This is a really good team, and it’s a really fun team to coach, and I think about it in terms of . . . it’s a shame that we don’t get to be around each other and play some games and keep this thing going a little bit,” he said. “Shoot, I could coach these guys 12 months a year, just keep on going, they’re fun to be around, and fun to coach and they compete and they’re tough, and they figure it out, and it’s a true joy, and they are missed, there’s no doubt about it.”
Nurse said his days are busy despite the league’s suspension. He has two kids at home: a baby who’ll be one in May, and a three-year-old. Spending time with them has been “really fantastic.” He’s working out more, and spending more down time playing the piano and guitar. He’s hoping to learn Portuguese (his wife is Brazilian).
He said the communication between the team has actually increased since the league was suspended through FaceTime, etc. A member of the Raptors’ medical staff checks in with each player daily. The training staff is providing workouts whether it’s on a bike or with dumbbells, through platforms like FaceTime and Zoom. They’re monitoring players’ weight, “just making sure guys are staying fit and staying healthy and all those things,” Nurse said.
A member of the coaching staff is in contact with players every couple of days to specifically talk “basketballs and ball-handling and if they’ve got a hoop in their driveway they go out and shoot or whatever, anything they can do to keep some feel for the ball, and we send some film,” Nurse said.
Nurse has watched games on replay, and said it’s given him “thoughts and ideas about things that you’re doing.”
“I haven’t dove real deep into anything yet though, to be honest,” he said. “(The staff) has been on conference calls a lot, we’re starting to divvy up some projects, just for staying sharp and professional development and things to do.
“But again, it’s so far away from like the importance and focus of what I would probably like to convey to anybody right now, to be honest.”
“There’s actually a lot more time to connect now, you know what I’m saying?” Nurse said. “I think the constant movement of a 12- or 13-member staff is hard to ever get everybody kind of in one place or everybody on a call or whatever. It seems like we’ve got a lot more communication going on now. I know it’s not face-to-face – but we try to do some conference call and WebEx and all that stuff just to see each other.”
Nurse said the Raptors’ medical team checks in remotely with every player daily to ask about any symptoms and consult about overall health. Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jonny Lee sent them all exercise equipment, from stationary bikes to dumbbells, and devised home workouts.
The coaching staff contacts players every day too, strategizing what they can do at home, from shooting on a driveway basketball hoop, to watching film. Before the hiatus, Raps coaches had begun creating robust scouting reports on all possible playoff opponents. They figured they might as well keep working on those.
“People were concerned about working out and going to the [practice facility] and all this stuff, and I was really, really strong in my messaging to everybody that we’re gonna close this and stay shut,” Nurse said.
“I was really, really strong in my messaging to everybody that we’re gonna close this and stay shut,” Nurse said. “It’s (basketball) not what we’re focusing on at all. It was just, let’s stay home, lead by example. Let’s make sure we get out and if we can provide any messages, washing hands and those kind of things, I just really wanted it to be focused on that. But, you know, as the time’s ticked by here and we’ve been able to convey a lot of those messages, I mean, yeah, we’re looking at some stuff…But, again it’s so far away from like the importance and focus of what I would probably like to convey to anybody right now, to be honest.”
Still, players are eager to do something and teams can’t forgo opportunities to get better altogether. The latter is especially true for a team like the Raptors, who would be among a handful of favourites to compete for a title if there’s ever an abbreviated postseason. There is some chance 2019-20 is over, but if it’s not, the Raptors will need to be ready to strike quickly with little ramp-up period.
From the player side, that’s meant regular check-ins with the team. A member of the Raptors’ medical staff is in remote contact with every player each day, covering things from general health to diet to how to FaceTime workouts and exercise bikes to maintain fitness. At least every second day, each player is in remote contact with an assistant coach, too, in an attempt to make sure basketball tools both mental and physical remain sharp. Even something like a basketball net set up in the driveway can go a long way for those in a living situation that affords it. Anything is better than nothing, and while there’s no substitute for game action, players can at least maintain their bodies and keep their minds occupied.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry
Lowry is a six-time All-Star and an NBA and Olympic champion who will go down as the best player in Raptors history, a stunning turn considering where his career was when he arrived in Toronto in 2012.
After Lowry, Marc Gasol has an intriguing Hall of Fame case as a Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time All-Star, part of an iconic Memphis team and a very successful player on the international scene.
First Round: Raptors over Nets (four games)
Perhaps I’d feel better about the Nets snagging a game if Kenny Atkinson were still at the helm. Brooklyn could potentially steal a game on a hot shooting night from Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert, but this isn’t a Raptors team that will enter the playoff sleepwalking. Nick Nurse will have Toronto ready to roll, denying Brooklyn of back-to-back seasons with a playoff victory.
Second Round: Celtics over Raptors (seven games)
It’s a bit of a tenuous bet to count out the Raptors, who play with an unmatched swagger and confidence after last year’s Finals run. But when push comes to shove, Boston has too many perimeter weapons compared to Toronto. Jayson Tatum has made a legitimate leap into All-NBA consideration. Jaylen Brown is playing at an All-Star level, and Kemba Walker is an overqualified complimentary piece. No disrespect to the champs, but Boston is a true threat for the Eastern Conference crown.
Following Friday’s news that Reinsdorf is beginning his search, Woj reported that the Bulls already have plans to reach out to two current general managers: Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas and Toronto’s Bobby Webster. Both Karnisovas and Webster have risen up the ranks with their respective franchises by playing a big role in shaping strong rosters. Webster’s résumé speaks for itself: He helped Masai Ujiri build the Raptors into title winners, then kept them competitive this season despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard. Webster is only 35, and the rumors of the Bulls’ interest in him quickly bring to mind the Cubs’ hiring of 37-year-old Theo Epstein in 2011. Epstein, of course, helped revive one of the most famous institutions in sports—could Webster do the same?
Karnisovas, meanwhile, doesn’t have a ring, but has the pedigree of helping construct one of the more patient and successful rebuilds in the league. The Nuggets are not just a competitive, mostly homegrown team—they also have a young core that seems ready to win for the foreseeable future, which is both a testament to the entire infrastructure and a sign of Karnisovas’s skill. Like Webster, Karnisovas could help change the culture inside the Bulls right away.
The Athletic also reported that the Bulls are going to reach out to both Indiana GM Chad Buchanan and Miami VP of basketball operations Adam Simon. There’s a thread here that should be encouraging for Bulls fans—all of these names are currently employed by franchises that have good cultures and have been on the right side of .500 lately.