Does playing basketball distract from the movement?
Portland star Damian Lillard said he thinks that as the NBA prepares to resume a season halted since March 11, the biggest issue giving players pause is the possibility a return could distract from the wave of social change triggered by the ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
“I can’t speak for everybody, but for me personally, I’m able to do my job more effectively when I’m in a good place personally. You know what I’m saying? And this is something that affects me personally,” Lillard said in an interview with GQ magazine. “I’m just connected to so many people that it’s like, how can I be consumed with a basketball game? Look at the lengths we’re going to play a basketball game when there’s something so much greater going on. Something so much more meaningful going on, that really needs us. So, I mean, it’s a battle every day for me, man.”
Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving has been one of the most vocal voices on the issue and reportedly is organizing a conference call Friday night.
Other players have concerns about returning to play in Orlando, where it’s not clear how much freedom players will have once they’re on the Disney campus. Sources said the plan is for players to have access to shared spaces like outdoor pool areas, but things as simple as dining with friends on other teams might not be feasible.
And current plans call for Disney staffers to largely continue living off site. Coronavirus cases are spiking daily in Orlando’s county, leading players like New Orleans’ J.J. Redick, Orlando’s Evan Fournier and Memphis’ Tyus Jones to wonder how successful a “bubble” could be if it had a hole in it.
“Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?” Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted.
According to sources, Disney workers will wear masks any time they share space with anyone who is part of the NBA campus. Those workers also will always maintain at least six feet of distance. Employees also would receive temperature checks.
Housekeepers will provide less frequent service and never enter an occupied room. They’ll also work the same specific floors instead of rotating from resort to resort. The same goes for employees in restaurants.
Some players and agents believe the health concerns are the least prevalent among those questioning whether to play in Orlando, with the movement restrictions being a bigger problem for players. While NBA Players Assn. team representatives voted unanimously to approve the plan for 22 teams to return for the season’s reboot, other details such as health and safety guidelines still are being discussed.
A primary concern is the restrictions on daily life that would be imposed on players in the so-called bubble environment conceived by the league to stave off the coronavirus. Another issue is the suggestion from some players that returning to work could divert the spotlight from, or hamper, the efforts made by numerous N.B.A. players to take an active role in the surging Black Lives Matter movement worldwide.
“I think guys are gathering to really talk about and dive deep into the idea of not playing,” Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers told the New Orleans Pelicans’ JJ Redick on a podcast from The Ringer. The Pelicans and Pacers are included in the 22-team field.
In an interview with GQ, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, another team included in the format, said his teammates were “about split” on whether they were comfortable with the rules the N.B.A. was expected to impose to limit player movement within the bubble. The restrictions have been negotiated through weeks of talks between top league officials and a player group headed by Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, but have not yet been disseminated to all players.
“A lot of my teammates are like: ‘Whatever, let’s play. Let’s hoop. If that’s what we’re gonna do and they’re saying it’s safe, then let’s do it,’” Lillard told GQ. Others, Lillard said, are asking, “‘Are we just doing this because we don’t want to miss out on this money?’ People just don’t know.”
It is not clear yet whether the surfacing player trepidation is merely 11th-hour concern as a summons to Florida draws near or a movement that could legitimately imperil the N.B.A.’s planned comeback. The league and union’s plans are at such an advanced stage that teams received a detailed outline of dates for the next four months in Friday’s memo.
— NBA 2K League (@NBA2KLeague) June 12, 2020
Raptors Uprising GC scored a league-record 109 points in Game 1 of their 2-0 series win against Celtics Crossover Gaming to highlight play Friday in the third season of the NBA2K League.
The theme of the night was sheer dominance, as all of the victors won by 2-0 series scores and took at least one game by 10 or more points.
Raptors Uprising GC stole the show Friday, however, to stay undefeated and maintain their perch as the team to beat this year.
Here’s a look at some scores, recaps and highlights on the night.
Friday, June 12 Scores
Raptors Uprising GC 2, Celtics Crossover Gaming 0 (109-51, 64-54)
Bucks Gaming 2, Pistons GT 0 (82-72, 67-61)
Hornets Venom GT @ Jazz Gaming: PPD
Kings Guard Gaming 2, NetsGC 0 (107-63, 84-54)
Wizards District Gaming 2, Mavs Gaming 0 (83-54, 85-50)
Players traveling outside of the U.S. need to report by June 15 to team markets — rest of players need to arrive by June 22, per sources.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 12, 2020
The National Basketball Association has laid out plans for coronavirus testing as 22 teams prepare to restart the 2019-20 season in July.
To begin play, teams will be required to test for Covid-19 from June 23-30, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that players from outside the United States will need to report to their home team markets by June 15, while players in the country will report by June 22.
Both reporters say the NBA is targeting July 30 as the season’s restart date.
The NBA has not responded to CNN’s request for details regarding these reports.
The NBA suspended its season after a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus on March 11.
One of the main concerns is that some players believe a return to play would detract from the current protest movement prompted by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Some players have already participated in the nationwide protests, and many have spoken out against police brutality on social media, including LeBron James, who yesterday announced plans to form a voting rights group with other athletes and celebrities. Malcolm Brogdon said on The JJ Redick Podcast that there are players who are interested in sitting out the rest of the season as part of a protest. Garrett Temple, meanwhile, told The Ringer that he believed going to Orlando was the right move and that being there a month before tipoff would give players the opportunity to come up with a plan to send a message.
“When you take a stance on things, you do that to bring attention,” said Temple, who is also an NBPA VP and represented the Nets in the player vote. “Then, after that, you have to actually do something to cause change … so whatever we do, it needs to be something that can cause tangible change in our community, in our game, in our country.”
When the National Basketball Players Association conducted a conference call and vote on restarting the season a week ago, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was an active participant — although his questions were of a mundane nature.
Sources say Irving asked, as an injured player, if he would count among the Nets’ allotted 35 people should he want to join the Orlando bubble. Could he sit in the stands to cheer on his teammates? Use a sauna for his rehab?
He had a question about NBA sponsors on campus, and whether they would be supplying players with products. A union official asked him for an example, and Irving mentioned a popular adult beverage — before insisting that he had indeed simply shared an example; and wondered what food might be provided to players under league partnerships.
All in all, his inquiries weren’t of weighty consequence.
There were two dozen-plus team representatives and several more executive committee members on the call, and Irving’s stature as one of the NBPA’s six elected vice presidents, in addition to his credentials as an NBA champion and All-Star Game MVP, elevated him among those peers voting on the call. The final tally: 28-0.
Looking back, the call itself was much less a discussion on the merits of restarting the season, and much more a Q and A with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and president Chris Paul on the mechanics and rules expected to govern teams, players and the bubble environment, sources said.
What does Giannis Antetokounmpo think of the return-to-play plan?
The Bucks can offer Antetokounmpo the supermax after this season ends — that much has not changed, even if the dates have. If he accepts it, the Raptors and a bunch of other teams will have to shift their thinking about the 2021 offseason. If he does not, Antetokounmpo’s free agency will be one of the biggest talking points, at least as far as the competitive nature of the league is concerned.
It has long been reported that the Bucks having a successful season would go a long way toward Antetokounmpo signing that deal this offseason. However, does that change given that this season has been turned upside down by the pandemic? Does the bar for success change given that the Bucks, along with the other 21 teams in Orlando, will be going through something no other team has dealt with before? If the Bucks fail to win the title or make the Finals, would Antetokounmpo be more forgiving considering the circumstances?
We don’t know the answer to that question. Hell, we don’t even know if that is the main thing Antetokounmpo will be considering the contract that the Bucks present to him. At a protest organized by Bucks players last weekend, Antetokounmpo said he wanted his infant son to grow up in a safe Milwaukee. To think that means he is going to re-sign in Milwaukee is ridiculous (as is people assuming that should be the main takeaway from the protest). Remember when Kyrie Irving was going to stay in Boston? Good times.
Anyway, the Raptors’ plans in free agency in 2020 are directly related to what they want to try to accomplish in 2021, and that has a lot to do with Antetokounmpo’s potential availability. If he signals that he is going to stay in Milwaukee, the odds of the Raptors retaining any or all of Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Gasol, among others, improve, as preserving cap space a year from now becomes less important.
Still, with the perspective of a pandemic and a worldwide movement, Green said the title run means less today than it did a year ago.
“Obviously, it’s the ultimate goal for us, we love it and it’s always the end goal achieving it, but given what’s happening now, we’ve realized there’s more important things in the world, the issues, than sports,” Green said.
As NBA players join the frontlines of protests throughout the U.S., Green said he too has attended one in Los Angeles, where he’s currently living, and plans on attending more.
From the Miami Heat’s #Hoodiesup picture after Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, to the league-wide “I can’t breathe” protest after Eric Garner’s death and further action against ex-Clippers owner Donald Sterling, outed as racist in 2014, NBAers have a recent history of using their platform to try to force change.
Green said that could continue when basketball returns in Disney World.
“We’ve talked about it, not just with teammates but with other people outside of our team, outside of our organization making sure that we keep its emphasis,” he said. “Nothing we’re planning, but making sure we’re on the same page and we’re not letting us be a distraction to what’s going on in the world, even though we are supposed to keep entertaining people.”
The meaning of the 2020 championship, then, may go beyond the court.
“I think that it will be looked at even more if we’re able to win one during these times, when it’s tougher during a pandemic, during the riots, the protests,” said Green.
In other words, the so-called “asterisk” meant to diminish the champions of this weird season could work the other way, where the team that fights through is remembered as a symbol of perseverance.
For the Toronto Raptors, however, there are still questions that need to be cleared up.
These reported rules around when players can report and when testing happens become a lot more muddled with a team that isn’t based in the U.S.
A good way of looking at this is to take a player like Norman Powell as an example, who after the season suspension went to his home in Las Vegas.
Considering that, which deadline applies to him? June 15 or June 22? If it’s June 22 — he’s currently in the U.S., after all — and Powell were to return on June 17 or later, his mandatory 14-day quarantine upon crossing the border into Canada would take him unto July and after the NBA’s timeline for coronavirus testing.
If it’s June 15, then his quarantine would end on June 29, meaning it would fall within the timeline of testing, but would be cutting it close.
Not to mention, the aforementioned mandatory quarantine would cost Powell two weeks of voluntary work, including some likely time with head coach Nick Nurse himself.
Over in the NHL, with Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto all still standing as possible NHL hub cities, there’s been talk of a potential easing up on the federal government’s 14-day quarantine policy for anyone entering the country from outside.
It’s unclear if this exception would also apply to Canada’s lone NBA basketball team. But without any announcement from the government on the topic, it’s understandable that the Raptors aren’t banking on it.
“We’re going to follow the rules,” said Raptors GM Bobby Webster on Tim & Sid Thursday. “If it makes sense to have limited exceptions I get it, but we’re definitely not pushing it in the sense that we need it.”
SIMMONS: NBA title anniversary: The night the Raptors made the impossible possible
More from Steve Simmons
June 12, 2020
June 12, 2020 6:48 PM EDT
Toronto SUN Sports Basketball Toronto Raptors
WATCH: 1 YEAR AGO, RAPTORS WIN NBA TITLE
THE RECIPE FOR A RAPTORS CHAMPIONSHIP
Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors
Memo to NBA teams sets key return dates
The odour was daunting late into the evening, that rare combination of sweat and champagne. On this special night, the odour was rather intoxicating.
It was bedlam everywhere in the Oracle Arena, but nowhere more so than in the championship locker room of the Raptors, on the Thursday night that is still so hard to believe, at the end of the stunning, memorable, still shocking NBA title win by Toronto.
The spray of champagne stings when it gets in your eyes and stains your clothing, and the architect Masai Ujiri was rubbing his eyes and laughing and smiling and hugging everyone around him. The scene was bedlam and then some: Bedlam inside the dressing room, bedlam in the hallways outside the room, screaming and shouting and celebrating everywhere in the last game to be played at Oracle Arena.
The championship no one saw coming.
The championship we will celebrate forever.
The final score was Raptors 114, Golden State Warriors 110. The game and the title wasn’t decided until the final 10 seconds of Game 6. This was one of those basketball games you see in the movies, just rarely in real life. There were few runs, little momentum, the game just went back and forth and back and forth. The Raptors led by one at the end of the first quarter, a sensational quarter, a sensational start for the rock named Kyle Lowry.
Toronto led by two at the half, trailed by two at the end of three quarters: That was the kind of game it was. Anyone’s game. And it wasn’t until Steph Curry missed on an off-balance three that there was certainty there wouldn’t be a Game 7. The Danny Green turnover blends in over time: But the throwaway almost cost the Raptors a championship. Almost made them play another game.
It doesn’t matter now. What Nick Nurse and his team managed that Thursday night in Oakland was rather special and spectacular. Lowry and Pascal Siakam with 26 points apiece, Siakam scoring the final Toronto field goal in the final minute. Kawhi Leonard, expected to dominate, didn’t really, but still ended up with 22 points. Fred VanVleet, not expected to dominate, had a remarkable Game 6 with 22 points off the bench: He hit five three-pointers and one of his misses was turned into a basket by the redoubtable Serge Ibaka and VanVleet wound up with a Finals MVP vote.
After a brief flirtation with staying in Toronto, the Finals MVP did exactly what he was expected to do all along: he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, who immediately became a top title contender by simultaneously swinging a deal for regular-season MVP finalist Paul George.
A lot of NBA observers seem to feel vaguely disappointed by the Clippers, but they’re just fine. At 44-20, they have the fourth-best record in the NBA. And that came with Kawhi, same as last year, skipping several games for load-management reasons and George missing the first month after shoulder surgery. Kawhi is averaging 26.9 points — 0.3 higher than last regular season with Toronto. The goal was always to make sure him and George stayed fresh for the playoffs, and now they’re extra-rested. The Clippers are still every bit the contender we thought they were last summer.
Here’s something that actually stayed the same: the Raptors are still a very good team. In fact, their .719 winning percentage is better than the one they finished the 2018-19 regular season with. Last year, the Raps had the second-best record in the NBA. This year, they’re third overall. Pretty good for losing the best player in the world and getting nothing in return.
The Raptors have a chip on their shoulder to prove they can win without Kawhi. Veteran guard Kyle Lowry is the embodiment of that attitude, and Pascal Siakam’s leap to stardom (he gets better every year) is a big reason Toronto has been able to keep chugging along.
Whatever happens in Orlando, you can count on the Raptors to put up a spirited, honourable defence of their title. But to pull off the repeat — definitely a possibility — they’ll have to once again get past Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-ranked Bucks in the East. The resurgent Boston Celtics are a big threat this year too. A trip back to the Finals would likely mean a showdown with Kawhi’s Clips or the L.A. Lakers, who are led by Toronto tormentor LeBron James and his all-star sidekick Anthony Davis.
As we mentioned, Kyle Lowry already has a lot of miles on his body and he’s not getting any younger. This long hiatus not only allowed the All-Star point guard to spend more time with his wife and kids, but it also provided Lowry with the opportunity to rest his legs and sharpen his mind for the 2020 postseason.
Before games were suspended, Lowry was averaging 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the Raptors in 52 games. Even though Siakam is the best player in Toronto, a case can be made that Lowry is the most important piece since he’s the floor general on the court and leader in the locker room.
Marc Gasol missed 28 games for the Raptors due to hamstring issues, but he had returned just prior to the league’s hiatus. He used the extra time off to get into shape, with a recent picture of him looking slimmed down. Nurse told Raptors reporters Gasol’s face has “looked slim” on Zoom calls.
Marc is very important for the Raptors on both sides of the floor. The former Defensive Player of the Year should be ready to go full throttle once games are resumed in Orlando.
Gasol was averaging 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 36 games for the Raptors before games were suspended.
Drake, “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”
Lyric: “Fuck all that rap-to-pay-your-bill shit/Yeah, I’m on some Raptors-pay-my-bills shit”
Despite the fact that I’m sure Drake doesn’t actually collect a paycheck from MLSE for his role as the team’s “global ambassador” (pretty sure, anyway), he’s been cosplaying as the Raptor’s 16th man ever since landing the gig, which this reference in “0 to 100” captures perfectly. —Rick Mele
Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
Lyric: “I done put my whole arm in the rim, Vince Carter/And I know probably get a key for the quarter”
It’s been 20 years since Air Canada’s showstopping dunk contest performance and young rappers are still out here spitting about it in songs. Props to Roddy Rich, who was all of two years old when Vince made us all go home with his epic elbow-in-the-hoop jam. Seeing the artist rock the purple dino colours with pride restores my hope in the youths of today. —Alex Nino Gheciu
Slim Jxmmi, “Growed Up”
Lyric: “You know I’m ballin, baby, like DeRozan/20 missed calls, I’m busy at the moment
This lyric by Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi has so much going for it. It’s name-drops Deebo and it sheds light on the fact that the Raptors are the team most wronged by refs in the NBA. We have the receipts—just check the Last Two Minute reports. Stay up. —Alex Nino Gheciu
Two months after the Toronto Raptors tipped off their historic NBA championship run, a stretch that saw the players locked in with remarkable focus that rarely wavered, the Raptors could finally relax.
“Oh man, that (bus ride) was probably one of the best rides of my life… just realizing we had the rest of the summer to enjoy this,” VanVleet said. “Our team was really serious and locked in when it was time to play and time to win, but then when it’s time to have fun we let loose.”
The Raptors won’t be together to celebrate the one-year anniversary Saturday, with the NBA suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some players are in Toronto, others are at their homes in the U.S.
They’ll have to make do with what remains of their memories.
“The bus ride was a blur,” Norm Powell said. “I was pretty drunk from drinking all the champagne and I don’t even like beer, but I was chugging beer, so I was pretty drunk from there. I just remember it being really loud. Everybody was trying to plan something really quick like, ‘Is this open? Is that open?’ And trying to figure out what we were doing. But yeah, the bus ride was just crazy. Everybody was just celebrating.”
The world has done an about-face since that heady June 13 night last year. Seemingly all of Toronto — the crowd was estimated at between one and two million — squeezed into city streets for the victory parade a few days later, captured in images of physical proximity that are tough to imagine now with coronavirus keeping people apart.
With Kawhi Leonard setting the tone, the Raptors rode their even-keeled composure all the way to the franchise’s first title. Their mantra was never too high, never too low.
“I just noticed like how in tune we were with one another, and that’s from top to bottom,” Powell said. “When somebody would have a bad game or miss a couple of shots or miss a play or two, down the line we were so in tune and connected in keeping each other not only accountable but confident and their head high… We were all talking to each other, making sure we were all locked-in and focused and that nothing else distracted from the task at hand.
“We all held each other accountable and we all listened to one another and we all let whatever was stressing us or bothering us go and ready to come play.”
Serge Ibaka said it wasn’t after the final buzzer sounded that he realized the magnitude of the accomplishment.
“The way people were talking to me when they saw me everywhere I went, it was like we changed their lives,” the Congolese big man said. “To us, it’s just a game. We love this game. But I didn’t know how impactful it was for a lot of Canadians. And going to the airport, to the restaurant or anywhere, the way people were talking to me, the way people were reacting, thanking me with my teammates, all those things, it was like, ‘Wow.’
The basketball shot heard around the world, a missing tooth, Drake massages and a country united over basketball.
It’s something Raptors fans could only dream of and many still can’t believe it happened. June 13 will mark the one-year-anniversary of the Raptors winning their first NBA Championship.
“To be honest with you, it still hasn’t hit me that the championship is real,” shooting guard Norman Powell said. “I think there have been times when you think about it and it’s like, it’s here. It’s real. But besides that, when those moments come where people tell me, ‘Hey, what up, Champ?’ you know, I still find it a little weird. It’s like, man, I’m really a champion. That’s like a lifelong childhood dream and you accomplished it. So, it’s still weird, but it feels right.”
There were so many memorable moments from the Raptors historic playoff run but it may surprise you that the Championship crowning moment isn’t included in some of their favourite moments.
“We had so many tough moments, crazy moments, beautiful moments, amazing moments all at the same time,” Serge Ibaka said. “The moment I think—I don’t know if I want to go with—the Kawhi (Leonard) shot against Philly or the last nine seconds, if I’m not wrong, of game six in The Finals. You know what? I’m going to go with the Kawhi shot because after that shot, I was like, ‘You know what? This year is our year.’”
Raptors fans who live in Toronto also remember June 17. That was the day where it seemed the team;’ Championship parade went on forever.
While we all know that Marc Gasol had the time of his life that day, the bus ride the night they won in Oakland was also a night to remember.
Family was also the driving force behind Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka.
Siakam often thinks about his late father before and after games, especially at important milestones in his career, and this was the biggest one he had reached.
“Like I always say, I’m doing it for him,” Siakam told TSN in a champagne-soaked locker room after the Game 6 win. “I wish he was here but I know he’s proud of me. I’m just happy that I’m able to keep his name and legacy alive.”
What, or who, does Ibaka remember thinking about when he finally became a champion? To answer the question, the 11-year veteran reached for a book that’s displayed in the living room of his downtown Toronto condo. On the cover there’s a picture of him with his 13-year-old daughter, Ranie, on stage during the trophy presentation. It’s titled “Champ dad & Champ babe.” She had made it for him.
The two big men have something else in common. They both thought about where they come from – Siakam from Cameroon and Ibaka from the Republic of Congo – and what this could mean for the continent of Africa.
“Coming from where I come from, my people never [thought] I’d be where I am right now, winning an NBA Championship,” Ibaka remembers thinking in that moment. “And during that game, I know they were watching. So in my mind it was like, what are they going to think about it? How are they going to react? What are they going to learn from this?”
“I’ll say this and I’ll keep saying it: To me, winning a championship was bigger than just me.”