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“Orlando makes perfect sense because of Disney,” said Dudley. Disney owns ABC and ESPN, both broadcast partners with the NBA.
NBC LA reached out to sources with knowledge of the discussions, and they confirmed that Disney World is the frontrunner and that a deal is “close, if not imminent.” During the conference call with Dudley, he said that players would need at least six weeks of training and practicing to ramp up before the season resumes, and mentioned a start date of mid-June for training camp 2.0 to begin, and mid-July for the season to resume. Multiple sources confirmed both of those dates and scenarios as well.
Dudley said that he’s 90 percent confident that the NBA season will resume, and stated that the only reason he’s not 100 percent is because the coronavirus itself could change any current plans and scenarios rather quickly.
Dudley also cleared up a misconception that has been rumored when it comes to the one-site “bubble” scenario. Regardless of which site hosts the NBA, the original assumption would be that players would have to leave their families and quarantine at one location for multiple months in order to be able to resume play.
Dudley said that’s not true. Not only did he say players would be allowed to bring their families to Disney World in Orlando, he added that players would be able to come and go as they please.
“You will be allowed to leave,” he said. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with coronavirus, you can’t play.”
Dudley agreed that there would be added pressure to not leave and return with the virus, thereby letting down teammates and the organization. Dudley even joked that, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the teams two superstars would be “wrapped in bubble wrap.”
Our experts picked every Eastern Conference team's #AllTimeFive.
— ESPN (@espn) May 20, 2020
Robin Lundberg: The NBA seems poised for a return with Orlando and DisneyWorld being the likely destination site. For more, I’m joined by our senior writer, Chris Mannix. Chris, first of all, is it almost inevitable now that the NBA season will resume?
Chris Mannix: Yeah, I think they’ve crossed a number of different hurdles and now it’s just working out the logistics for an eventual return. Some of the teams that I’ve been talking to, it seems like there’s a timeline that started to develop here. Where June 15th to get all players back into facilities, end of June – you get training camp started, and mid-July, you restart some form of season. Now, it remains unclear if that season is going to include just playoff teams or the more likely scenario: every team in the league playing some number of games to wrap it up. But it does seem like we are we are just maybe at the five-yard line toward starting a new season.
“I think it will literally be one or two sites,” Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry said Thursday on CNBC. “I think just to make it easier for everybody, it will probably be two sites.
“Maybe have the West on the Vegas side, and the East on the Orlando side.”
He’s referring to the Western and Eastern conferences. Lasry, who is also chairman and CEO of Avenue Capital, said the league is getting closer to resuming play. He expects the league owners to discuss the resumption during their May 29 Board of Governors meeting. The league office is expected to issue guidelines to allow teams to start recalling players, who left their market, around June 1, according to ESPN. At that time, teams are expected to receive a timeline for when they can expand individual workouts.
“But I think with players coming back, I think right now the momentum seems to be shifting,” Lasry said. “And we should have something, in the next six to eight weeks we should be playing.”
The NBA is reportedly preparing teams for an eventual league-wide COVID-19 testing program that would be an integral part of any wider ranging plan to resume the 2019-20 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Teams were informed that the league is engaged in conversations with national coronavirus testing providers — BioReference Laboratories, LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Vault Health/RUCDR Infinite Biologics at Rutgers — Charania reported, with teams being asked to create an account with each company.
Expanding the league’s testing capacity — without jeopardizing the public’s supply of tests — has consistently been seen as a key component in any return-to-play plan.
The novel coronavirus is highly transmissible even among asymptomatic carriers — people who do not display any symptoms — but that isn’t the only reason the league would need to secure a significant number of tests to consistently ensure the safety of its players.
Research in China suggested that the RT-PCR tests — the most common way of determining the presence of coronavirus in an individual — can return false negatives up to 30 per cent of the time, although other studies have found that, when conducted properly, the test results are accurate over 90 per cent of the time. Still, in either the best- or worst-case scenario, the possibility would remain that a single test doesn’t identify a carrier of the virus.
Even in an isolated “bubble city” concept, which has recently been reported as one of the league’s preferred approaches to resuming the season, all it could take is one asymptomatic carrier or one false negative to potentially trigger an outbreak.
To help mitigate this risk, according to Charania, NBA commissioner Adam Silver also told the players he expects to have daily COVID-19 testing when the league resumes play — with no stoppage necessary in case an athlete tests positive, in which case the player would go into isolation.
It’s not only the players who will be at risk of contracting the virus as they all return to their respective markets—which obviously include several major cities—and then travel to Orlando to play. It’s their families. It’s the coaches. It’s the training staff. It’s the arena workers. It’s the hotel workers. The Lakers’ Jared Dudley already said Wednesday he doesn’t expect the league to restrict players’ movement in and out of the so-called bubble. That means the virus can not only spread easily within the league, but make its way outside as well.
South Korea was only able to resume playing sports thanks to a well-coordinated governmental response, and even then the Korean Baseball Organization has pledged to shut down its league for three weeks if anyone tests positive. Is the NBA prepared to make a similar commitment?
Before sports returned in Korea, the country led the way in governmental response to the coronavirus. Testing was not only widely available, it was fast. Citizens could get drive-through tests and results within 10 minutes, all without leaving their cars. The government used technology to contact trace citizens and quarantine not only people who had contracted the virus, but also anyone who may have come in contact with them. And the country adopted a zero-tolerance isolation policy that essentially separated anyone with Covid-19 from the rest of the general population.
In the United States, testing still lags behind the countries most successful at slowing the spread. Contact tracing is not happening on a large enough scale. And centralized isolation simply isn’t happening at all. The cobbled-together response to the pandemic has made it hard to predict or control in the U.S., and instead of a decline from a peak, the nationwide trend is closer to a plateau of deaths than a steep drop, with more than 1,000 people still dying per day. The NBA returning so quickly would send an awful message—that this country is far closer to normalcy than the data would suggest, and that’s a significant departure from when the league suspended play and arguably opened many Americans’ eyes to the severity of the virus.
The NBA’s partners in this proposed return aren’t exactly the most upstanding. Buried in ESPN’s report about the comeback is that the Trump administration has assured North American sports leagues it will help players who are overseas return to the country so they can take part in games. Trump’s motivation is painfully obvious: The sooner it looks like America has returned to normal, the sooner he can take credit in time for his re-election campaign. The NBA’s thirst to return will only help the Trump administration obfuscate its botched response to the pandemic and the harsh reality as a result of that inaction. Social distancing was supposed to buy the federal government time to figure out a way to slow down the virus. Since then, Trump has considered disbanding his coronavirus task force, suggested people drink bleach as a cure, and threatened to withhold funds from states whose governors disagree with his politics.
The question was how the remarkably similar statistical profiles of Siakam and Tatum stack up against each other long term. We’re bringing Simmons into the conversation, too, because the 3-point jokes aren’t going to not shoot themselves.
There is already plenty of fuel here for a competitive rivalry, and it goes beyond all three teams sharing the Atlantic Division and playing each other four times each season. Within the last three postseasons, the Raptors and Celtics have both defeated the 76ers, while the Raptors have beaten the Bucks twice and the Celtics have split a pair of series with the Bucks. The 76ers and Bucks haven’t met, nor have the Raptors and Celtics, but the latter is a long-standing rivalry-in-waiting with its hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark.
It’s naive to think that the balance of the Eastern Conference will stay as it is for too long. The league is not exactly built on stability, and the Antetokounmpo domino is a large one. Still, if there were any safe projection harbor, it would be with three young All-Star wings who are in their third (Tatum) and fourth years (Siakam and Simmons), all of whom have either already signed max-level extensions or surely will. This trio represents something close to the most certainty there can be in the modern game.
They also represent perhaps the biggest immediate threats to Antetokounmpo in the East. I’ll preface this by saying that yes, the Raptors are the defending champions and that Antetkounmpo’s Bucks have not yet reached the NBA Finals. They are not a dynasty in-progress. The potential for him to sign – or more notably, not sign – a super-max extension this offseason hangs over the medium-term future of the league. Still, on a balance of probabilities, Antetokounmpo being the best player in the conference (and likely the league) slots the Bucks first in discussions of the conference’s power balance.
When the “We the North” era in Toronto began in earnest after the surprising success of the 2013-14 squad, that underdog spirit emerged once again in its most positive form. These were the years of “Fuck Brooklyn!”, of the team going to war against more marketable American teams (and stars), of the Raptors trying and failing in the face of superior talent — but giving it their all regardless. For the next five years, the Raptors never got over the ultimate hump and, in some cases, even underachieved. Nevertheless, we had something new to rally around using the same underdog storyline that had been around since the first days of the team. As before, few outside of Toronto believed the Raptors belonged, most media commentators left them out of the broader league conversation, the NBA world just didn’t want to care. The obvious solution: it would be up to us — through the collective emotive force of Toronto — to prove them all wrong.
Well that, and acquiring one of the very best players in the league. Bringing Kawhi Leonard to Toronto was a wondrous turn of events for the Raptors. The move galvanized the team and brought them a championship — it also created a new and exciting place in which Raptors’ fandom could exist. Toronto wasn’t really supposed to win the title in 2019. That right was reserved for the returning champion Warriors, or the ascendent Bucks, or some other favourite team. Even we couldn’t quite believe it as happened. And wouldn’t you know it, after claiming ultimate victory, many asserted Toronto’s win was a fluke, a series of lucky breaks, a one-off heist never to be repeated. In truth, they could be right; winning a championship is difficult and it was always going to be hard for the Raptors to win one, let alone repeat (even before Kawhi left town).
“My career took a turn when I went to Orlando because I had to become a scorer because I didn’t have Grant Hill [because of injury]. I was always the player like a Scottie Pippen type — share the ball, defend the best player. That’s what I did in my three years in Toronto. I would’ve been that player alongside Kobe Bryant.”
When you look at McGrady’s final season in Toronto, it’s not hard to imagine him taking on a Pippen-like role next to Iverson. As a 20-year-old, McGrady averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals in 1999-00. That stat line lines up favorably next to Pippen’s career averages.
But would he have been comfortable in Iverson’s shadow after seemingly not enjoying being in Carter’s? As McGrady said, he went to the Magic thinking he’d playing alongside Hill, who at the time was one of the best players in the league and still ascending. Orlando also courted Tim Duncan in that wild offseason.
The bigger question is, would Iverson have been on board with McGrady as a running mate?
It wasn’t that long ago that the Sixers thought they had a dynamic duo of the future in Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse. That situation wound up being a disaster for the Sixers as there was a constant struggle between the two over whose team it was.
“I do remember them always having kind of a fight for whose team it was going to be,” former Sixer Scott Williams said on the Sixers Talk podcast, “because it had gone from the 80’s when it was the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson or the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird to becoming Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls or Charles Barkley and the Philadelphia 76ers.
“So the league started to market players differently. They started putting players in front of the teams. And I think when these guys came in here starting in the mid-90’s, they started saying, ‘I want to be that guy whose name goes before the team’s.’ So, there was always that confrontation about who’s going to be the star of the show and it didn’t lead to good chemistry among the rest of us.”
“Leonard load managed his way to just 60 regular-season games last season, keeping him off the Best Player Alive radar as Antetokounmpo and Harden jockeyed for the MVP. But by the end of the 2019 playoffs, there was little debating Leonard as the league’s top player,” SI’s Michael Shapiro writes. “Kawhi averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in the postseason, and he demolished Philadelphia with four 35-plus point performances in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Leonard hit his famous game-winner in Game 7 to beat the Sixers, and he then dispatched Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the East finals. The Warriors dynasty ended at the hands of Leonard one round later, giving Kawhi his second Finals MVP in six years. He left the Raptors a month later, but Toronto fans will remain indebted to Leonard for years to come.”
Leonard beat out Antetokounmpo and Harden for the top spot thanks largely to the incredible run he led Toronto on. His playoffs were the sixth most impressive playoff run in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference’s Win Shares. He scored a total of 732 points, trailing only Michael Jordan’s 1992 playoffs and James’ 2018 playoffs for the most all-time. Compare that to Harden whose Rockets fell in the Western Conference semifinals and Antetokounmpo, who fell at the hands of Leonard, it was really no contest for the top spot in 2019
Tomorrow, May 22, marks the 26th anniversary of when the newly-founded Toronto Raptors unveiled their purple Raptor team logo!
— Sully Akbari (@SullySays__) May 21, 2020
Masala Canteen, a Mississauga restaurant located in Heartland Town Centre, has teamed up with Toronto Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia to deliver 300 meals to frontline workers at Trillium Health Partners—Mississauga Hospital.
The delivery is part of The Superfan Nav Bhatia Foundation’s #MealsOnTheMove project, which kicked off last month when Bhatia—who recently participated in a Mississauga Food Bank fundraiser—joined forces with HGTV’s Sangita Patel and Peel Regional Police to help deliver meals to frontline healthcare workers, long-term care homes, food banks and shelters.
The truck donates prepackaged meals every day.
While the initiative was initially meant to serve front line workers and facilities in Brampton and Mississauga, it has now expanded. According to a recent post on the foundation’s official Facebook page, #MealsOnTheMove recently teamed up with Mercasa Little Italy Eatery and headed to Brantford.
The truck has also delivered meals to front line workers in Oakville and Milton.
Today (May 21), Bhatia will be going to Masala Canteen with his branded truck to pick the meals and deliver them to front line workers.
While it seems likely that both the Canadian and U.S. governments will permit the NBA to travel without restrictions in order to facilitate the league’s return, the Canadian government has so far been very strict on making exceptions. The Globe and Mail reported a story last week about a father who was not permitted to cross the border to see the birth of his son.
One option the Raptors have reportedly been considering is conducting their training camp in the United States, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.
News of Tuesday’s closure extension comes four days after Toronto Mayor John Tory told Sportsnet that he doesn’t expect professional sports games to take place in Toronto until the fall.
“I would just say to people, don’t hold your hopes out that you’re going to see professional sports played in Toronto, even in front of an empty stadium, before sometime into the fall,” he said.
The NBA was reportedly considering Toronto as a potential — albeit unlikely — bubble city for a potential return. This border closing makes that even more improbable.