We hear from Sonny Weems.
With the return to play still completely up in the air as COVID-19 remains an ongoing concern throughout North America, the Raptors fifth-year shooting guard has been taking the time away from basketball to spark his own imagination.
He’s taking an online sign language class, picking up a long-time interest he developed through his mother, a special needs educator and a subject he studied at UCLA.
“I always found it a beautiful language to learn and be a part of and I love that community,” he said on a conference call Wednesday. “It was just a little side hobby and interest of mine since I was a kid.”
He’s also found time to brush up on his Spanish – another project he’s been wanting to tackle but which has fallen by the wayside during the constant bustle of an NBA career.
“Just trying to keep myself busy and focus and locked in somehow,” he says.
But even though the return to play is still undetermined – NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he won’t even be in a position to give any guidance on the issue until May 1 – basketball hasn’t been too far from Powell’s mind.
He’s been watching up to two hours of film daily while working with Raptors assistant coaches Patrick Mutombo and Adrian Griffin, looking to improve elements of his game even though he was in the midst of a breakout season that saw him emerge as one of the most efficient wing scorers in the league.
He feels there is still more to give.
“I think something I can improve is off-ball defence,” said Powell. “I can get a little bit too attached to my man and be too late on rotations and things like that. So I’ve been watching that and seeing where I can improve. And then my attacking downhill and reads, I think I’ve done a lot better with that, but there are still some times when I misread what’s happening or I get a little too aggressive and miss the open guy, or I’m anticipating what I’m trying to do with the ball in pick and rolls and things like that. So I’ve been breaking down a lot of film and watching areas where I can improve from that aspect because I can’t get on the court with the team.”
On Feb. 29, USA recorded its first coronavirus death, a patient near Seattle. Weems felt the need to stay home even more, but the CBA complicated matters by requiring that all players return for a possible resumption of the season. It didn’t sit well with the Southern Tigers star.
“It took people a while to convince me to come back,” Weems said. “They were talking about the rumours that guys would get banned if they didn’t get back, (the teams) scared a lot of guys with that so I got back.”
Weems packed his bags and said goodbye. He boarded a Japanese airliner, and things went to yet another extreme when taking the flight from Tokyo to Guangzhou. After nearly 10 hours in the aircraft, Weems was uncertain about the future but hopeful to play basketball again. He could see the passenger boarding bridge connect to his flight, but a moment that’s usually filled with relief for passengers instantly became a nightmare. A man and a woman showed up to the front of the plane, dressed in biohazard suits. Two passengers seated just a couple rows behind Weems had tested positive for COVID-19.
“That really spooked me right there,” Weems said. “I was already spooked about coming back here in the first place and then when I found out about those guys I was shook.”
Weems was required to test for the coronavirus and the results were negative. Still, he wasn’t mentally prepared for a 14-day quarantine but he had no choice at this point. Bunkered down in his hotel room, he made the best of it. Having been forced back to the city without having seen his six-year old daughter Sienna, who lives in Mississauga, Ont., with her mother, he made plenty of time for FaceTime calls to parent her as best he could.
“She’s getting real restless right now,” Weems said. “It’s kind of hard to tell a six-year-old to go to sleep, what is she waking up for? School’s not in so it’s kinda hard. She’s not sleeping, she calls me because she knows I’ve got all kinds of time … that’s what parenting is like now. I love it, get a little time to talk to her. I think it’s our job to keep her mind off things, get her a couple board games.”
The concept is simple: Lanez sits on his couch with a blunt and a hand mic, durag untied, and hams it up for several hours while playing some playlist favorites and inviting guests “onstage” to wild out. He’s a great showman: Behind maybe last Saturday’s DJ Premier–RZA beat battle, it’s been some of the best content on offer since IG Live became the new radio a little over a month ago. It began with Lanez watching DJ D-Nice’s much ballyhooed Club Quarantine and figuring it might be fun to have sound clashes with his friends. It’s a much better medium for him to express horniness on main, as well as his affinity for great pop songs: His first set consisted mainly of old stuff “from the ’90s, like ’NSYNC and Britney Spears.” Then Bryson Tiller joined the livestream. And then Justin Bieber. And from there it continued to snowball—there have been as many as 310,000 viewers at a time (when Drake was on).
You’ll have seen Quarantine Radio pop up in relation to the term “demon time,” which is more a declarative statement than a temporal period. “Demon time” means it’s time to “put a demon on,” meaning it’s time for the host to cede some ground to a guest with strong knees and loose inhibitions. I say all that so you can understand this sentence: “Demon time” happened so frequently on Quarantine Radio that Instagram shut it down for a while.
It’s already back, and at the time of writing, Tory Lanez is offering cash prizes for answers to trivia questions about this newest project, The New Toronto 3. At 16 tracks it’s long, but it practically flies by compared to 2016’s I Told You, which had 28, including countless skits. New Toronto is allegedly his last album with Interscope. “I’m going to go completely independent,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m not in it to play games. I’ve been in it for 10 years, and I’m still relevant.” Duly, there’s a lot of paranoid rapping about the loneliness of success and the unbearable weight of all the money he’s making, but “10 F*CKS” is New Toronto’s only true standout moment. Speaking to DJ Ebro on Beats 1, he said that the world hasn’t even experienced his best music, that he kept some “golden songs” from the label.
5. Raptors – Can the franchise sustain playoff success? Masai Ujiri’s swindle from San Antonio gave the Raptors the 2019 title, but it was his terrific team-building that paved the way for a bright future post-Kawhi. Can the Raptors keep the good times rolling into the next decade? Ujiri’s work isn’t done. Kyle Lowry is an expiring contract again in 2020-21. Marc Gasol may not return next season. Toronto has appealing pieces in the pipeline, who will be increasingly tested in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Yahoo Sports Canada’s William Lou discusses Norman Powell’s growth during the 2019-20 season and how he’s developing his game by watching film during the layoff from play.
It’s this same growth and impact that gave VanVleet a strong case for All-Star consideration by the midway point of the season, and the proof is in the numbers.
There’s really only been one number that’s worked against VanVleet: 16. That, of course, is the number of games he’s missed due to various ailments prior to the season’s suspension on March 11. Such is the theme for this season’s Raptors team, a group that has barely had any time at full strength this season but still finds ways to win.
They just win more with VanVleet in the lineup.
This season, Toronto is 35-13 (.729) when VanVleet suits up and an even more impressive 30-9 (.769) when both he and Pascal Siakam are in the lineup. The two players that came in together in 2016 now represent the future of a franchise that continues to head in the right direction, even when it would seem logical to count them out.
As a team, the Raptors’ confidence never wavers, they just bet on themselves.
Say what you want about this increase in production coming in a contract year for VanVleet, but there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be able to keep this up beyond this year as his game continues to evolve. He deserves everything that’s coming his way.
Powell is now back home in Las Vegas, where the Raptors had a hoop for his driveway plus some basketballs and weight lifting equipment delivered.
“The team did a good job of being able to send out a hoop for us to be able to get the feel of a basketball,” he said. “Basketballs to go out and get shots up in my driveway [so] I have a court a home.
“They’ve done a great job of making sure we’ve been fully equipped to be able to do at-home workouts.”
Would someone driving by be able to see him shooting in his driveway?
“Well, you’d need to get through the gate code first,” Powell laughed. “But, yeah, you’d see me driving by shooting… working on my game.”
When the season shut down, Powell was having the most consistent season of his career despite a couple of injuries, averaging 16.7 points on 50 per cent shooting through 44 games.
He’s hoping his impressive rate of improvement will continue when the time comes to step back on the court, and so is spending a couple of hours a day studying film.
“I’ve done a great job with the down time, being in quarantine and talking to the coaches, [Patrick] Mutombo and coach [Adrian] Griffin. They’ve been sending me film to look at and breakdown and see where I can improve,” he said. “Something I can improve is off-ball defence. I can get a little bit too attached to my man and be too late on rotations.
“And then my attacking downhill and reads, I think I’ve done a lot better what that, but there are still sometimes when I misread what’s happening or I get a little too aggressive and miss the open guy, or I’m anticipating what I’m trying to do with the ball in pick and rolls and things like that.”
Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph is donating face shields to front-line medical workers in the Toronto area.
Joseph, from Pickering, Ont., announced Wednesday he is making the donation through Operation Canadian Shield. The initiative was started by Flash Reproductions, a printing business in Toronto currently making plastic face shields for health-care professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joseph and his family teamed up with Kings chief of staff and assistant coach Roy Rana, who is from Toronto, as well as Frontier, the Sunnybrook Foundation and the University Health Network to co-ordinate the effort.
“It is heartbreaking to witness the effects of this pandemic around the world, so I wanted to do my part to help where I grew up,” Joseph said in a statement. “The courageous work of the hospital community is admirable, and it is important to help protect them. I look forward to providing support in Toronto along with upcoming community efforts throughout Canada and Sacramento as we fight this virus together.”
Joseph spent two seasons playing with the Raptors (2015-17) and has represented Canada internationally on numerous occasions.
Powell (ankle) noted his ankle is “fine” and he would have played Saturday, Mar. 14 if that game had happened, Eric Koreen of The Athletic reports.
Powell sustained an ankle injury prior to the shutdown of the season, but it was apparently minor. He also said that the Raptors sent him a hoop for practice, and the strength team sent him dumbbells and a workout plan as well.
Toronto’s Wish List
Atlanta Hawks: Vince Carter, SF
Best: Yes, this is the aforementioned exception. A Vince Carter signing, even if simply ceremonial so he could retire a Raptor, would complete the redemption narrative arc that he has underwent with Toronto.
Worst: Masai Ujiri doesn’t much go for sentimental.
Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, SF
Best: There was a lot to choose from in Boston — I’m convinced you could redraft the rosters of Boston, Miami and Toronto and the teams would maintain their identity. Tatum is simply the best of a crop of talented, tough, and versatile Celtics.
Worst: Trying to argue that Siakam is better than him this season has created animosity towards Tatum amongst Raptors fans.
Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant, SF
Worst: He might demand bringing Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan with him. The Raptors would run the other way from both.