Morning Coffee – Tue, Dec 21

16 mins read
Cover Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Koreen: NBA’s temporary roster exceptions latest reminder that individuals are replaceable in a quest for profits – The Athletic

It is clear the league wants to disrupt its season as little as possible. It is reasonable to presume a healthy portion of that has to do with preserving the Christmas Day schedule, the regular-season jewel of the television-rights packages that make the league billions of dollars of revenue. Are those games as valuable if it’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo and not Giannis headlining a game? It almost doesn’t matter, so long as the NBA delivers on what it’s promised.

“People are concerned about who would ultimately be available to play. And the answer is, I don’t know. … It is, obviously, concerning,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “There are some questions right now about some of our so-called marquee players’ availability to be able to play on Christmas. That’s our day, and we’d hate to not be able to continue to own that day. But one might ask the question — if your marquee guys are all in quarantine, is it worth playing those games, or should those games be, if they can be, postponed? No one’s asked me. But at this point, I think it’s still coming down to prayer.”

As usual, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was spot-on with his analysis after the Raptors finished mopping the floor with an unrecognizable Warriors team on Saturday, undermanned at least in part because Golden State didn’t want to risk any of its players testing positive and getting stuck in a different country.

“It’s business as usual,” VanVleet said. “The show must go on.”

This isn’t an attempt to shame the league for this new policy. We all know the NBA is a fiercely capitalistic enterprise, and it has already lost out on a lot of revenue it anticipated generating during the pandemic. There’s no reason to think this is any “worse” than the NFL punting on testing asymptomatic, vaccinated players on a regular basis, its method of choice to make sure the trains run on schedule. But there should be at least some societal concern about the impact potential positive cases from players and team staff will have within communities. The absolute most we can say is there is no conclusive evidence the Omicron variant is less dangerous than previous strains of COVID-19, which means we should still be trying to limit exposure when possible. In that sense, continuing to be vigilant about testing is the more noble of those two paths. Obviously, those aren’t the only two paths available, but that’s a different conversation.

Beyond that, it is certain some wonderful stories will emerge over this period as a product of the new rule. A lot of players who never would have been able to make the NBA will not only be on rosters, but also will play meaningful minutes. Hell, there will probably be some certified moments from those guys, and that will result in a different type of holiday magic.

When too many of the seams are showing, though, we will be reminded of just how much of a money-making enterprise this is. Frankly, it is bad for fandom, even if we cannot quantify it.

As Omicron threatens every best-laid plan, Raptors wade into an uncertain future – Sportsnet

To bolster their roster the Raptors have signed point guard Brandon Goodwin power forward Juwan Morgan and Canadian Nik Stauskas from the G-League, who have 97, 50 and 335 games of NBA experience, respectively.

The signings were made possible by an agreement reached Sunday by the NBA and the player’s union.

The temporary arrangement allows teams to sign one player for every player that enters protocols and requires teams to sign players as the number of their own players in protocols mounts: a team with two players out would have to sign at least one new player; a team with three out would have to have two and a team with four or more out would have to add three.

The goal is to make sure teams have enough roster players available – the league minimum is eight – to avoid having to postpone more games.

The signees won’t count against the team’s salary cap or luxury tax.

Rather than have a full team practice on Monday at OVO Centre the Raptors opted for individual workouts and COVID screening spread throughout the day to avoid unnecessary contacts within their organization.

The Raptors are expecting to play in Chicago on Wednesday – the Bulls played Sunday for the first time since being shut down for two games, including last week’s game in Toronto – but remain on alert for any changes to those plans.

After that? We’ll see.

Toronto is scheduled to play in Cleveland on Dec. 26th, but the Cavaliers had their game on Sunday postponed and have seven players in protocols. Next are the Philadelphia 76ers, back at Scotiabank Arena, on Dec. 28th, though the Sixers had their game on Sunday postponed as well.

Raptors sign Nik Stauskas as Trent Jr. added to COVID protocols | The Star

Mississauga’s Nik Stauskas, who has been playing for Grand Rapids of the G League, will be joining the team this week. Brandon Goodwin, a 26-year-old guard from the G League Westchester Knicks with 97 games of NBA experience, and six-foot-seven forward Juwan Morgan, a former college teammate of OG Anunoby who has been playing with the Maine Celtics, have also been added.

They are being signed under relaxed NBA roster rules that exclude their 10-day deals from salary cap or luxury tax implications and allow the Raptors to meet the roster rules now in place.

Whether they and the other Raptors can work together Tuesday remains unclear because of additional self-imposed testing protocols and the need for extra caution. Their next scheduled game is in Chicago on Wednesday.

The team limited Monday workouts to one player at one basket but they were allowed to have multiple players in the two-court practice facility. It is reminiscent of 2020’s strict NBA protocols on workouts when the pandemic first laid waste to professional sports.

With additional testing and the time it takes for those tests to be completed and analyzed, it has put the team at the mercy of laboratories. The Raptors will have to roll with the punches when it comes to their schedule, as they have for more than a week.

“They call me up (in) Brooklyn … at 8 a.m. and say, ‘You’ve got to come take two tests right now.’ And then I go, ‘Ugghh,’ ” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the protocols that went in place during a one-game road trip last week. “And then I go down there and do it and I’m OK.

“Players do the same. (They complain about) ‘two tests before you get in the building, a test when you get in the building’ for five seconds and then they realize it’s just got to be done.

“Overall, the mood is good, man. This is a good-natured group for the most part.”

Raptors Signing Nik Stauskas as COVID Replacement Player – Sports Illustrated

Stauskas joins Juwan Morgan and Brandon Goodwin who also signed 10-day deals with the Raptors to replace Pascal Siakam, Dalano Banton, and Gary Trent Jr. who are all in the NBA’s COVID-19 Health & Safety protocols and expected to miss the next few games.

The three signings will not count toward Toronto’s luxury tax bill, per the NBA’s new COVID-19 protocols. The Raptors had been right up against the luxury tax threshold but the new rules have allowed teams to sign COVID-19 replacement players without the salary counting toward the cap.

Toronto Raptors dealing with mounting COVID-related absences like most of the NBA | Toronto Sun

It’s the times we live in and the Raptors are making every effort possible to get through this latest wave with as few names on that health and safety protocols list as possible.

Siakam and Banton were the first to enter protocols as laid down by the NBA, although Precious Achiuwa was out of commission for 10 days, the result of a Toronto Health and Safety call after he was exposed to a positive test individual. Achiuwa continually tested negative during his absence but the city protocols are more strict than NBA protocols.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse takes a roll-with-it attitude to the absences, suggesting losing players for periods of time has been a pretty steady constant since the season began.

“We’ve been going through this pretty much from the start of the year,” he said of losing players to injury or whatever the reason has been. “We pretty much … seems like we add two, lose two, it’s been going on all year.

“Just plug ’em in there, there’s not much to be said other than step in and start playing and, really, what I’m stressing is let’s perform, let’s get solid and execute our defensive stuff, the foundational stuff and let’s share the basketball and just try to get as much chemistry and fluidity together as we can. It’s pretty much constant in and out.”

At this point the Raptors are among the more moderately affected teams in terms of number of players out of action because they are in protocols.
With three in protocols — as of late afternoon the league list was at 75 — the Raptors fall below the top 10 affected teams although there are a total of 11 teams that do not have a single player in protocols.

Masai Ujiri Harry Rosen Canada HUMANITY 2022 Capsule | HYPEBEAST

Luxury menswear retailer Harry Rosen and Masai Ujiri, Vice-Chairman and President of the Toronto Raptors and Founder of Giants of Africa, have come together for the second consecutive year to deliver an all-new athleisure clothing collaboration titled “HUMANITY 2022 Capsule Collection.” Building on the #ThatsHumanity movement that Ujiri launched in 2020, this HUMANITY 2022 Capsule Collection is inspired by the values of diversity, inclusion and community partnership. Most importantly, the collection supports Water First, a charity that collaborates with Indigenous communities to resolve local water challenges.

“Absolutely everyone should have sustainable access to safe, clean water,” says Executive Director and Founder of Water First, John Millar. “This support from Harry Rosen and Masai is a critical investment in Indigenous youth and communities that will help solve water challenges independently, and in the long-term. We are inspired to have new friends from diverse walks of life join us in making a meaningful impact together.”

Once again tapping celebrated Canadian luxury designer Patrick Assaraf, the 10-piece athleisure collection is comprised of various hoodies, including a tie-dye fleece option with matching sweatpants, an assortment of logo print T-shirts and a full-zip HUMANITY logo merino sweater. This time around, Assaraf opted for a more colorful aesthetic, rather than monochromatic like last year, with each piece arriving in its own unique colorway. The capsule items will join shelves that also feature lines from new BIPOC designers Bohten and Aller Retour.

“The #ThatsHumanity movement is meant to challenge all of us to seek out and embrace the things that make us human,” says Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri. “Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s fight for equality for all people, it is expressed through stories, shared experiences and art—all of which is represented here in the beauty of fashion.”

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