Morning Coffee – Sun, May 31

Raptors release statement.

Raptors release statement.

Toronto Raptors release statement on racial injustice –

As the world continues to mourn the loss of George Floyd and protest against racial injustice, the Toronto Raptors released a statement on Saturday in response to the issue.

The team called for humankind to confront the systemic problem and do more than just grieve.

The statement reads as follows:

“As an organization and a community, we come from all over the world. We are diverse, we speak different languages, but our shared humanity unites us. When we see racism and violence committed against someone because of the colour of their skin, we should, and do, feel outrage. We cannot accept this.

While we grieve for those we have lost, we know grieving is not enough. We must honour their memory by acknowledging these ills exist, confronting them, and coming together to create a better society.

It is far past time.”

Sacramento Kings Statement on the Tragic Death of George Floyd | Sacramento Kings

Today, Sacramento Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé released the following statement on the tragic death of George Floyd.

“To say my heart breaks does not begin to describe the profound sadness, frustration and outrage that I feel in the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hand of a man whose oath it was to protect and serve. As the father of a son who has chosen a life of service to our country, I know firsthand the honor and grace by which so many men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe, but when the actions of a few dishonor that commitment and courage, it has to stop.

“For all the hope and promise that our country stands for, the freedom to live without fear from the vitriol and hatred of racism is not a reality for millions of Black Americans. Unfortunately, this is not new. For hundreds of years, innumerable men, women and children have been treated as less than, asked to work twice as hard and taken too early as a result of bias, bigotry and unequal treatment.

“It is urgently incumbent on all people to stand up and say enough is enough. Each human life is precious, deserves dignity and matters. I truly believe that we are capable of bending the arc of history towards sensitivity and inclusion for all regardless of race. We can choose love over hate. But it will take everyone. And not only in the aftermath of tragedy and protests, but when it is uncomfortable to stand for what is right and denounce what is wrong. It will take determination and it won’t be easy. We cannot stand by silently. We must work harder than ever to bring people together, give them opportunity and extinguish these flames of hatred. Until then we will find ourselves back here, again, mourning a life taken too soon.

“On behalf of the entire organization, my deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and loved ones of George Floyd at this unthinkable time. Sports have always brought people together, and we remain committed to continuing to use our platform to break down the barriers that divide us, address issues of social injustice and invest in transformational change for Black youth in our community. I hope you join me in this fight, the legacy we leave for the next generation and countless lives depend on it.”

Several rookies share Nike ‘Don’t Do It’ ad supporting George Floyd

As protests were sparked nationally in the days following the killing of George Floyd, Nike released an advertisement counter to its usual message: “Don’t Do It.”

The ad reads:

“For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change. Let’s all be part of the change.”

Several NBA rookies shared the post on Instagram.

Ja Morant, De’Andre Hunter, Darius Garland, Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish and Tyler Herro, shared the ad to their stories.

All six of them are sponsored by Nike.

Celtics' Jaylen Brown Drove 15 Hours to Atlanta Protest After George Floyd Death | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Brown drove 15 hours to return home to help lead peaceful demonstrations following the arrest of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was fired after putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes Monday, per Floyd later died in a nearby hospital, and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter Friday.

Brown live-streamed parts of his work in Atlanta on Instagram and has been using his social media accounts to help direct protesters to certain areas.

The heartbreak that birthed a freedom fighter in Stephen Jackson – The Athletic

“I’m here because they’re not going to demean the character of George Floyd, my twin,” Jackson said on Friday at Minneapolis City Hall. “A lot of times when police do something wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up and bring up your background to make it seem like the bullshit they did was worth it. When was murder ever worth it? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me when that man had his knee on my brother’s neck, taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket, that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’” 

The fires from riots and looting throughout the Twin Cities the night before were practically still smoldering when Jackson stepped to the microphone stand in the city’s historic rotunda. With the eyes of the country on him and a room full of hurting advocates depending on him to grab the public’s attention and shake them from a collective slumber, Jackson delivered a sermon that captured the pain, the anger and the heartbreak that so many are feeling after watching the video of Floyd dying after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes.

“We don’t have a choice but to stop asking, and not really demanding. It’s time to start taking. And my voice is screaming farther than people know,” Jackson said. “Because I come from the dirt. I come from the mud. You dig what I’m saying? People behind me, they come from it, too.

“Now we’re here standing together. I need everybody to stand with us. If you not with us, you against us. There’s no more pacifying, no more straddling the fence. You gotta play our side or you on the other side.”

The German Executive Who Showed Sports How to Come Back – WSJ

“It’s like starting a new season on a weekly basis,” he said. “We do not know right now if corona wins in the end.”

What he can say for sure is that no high-profile league has road-tested a plan as effective as German soccer’s. Now into its third week of play, the Bundesliga has delivered three dozen games across the top two divisions, weathered a handful of positive tests, and is on track to finish in late June.

The protocol has been so effective that German soccer can concern itself with actual sporting stakes again. Remember title races? Bayern Munich on Tuesday opened up a seven-point lead in the standings with a 1-0 victory over its closest rival, Borussia Dortmund. The club is now within touching distance of an eighth straight Bundesliga championship, which might just be the most normal thing German soccer can imagine.

Viewers who tuned into games last even heard crowd noise, a language that was threatening to go the way of Latin. After Sky Deutschland mixed together a soundtrack for each stadium, edited from previous encounters between the two teams, the Bundesliga offered it as an option to broadcasters around the world. Arguments over whether or not piped-in crowds enhanced the experience were taken as a sign of just how far the Bundesliga has come.

“We didn’t see ourselves as the front-runners that much,” Seifert said. “We were just doing our job.”

The top two men’s divisions have paved the way for others in Germany to return as well. The women’s Bundesliga is due to resume next weekend. Germany’s basketball league has also received the green light to hold its eight-team playoff tournament in Munich next month.

Every other sport on the planet has noticed. The long list of calls Seifert has received for advice includes teams from around the world and the major U.S. sports leagues. The lesson he gives all of them is the same: “You need to act very, very fast.”

For the Bundesliga, that meant green-lighting six parallel scenarios to find the safest, most efficient solution for bringing back live games. League officials needed to be in constant contact with government leaders. And while clubs all appointed hygiene officers to supervise crucial testing regimes, Seifert contracted five labs around the country to process the thousands of results his plan relied on.

But underlying it all is the one exceptional quality of German soccer that no one in the world can quite replicate: German soccer happens in Germany.

“Lucky us, we’re living in a country with a very effective medical infrastructure, with good political management,” he said. “It was unreal eight weeks later when we were able to come back again.”

The country’s health-care system was never overwhelmed by the virus. At no point was soccer going to divert vital resources from medical workers. Plus, all 36 of its clubs in the top two tiers were on the same page. As Seifert put it, the Bundesliga never ran into a situation where a third of the teams wanted to play, another third didn’t, and the final third was threatening to sue.

No agreement yet on resumption of NBA season |

In other news related to the coronavirus pandemic:

– Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says the state’s five professional sports teams – the Boston Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, New England Patriots and Revolution – can resume practicing at their respective facilities on June 6. But Baker made clear the reopening of those facilities must be done in accordance with the health and safety rules that each of the leagues are developing. The Celtics announced they will begin voluntary individual workouts at their facility on Monday. Workouts will be conducted in accordance with city, state, CDC and NBA requirements, with only four players allowed to workout at a time.

– The NCAA has released a long and detailed plan to help schools bring athletes back to campus. The move comes as schools across the country prepare for the return of athletes as early as June 8. The NCAA last week lifted a moratorium on athletic activities starting Monday. That cleared the way for voluntary workouts and training to begin at team facilities. Schools have already started putting plans in place to test athletes, coaches and staff for the coronavirus and implement social distancing. The NCAA says its plan is offered as guidance, consistent with federal and local public health guidelines.

– The Arizona Diamondbacks have laid off or furloughed about one-quarter of the team’s employees because of lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organization made the moves on Friday. Remaining staff will take pay cuts that average less than 15%, with the team’s highest earners losing a bigger percentage of their income.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey says nothing seems to be changing as injustices mount

“Fifty-four years later, my son is now 8 years old and I look at the world he is growing up in and wonder, how much has really changed?” Casey, 63, said in a statement. “How often is he judged on sight? Is he growing up in a world where he is seen, and heard, and understood? Does he feel helpless? Will he be treated like George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery?

“What have we really done in the last 54 years to make his 8-year-old world better than mine was? We all have to be and do better.”

Casey said that when he was a child, there was no way to record his treatment because cell phones, cable news and social media were not yet in existence to show the reality of the situation he lived in.

But he knows what he felt then and what he sees now. Casey said in his statement that watching the events following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis — a place where he was the head coach from 2005 to 2007 — left him understanding how many people could feel the same things — “helpless, frustrated, invisible, angry.”

Casey called for “real change” to how humans view one another as a way to help as protests continue across the country, including in Detroit, where he now coaches.

“We have to change the way we see and hear each other,” Casey said in the statement. “We have to work together to find solutions to make the justice system just. Black, white and brown people have to work together to find new answers. The only way we can stop the systemic problems that people of color have faced all our lives is through honesty and transparency.

Amid coronavirus crisis, Dikembe Mutombo can't stop playing defense

“There’s an old proverb from the African continent that says that when you take the elevator to go up, you always got to make sure that you send the elevator down so it can take the other people,” Mutombo told The Post in a wide-ranging interview this week. “My way of sending the elevator down was go back home and try to see how many lives can I touch.”

Mutombo bellows his deep, hearty laugh when he thinks about the number of organizations and boards he’s affiliated with. There’s the CDC, UNICEF, Special Olympics, Basketball Without Borders and his role as the NBA’s first global ambassador. That’s in addition to the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, which was founded in 1997 and built the Biamba Marie Mutombo hospital in honor of his late mother a decade later. A K-12 school, dedicated to his father and focused on science and entrepreneurship, is scheduled to open next year near Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC.

Even though Mutombo’s native DRC hasn’t been crushed by COVID-19 cases (69 deaths as of Friday), he brims with excitement that his foundation is helping to feed frontline workers and taking on other local initiatives.

“We serve lunch and dinner to four hospitals with more than 80 doctors and nurses, which was great,” he said. “I’m glad that we took those initiatives. In the Congo, right now, we are launching a local mask production, so where we are making masks, we are asking people to start making masks at the foundation headquarters.”

At his hospital, there are handwashing stations every 20 meters. He beams that every doctor, nurse, patient or family member is given a mask for free upon entering. As a global citizen, and one who feels a moral obligation to address health concerns for those in need, Mutombo can’t ignore a health crisis when he knows he’s in position to help.

NBA Free Agency News: Ranking The Top Centers In 2020 Free Agency

2. Marc Gasol – Toronto Raptors

2019-20 Season Averages: 7.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 42% FG, 40% 3-pt, 72% FT

Don’t let the numbers fool you. While it’s true that the 35-year old Gasol is now riding the twilight stage of his productive career, he is still a highly-valued center in the market. It’s no coincidence that he and the Raptors have been winning despite the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. He has always brought the winning intangibles, and he has been the Raptors’ prized veteran this season and during their successful Finals stint last year.

But as much as the Raptors front office would want to bring Gasol back next season, it won’t be that easy. The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Blake Murphy emphasized that Toronto has a bevy of quality players who will enter free agency this offseason.

“As far as next season, the win-now mentality and summer 2021 could be headed for a collision. VanVleet, Gasol and Ibaka will all be unrestricted free agents; some other players who played important, but lesser roles (Chris Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), will be free as well. And OG Anunoby will be eligible for a contract extension.
Committing to that group for terms beyond next season would crowd out all the cap flexibility in 2021 and basically tether the Raptors to those players for the near future.”

Suspension Journal: It’s OK not to care about the NBA and basketball right now – Raptors HQ

If you missed the news because there’s so much going on in the world, that’s understandable. If you heard the news and decided you couldn’t care less because everything else going on in the world is so much more important, that’s understandable as well.

Personally, I found it difficult to care about NBA basketball even before the events of the past few days. As the NBA continued to forge ahead with its plans, while COVID-19 deaths in the United States surpassed 1,000 per day and new cases in Ontario continued to rise between 300-400 per day, I thought it all just sounded so preposterous. It seemed way too early to be talking about bringing sports back. People couldn’t safely keep their distance in one dang park on one nice day, how could we safely restart the NBA season? In Florida, of all places?

And then George Floyd was murdered on camera in Minneapolis, by a police officer, with (at the time) no consequences. Protests, understandably, broke out. The President of the United States got into a pissing match with Twitter, and then proceeded to threaten protestors with violence on the same platform.

And then Regis Korchinski-Paquet was killed during an incident with police right here in Toronto. And we don’t forgot Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery either.

How can I care about the NBA right now? How can anyone? How can Woj and Shams hop on Twitter and tell us about the latest board of governors meeting when cops are using tear gas on protestors and are arresting (and shooting at!) reporters in Minneapolis? When 100,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States? When our most vulnerable citizens here in Ontario were being treated so poorly we had to send in the freakin’ military just to assess the situation? When shop owners are getting the crap kicked out of them because they want their customers to wear masks?