Morning Coffee – Fri, Nov 13

13 mins read
Cover Photo: Source Unknown, hit me up for credit

Report: Tampa Bay emerges as Toronto Raptors host city – Yahoo!

The Raptors want to stay in Toronto, but time is against them. With training camp starting on Dec. 1, the Raptors need to make a firm decision on where they will play because they will not switch locations midway through. Their plan to stay in market will need to be approved at all three levels of government.

Risk can be minimized if the NBA follows strict guidelines. If travelling parties can all produce negative tests before crossing the border and stay disciplined in minimizing contact outside of the airport, hotel and arena, then there shouldn’t be a huge health risk. However, it could be a difficult sell politically to open the border for professional athletes, while keeping it closed to most citizens.

There is also the possibility of changes to the current border restrictions. The federal government purchased over eight million rapid tests in October, with hopes that on-site testing at airports could replace the mandated 14-day quarantine. However, current travel restrictions were extended until Nov. 21, which leaves a very small window to implement a change in policy in time for the Raptors to start their season.

Report: Tampa Bay the favourite for Toronto Raptors’ home – Raptors HQ

And while Tampa isn’t necessarily close to the Raptors’ Atlantic Division rivals — a flight to Boston is just under three hours — it doesn’t carry the political baggage of Louisville, doesn’t mean crossing time zones like Nashville, and is a warm weather environment for the players to enjoy during the winter months.

Still, the lobbying continues between the Raptors and the Canadian government. Availability of rapid PCH testing for the purposes of cross-border sporting events hasn’t really materialized. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s the best political decision for Trudeau to put basketball before public health. Even though the Blue Jays put together a plan that involved making sure players tested negative before traveling back to Canada, their request to play 2020 home games at Rogers Centre still fell through at the last minute. Though we’re further along now in the pandemic, and perhaps closer to a vaccine than previously imagined, it’s still unlikely to me that the government will budge from potentially bringing the U.S.’ unique epidemic into the country.

Is having the Raptors play home games all the way down in Tampa an ideal outcome? Probably not. But with numbers spiking in Ontario and lockdowns starting, I can’t think of a situation where fans would be in the building at Scotiabank in the near future anyway. Keeping the NBA below the border is probably the best decision for all parties at this point.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri pushes for return to play in Toronto | CBC.ca

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri joined CBC’s The Current where he discussed the reasons why the NBA could safely return to play in Toronto next season.

Fred VanVleet might have burst Raptors’ bubble with his comments on free agency and on potential quarantines | The Star

More than a few observers have interpreted “cash out” as synonymous with “get out” — as in leave Toronto for the address of the highest bidder. Dwane Casey’s Detroit Pistons are looking for a point guard and might overpay. The Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks are among a group of other potential suitors. And there are those assuming that, given Toronto’s need to maintain a salary-cap sheet that allows for the potential acquisition of a prized 2021 free agent — and Giannis Antetokounmpo tops the list of possibilities — it’s likely VanVleet goes where the money takes him.

Maybe he does. As much as the Raptors would like to think their player-development infrastructure has been instrumental in transforming VanVleet from unplucked gem to coveted diamond, VanVleet didn’t sound overly sentimental about his time here. He spoke highly of Toronto’s organizational culture, sure, but he also insisted he could help transplant its principles elsewhere.

“It’s not like it’s impossible to replicate,” he said.

He also mused about what every NBA player muses about: Blossoming from contributing player to centrepiece.

“I would like to run my own team as a point guard,” he said. “As a great leader of men, I think that’s something I would really look forward to.”

Still, he also double-backed on that particular brainwave at one point. (“My ego isn’t that big where I need the ball in my hands all the time,” he said.) And as much as he seemed to rule out going to a perennially hapless franchise like the Knicks — “I’ve never been on a losing team in my life,” he proudly pointed out — he more than once made reference to the decision being ultimately driven by the bottom line.

“I do value certain things when it comes to picking between franchises that are offering the same number,” he said.

As a negotiating posture, it was savvy stuff. If the Raptors were hoping VanVleet might be a grateful loyalist and sign at a hometown discount in the name of the greater good, VanVleet was sending a Mitch Marner-endorsed message that they’d better think again.

Reaction overblown to VanVleet interview: Raptors return still likeliest scenario | Toronto Sun

Maybe people aren’t used to an athlete telling the truth and not providing robotic, pre-scripted answers, but anyone who has listened to VanVleet in the past should have known that he is one of the most thoughtful — and blunt — players in the entire league. That’s a compliment to VanVleet. He shouldn’t be driven to change because of botched headlines and manufactured narratives.

Plus, Redick wasn’t shy about trying to lead VanVleet in certain directions, which is something many haven’t noted when simply judging VanVleet’s responses.

For example, Redick asked a question about the point guard having won in Toronto and thus being free to move on without any burdens or regrets.

“I don’t have anything left to prove. I don’t have a number in mind. I’m a businessman at heart,” VanVleet responded. “But I do value certain things when it comes to actually picking between franchises that are offering the same number, so that part’s gonna be easy. I don’t have to (discredit) anybody or boost anybody. We know which teams are what, so that part will be easy.”

If anything, that should make Raptors supporters feel better about the chances of retaining VanVleet. He knows what the franchise is about.

VanVleet was signed by the Raptors after going undrafted in 2016 following four excellent seasons at Wichita State. He inked a two-year extension in 2018 after establishing himself as a solid rotation player. Having since become a proven starter, one of the top defenders at his position and a key to the 2019 championship run, VanVleet now projects to earn more than double his previous $9 million salary per year.

VanVleet is extremely close with Raptors all-star Pascal Siakam, has had a symbiotic relationship with Toronto’s highly regarded player development program (“They show interest in developing young talent and that’s key,” VanVleet told me back in the summer of 2016 when asked why he picked them among many suitors after going undrafted). He also benefited greatly first learning from, and then playing alongside six-time all-star Kyle Lowry. But none of that gives him an obligation to simply choose the Raptors.

“I’m only four years in, but I feel like I’m on the verge of blossoming even more with more of a lead role,” VanVleet said on the podcast.

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet has every right to want big payday – Tip of the Tower

He hasn’t been featured as a starting point guard enough to really establish his value and it doesn’t help that he’s been stuck behind Kyle Lowry for all these years. At the same time, playing for the Raptors has put him in a strong position because he’s been able to showcase himself.

Toronto has to think about what their future looks like since Lowry will be coming to the end of the line and other than VanVleet, there isn’t a player prime to take over. Keeping VanVleet would be the ideal solution but the team also has an eye on the 2021 free agent class.

So while you can appreciate VanVleet’s desire to think of himself in order to do what’s best for him, the Raptors need to take the same approach. Considering all the uncertainty that the team still has to deal with in Masai Ujiri’s future, it’s not going to be an easy situation.

All that Raptors fans can hope for is that the number they offer VanVleet satisfies what he wants. The good thing for Toronto is that they know what they’re getting out of VanVleet so they probably know what their number is and hopefully, they can stick to it.

If not, then you have to consider other options that will fit the team’s plans even if it isn’t the option the team originally hoped for.

Did I miss something? Send me any Raptors-related content: [email protected]

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