Prospects I’ve been asked about
Marvin Bagley III — Included only because I’ve been asked about him a lot, he checks the primary box of “intriguing pedigree guy the Kings probably messed up.” Still, he’ll cost $11.3 million next year and has not been very good in general. A reasonable team would probably hold out for real assets even on a sell-low; the Kings may prefer a fresh start.
Mo Bamba — Similar to Bagley, this feels too early on the Magic side. He still has one more guaranteed season, plus a team option, then restricted free agency. I know his name has come up some, and he’s certainly still an intriguing prospect, but the Orlando side of this confuses me.
Wendell Carter Jr. — I get asked a lot about Lauri Markkanen. I know you can’t pick which prospects a new front office may move on from, but if Chicago’s new regime is willing to move a prospect big, Carter is incredibly intriguing. Again, I’m skeptical he’s available.
John Collins — A bit of a divisive player overall, I think some of that comes down to his reported desire for a massive payday in restricted free agency this summer. That’s something you’d want permission to discuss with his camp before acquiring him. He’s an RFA this summer and if he thinks there’s a max offer sheet out there, it’s tough to give up a lot of assets for the right to overpay him. At 6-foot-9, he doesn’t fill the centre hole in a traditional way, but a defensive frontcourt of Collins, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby should be versatile enough to make do. The asset cost figures to be quite high here.
Now, the overwhelming likelihood is the Raptors won’t play again until after the break, with the three games to be made up in the second half of the season. The Raptors will now have to play 38 games instead of 35 in the second half. It’s doable, as some teams are already scheduled to play more. The Grizzlies, who have had six games postponed in the first half, have 40 games scheduled for the second half. If the league needs to, it will push the scheduled end of the regular season, and the play-in tournament, further back. This is the same league that has deemed it wise to have an All-Star Game in a pandemic, so they will do everything possible to get all of the games in, maximizing revenues while keeping their television partners happy. (Oh, we forgot: The All-Star Game is for the fans. Yes.)
If the practical terms of how this will affect the Raptors’ on-court performance is the first thing that pops to mind, well, that’s the way the NBA wants it. After the bubble drastically altered the schedule and look of games, the league has done everything possible to make this season a “normal” one, right up to the irresponsible format of the calendar, following the pattern of a typical season as much as possible.
Hindsight is pretty good, so it is easy to say now that the Raptors shouldn’t have played Friday, either. It was pretty easy to say with foresight, too. You need a lot longer than two days to see the true impact of how a specific group of people is impacted by the virus, and if the Raptors knew at least one member of the team had been exposed to a positive test, it was predictable that the contact tracing would need to expand exponentially at some point. But hey: That’s one fewer game to make up later.
Forget the Raptors’ on-court fortunes for a moment. First and foremost, let’s hope as few members of the Raptors organization as possible have caught the virus, and those that have only deal with mild symptoms at worst. Let’s hope it did not spread to the Rockets, either. Health is the most important thing here, even if the league and the players’ association have conspired to make decisions that fly in the face of that. We should be reading and rereading the words of Karl-Anthony Towns.
Beyond that, the cancellation of Sunday’s game, and likely more than that, just add to the spiritual distance separating the Raptors and Toronto. It was never a good look for the Raptors to request to play in Toronto as the virus was headed toward its peak in November. At least the team had the sense to stay in Tampa without an argument for the second half of the season.
While privacy concerns prevent with the team from confirming if Siakam did – in the end – test positive for the virus, it would be unusual for a player to be otherwise preemptively held out of games due to health and safety protocols.
Typically, a player (or staff member) has to sit out a minimum of 10 days after a positive test result if he’s asymptomatic and train on his own for two days before returning to play or 10 days from having his symptoms subside with a two-day workout window to follow. Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks, as an example, played Sunday after missing 10 games and sitting out 20 days due to the health and safety protocols.
In the meantime, the players, coaches and staff will each have to go through their interactions for the previous seven days and identify when or if they were around anyone who has tested positive or any other scenarios where a risk of transmission is deemed high – a meeting where those in attendance didn’t wear masks, for example.
Whether the Raptors have more games postponed or not will depend on test results Saturday and Sunday and what they find through contact tracing.
If more games are postponed, they will be added to the Raptors schedule in the second half, which begins on March 11th against the Atlanta Hawks.
As it is the Raptors are expecting to play 36 games (including the Bulls postponement) in 66 days. If the two remaining games the Raptors have scheduled are postponed the second half of the season will be that much more difficult.
According to sources, at least one of Toronto’s coaches tested positive ahead of Friday’s game, with the rest of the front-of-the-bench staff told to isolate from the team because they were considered close contacts. There was enough concern over Siakam’s status that he entered the protocol, as well. The Raptors did not play or practice on Thursday, but why weren’t the players or coaches that shared the court – or the locker room – with the aforementioned individuals in Miami on Wednesday also deemed to be close contacts?
Similar questions emanated from both the Raptors and Nets locker rooms after a game in Brooklyn earlier this month, when Kevin Durant was pulled from the starting lineup just prior to tip-off, allowed to enter the game in the first quarter, and then ruled out again in the second half – all in the name of contact tracing.
“You can probably imagine it’s just the natural course of how groups work,” said Webster, who was asked about the protocol on Friday. “So, if your department or whatever group you’re with at work, if someone within that group had an exposure you go back and say who did you hang out with and who were you around the most? Who do you sit with on the plane? Who do you sit with on the bus?”
These incidents were unavoidable once the NBA and its players’ association decided to go forward with this season – playing basketball in the midst of a global pandemic and outside of a contained environment, like the Disney bubble that allowed them to finish the 2019-20 campaign safely. With teams travelling around the United States and playing in different markets, some of them in front of a limited numbers of fans, this was inevitable – players and staff were going to contract the virus and games were going to be lost.
Sunday’s game between the Raptors and Bulls was the 34th postponement of the season. It was the 30th time that a team could not dress the minimum required number of players.
Like just about everything else in basketball, in sports, or in life right now, this is a fluid situation. All of Toronto’s players and staff have been asked to quarantine at their respective homes in Tampa, only leaving to undergo testing a couple times per day. The league will monitor the results of those tests closely and determine what the next steps look like.
Neither the league nor the team made public the results of Saturday’s tests on the Raptors, but it’s apparent there were either some positives or that some players had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. How that breaks down will determine the length of any quarantine/isolation and when the Raptors might play again.
Following the two games still scheduled for this week, the Raptors don’t play again until March 11 against Atlanta in Tampa. The NBA all-star break runs from March 5 to 10. No Raptors were selected for the March 7 showcase.
That the Raptors have gone this long without being directly affected by the year-old global pandemic is really quite something.
After the NBA suspended its 2019-20 season almost a year ago, the team made it through a self-imposed isolation in Naples, Fla., before living in the NBA’s playoff bubble in Orlando last summer.
They got through the off-season, including some group workouts in Los Angeles, and all of training camp, and the only time they were touched by COVID-19 was when Norm Powell had to miss two days of practice for contact tracing.
The Raptors went through the first 33 games of the season without a single player, coach or official missing time because of league protocols until Friday’s win over Houston. And before Sunday, Toronto was one of only four teams not to have a single game postponed this season. The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets are now the only ones. Sunday’s postponement was the 30th leaguewide.
The league went ahead with Friday’s game versus Houston with Pascal Siakam, head coach Nick Nurse and five of his assistants all held out with the all-encompassing health and safety protocols reason given.
Siakam, it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday, would miss at least the remaining three games on the Raptors’ first-half schedule before the league would shut down for it’s all-star break and festivities.
The Raptors were fortunate to have assistant Sergio Scariolo available for duty on Friday after returning from his coaching duties in Europe with FIBA. Scariolo was in quarantine when the coronavirus took aim at the Raptors’ roster and coaching staff.
There has been no word as of Sunday evening on whether the Raptors’ two remaining games of the first half — a home game in Tampa versus Detroit and a road game Thursday in Boston versus the Celtics — would be affected.
Officially they are still on the schedule, awaiting the results of those tests on Sunday.
The Raptors are the 27th of 30 teams to have a game postponed so far this season.
The only teams to avoid any postponements to date are the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets, though the Nets have had their fair share of coronavirus-related issues.
A scenario like this one as close as it is to the all-star break could become an issue for those Raptors looking to get away and enjoy some relaxing time away from Tampa.