Morning Coffee – Sun, Jun 7

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Here you go.

Raptors post emotional ‘I can’t breathe’ video in honour of George Floyd – Sportsnet.ca

The words to the poem, written by Michael Tyler, are as follows:

I can’t breathe
It’s a simple phrase
I can’t breathe
A little plea that prays

I can’t breathe
A call to recognize
I can’t breathe
The fear that’s in my eyes

I can’t breathe
One man’s life in a sidewalk check
I can’t breathe
Ended by a knee on the neck

I can’t breathe
Look around to those you see
I can’t breathe
See yourself as you see me

I can’t breathe
If I am the next to die
I can’t breathe
Ask yourself the reason why

Let’s all breathe
Let’s all rise above
Let’s all breathe
With newfound hope, and unbound love.

Report: NBA to test players every night upon return – TSN.ca

The NBPA informed players today that NBA/NBPA will conduct coronavirus testing every night during resumed season — likely mouth swabs/light nasal swabs and not full invasive nasal swab. Minimum seven days quarantine for a player if positive.

Charania also reports the league does not plan to shut down the season should a player test positive for the coronavirus. Players are expected to stay inside the league’s bubble environment in Orlando, while families are allowed to enter after the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Charania also reports the NBPA has unanimously approved a 22-team return to play format beginning July 31 at Disney World. The news comes one day after the league’s board of governors voted 29-1 to approve the NBA’s summer restart plan.

The league and the union will continue to work though a number of details in the next week on the Orlando resumption.

Why Raptors’ tune-up games could make or break playoff chances – Sportsnet.ca

It’s not entirely known what Toronto’s schedule would be in the eight-game restart, but according to the NBA’s statement about the approved 22-team return-to-play plan, “each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.”

Taking a look at what would’ve been the Raptors’ next eight games before the season originally suspended on March 11, they had a schedule that saw them facing the Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies.

If you then remove the teams from that list who didn’t make it into the bubble, the schedule looks like this: 76ers, Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers, Grizzlies, Grizzlies again, Milwaukee Bucks and the Bucks again.

We obviously don’t know yet if what were supposed to be home-and-homes would stick in the new schedule, and if that isn’t the case then the next two opponents for the Raptors after the Grizzlies and Bucks would be the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.

Regardless of what the schedule looks like, without most of the league’s scrubs making it into the bubble, any schedule the Raptors have to navigate will appear tougher than usual, and even though they’re in good shape as the current No. 2 seed in the East, they really won’t be able to afford much time to ease back into competition.

Vince Carter showed that there’s grace in sticking around | theScore.com

What a strange and wondrous journey it was. Carter played for eight teams, authored some iconic moments, scored more than 25,000 points, and should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. His legacy will largely be defined by his early years: by the athletic fluidity and high-flying acrobatics that made him arguably the greatest in-game dunker we’ve seen; the galvanizing effect he had on basketball in Canada (to which the current crop of Canadian NBA players who grew up idolizing him are a testament); that dunk contest in 2000; the epic second-round duel with Allen Iverson in 2001; his fall from grace and ugly divorce with the Raptors; and his rejuvenation with the Nets.

Oddly enough, though, I think the parts of his career I’ll remember most fondly are the last several seasons in which he toiled in comparative obscurity as a 17-minute-a-game vet for lottery teams.

A lot of the touchstones of Carter’s NBA tenure were about agency. His decision to attend his graduation ceremony in North Carolina on the day of Game 7 in that 2001 series against the Sixers – and his missed game-winning attempt at the buzzer a few hours later – was still being litigated nearly two decades after the fact.

There were conflicting stories about how things managed to turn so sour during the end of his Raptors tenure, and who was most at fault, but the situation ultimately came down to Carter exerting his influence and holding the franchise hostage until he got what he wanted – a maneuver that likely wouldn’t have felt as out of place in today’s superstar empowerment era.

By the end of his time in Toronto, he was plainly dogging it. The fan base turned on him, hard. He was accused of exaggerating injuries. At one point, he insisted he wasn’t going to dunk anymore. He allegedly got into a physical altercation with coach Sam Mitchell. Eventually, he went so far as to tip off opponents to the Raptors’ plays. All of which looked worse when he immediately reverted to playing like his best self after being traded to New Jersey, and then admitted in an interview with John Thompson in 2005 that he hadn’t pushed himself as hard as he could have during his latter Toronto years. (Though it’s not like he was saying anything Raptors fans didn’t already firmly believe. If he’d said otherwise, they’d have called him a quitter and a liar.)

NBA discussing how to replace players due to injury, coronavirus, sources say

If COVID-19 or a serious injury strikes a team during training camps or the eight regular-season seeding games, there are expected to be no limitations on the number of players a team could sign to replace those lost, but there would be restrictions on those in the pool of eligible players, sources said.

These are among a long list of items that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association will have to negotiate in the next week, sources said. The NBA can make its recommendations to the union, but the sides will together have to agree upon changes to the collective bargaining agreement that will shape the NBA’s 22-team truncated restart in Florida.

Eligible replacement players probably will have had to be signed in the NBA or G League or be on training camp contracts this season, sources said. Under these restrictions, for example, no team could sign veteran Jamal Crawford — who went unsigned all season — or an international player.

The league office has discussed the possibility with its teams that there could be a requirement that those players replaced for COVID-19 or injury would become ineligible to return for the balance of this season, sources said.

Front-office and union officials are expecting players who test positive to be quarantined for a minimum of seven days — and possibly 10 to 14 — based on several factors, sources told ESPN.

While the Brooklyn Nets are expected to have the option to sign players to fill the roster spots for the season-ending injuries to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, sources said, teams don’t anticipate there would be much sense in replacing a key player who tests positive for the coronavirus.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says it’s up to white people to call out racism, ‘no matter what the consequences’

“In a strange, counterintuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this recent tragedy, I think, was the look on the officer’s face,” Popovich said in an emotional video released by the Spurs as part of their #SpursVoices series on social media. “For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, just how everyday-going-about-his job, so much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson — and that it was his right and his duty to do it, in his mind.

“I don’t know. … I think I’m just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen. To actually watch a lynching. We’ve all seen books, and you look in the books and you see black people hanging off of trees. And you … are amazed. But we just saw it again. I never thought I’d see that, with my own eyes, in real time.”

“It’s like the neighborhood where you know there’s a dangerous corner, and you know that something’s going to happen someday, and nobody does anything,” Popovich said. “And then a young kid gets killed and a stop sign goes up. Well, without getting too political, we’ve got a lot of stop signs that need to go up — quickly — because our country is in trouble. And the basic reason is race.”

NBA debate – Biggest unknowns, best matchups and the new title chase

How do the long break and the new setup change your thinking about the NBA title chase?
Pelton: I think there’s more uncertainty about everyone given the uneven ability for players to work on their game and conditioning while quarantining. Ultimately, I think the best teams are still the favorites, with the Bucks hurt slightly by losing home-court advantage and the Clippers as the biggest winners there. The Clippers remain my title pick.

Snellings: Teams with more high-end talent, aging stars and/or injured players seem more likely to contend since they had the opportunity to recover. This should improve the championship odds of teams such as the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets and 76ers at the expense of teams such as the Bucks and Raptors, whose depth and youth were advantages.

Friedell: The Clippers will have a full, healthy roster and the ability to play on a neutral floor throughout the playoffs — not needing to worry about pro-Lakers crowds in a potential conference finals matchup. This is their time to shine, and I believe they will take full advantage of the opportunity.

Bontemps: I think it potentially sets the league up for a hell of a postseason. This is the first time players will be going into the playoffs this fresh in their careers. It will undoubtedly be a strange setup, but this break could wind up allowing for teams to have far more energy than they are used to. And, if they do, the basketball played in Orlando could be at a higher level than people might currently expect.

Marks: This is going to be the most grueling three months that players, team personnel and league officials will go through in their NBA careers. Consider these circumstances: Players have to work themselves back into shape after a three-month layoff, play eight games in a two-week stretch and live in a hotel for up to three months (without much interaction with the outside world). Whichever team wins it all will be a deserving, worthy champion — with no need for an asterisk.

Raptors Uprising down Nets GC to improve to 7-0 in NBA 2K league esports play | northeastNOW

Raptors Uprising GC continued its perfect start to the NBA 2K League esports season, sweeping Nets GC in its best-of-three series Friday to improve to 7-0.

The Raptors raced out to an early lead in Game 1 but had to rally to take Game 2.

Toronto downed Brooklyn 84-71 in Game 1 and 79-72 in Game 2 with star point guard Kenneth (Kenny Got Work) Hailey, an early MVP candidate, racking up 75 points in the Raptors’ two wins.

Hailey was averaging 32.9 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.1 steals going into Friday’s game.

Toronto Raptors have decision ahead on point guard investment

Figure a team with outside interest will throw money at VanVleet, luring him from Toronto, who will have to decide on its dollar investment in the backcourt, which is already expensive. Lowry and Norman Powell will make a combined $40 million, and potential changes to the salary cap could force the extra money elsewhere to fill the gaps left by Gasol and Ibaka, unless they return for significantly less money.

Lowry only has one year remaining on his contract, though. While at $30 million for 2020-21, at 35 years old, figure it’s unlikely he replicates that money for a potential return to the Raptors in 2021-22, or if he re-signs elsewhere. Either way, he is not the long-term answer based on age alone, despite his organizational value these past eight years.

So, it almost makes re-signing VanVleet imperative; the streaky-shooting, defensive guard that contributed to a title-winning team and took steps forward in development. It might sap the Toronto Raptors of flexibility for one season, but 2020-21 was bound for another transition, with the aforementioned frontcourt players heading for free agency and bench retooling possible. Pascal Siakam leading the way hardly makes the team’s next iteration weak. Along with a rising OG Anunoby, a positive core remains.

Investing money at the top, though, creates difficulties filling the rest of the roster. Lack of depth will make a difference against the Milwaukee Bucks or the foundation being crafted in Miami, and it might take two off-seasons to recuperate that, allocating money from Lowry’s expired contract.

The fact Lowry’s in the back-end of his NBA career should make VanVleet’s return guaranteed. Optics of the salary cap are just unknown and how it not only impacts the Raptors, but other teams in their pursuit of the younger point guard. VanVleet can lead Toronto’s backcourt at some point, but outside money could make that happen 12 months earlier.

Report: Chicago Bulls interested Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin – TSN.ca

The Chicago Bulls are expected to eventually part ways with their current head coach Jim Boylen and are interested in possibly replacing him with Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, per the Chicago Sun-Times, although, the newspaper reports that Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner for the job.

“Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture,” Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote.

Griffin has served as an assistant coach for the Raptors for two seasons. He has been coaching in the NBA since 2008, making stops in Milwaukee, Chicago, Orlando and Oklahoma City before arriving in Toronto in 2018. Prior to coaching, Griffin played 10 seasons in the NBA.

Udoka is in his first season with the 76ers after spending seven seasons as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. Prior to coaching, he played seven seasons in the NBA.

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