Looking to shake up his team in the midst of a three-game losing streak, Nick Nurse hinted he would be considering some lineup changes.
Maybe it was time to see what rookie point guard Malachi Flynn might be able to contribute to a flailing second unit, or second-year wing Terence Davis, who has been a ghost in the early going.
The crisis, it seemed, was what to do in the minutes Kyle Lowry didn’t play — given that, heading into Toronto’s matchup with the New York Knicks, his team had been outscored by 40 points in the 33 minutes his veteran point had sat.
“I think that the big key is can I find the right combination of guys out there when he goes off or is there a tinkering I can do with who’s out there without him,” said Nurse. “Things like that are where I’m at with it right now. I think you’ll see more of that tonight, different combinations of lineup.”
Nurse didn’t mention the biggest lineup change of all: the decision to sit Pascal Siakam, who Nurse referred to as the team’s “closer” during the fifth-year wing’s struggles down the stretch of Toronto’s loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
At the end of that game, Siakam was seen walking off the floor and down the tunnel after fouling out with 26 seconds left to play.
It wasn’t a good look, especially from a franchise cornerstone. Nurse said he hadn’t seen it in the moment but that it would be addressed.
The moment was addressed emphatically earlier in the day on Thursday, according to sources, when Siakam was informed that he would be in street clothes against the Knicks as a disciplinary measure for his walk off, even as his teammates were looking for their first win of the season.
Whether it was a case of using a hammer to kill a fly, or an admirable example of an organization establishing expectations of behaviour even if it meant sitting one of their best players, might depend on where you sit.
But one way or the other, it worked out as the Raptors got their W with an encouraging 100-83 win over a competitive, young Knicks team to improve their record to 1-3 before they head to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans Saturday night.
It was a strange New Year’s Eve, but a happy one.
Norman Powell got the start in Siakam’s place, as Nurse and the Raptors chose to emphasize rules and culture in the big picture even while playing what Kyle Lowry had referred to as a “must win.”
Powell was part of a three-man gang on the perimeter for the Raptors, as he scored a season-high 17 points on 13 shots while Fred VanVleet put up 25 points and seven assists and Lowry offered 20 and four.
The Raptors held the Knicks to 36 per cent shooting and were able to pull away in the fourth as Chris Boucher gave them a spark in the final quarter with a key triple and a fastbreak dunk. A VanVleet three was part of an 11-0 run that gave the Raptors a 14-point lead with 5:44 left that the Knicks couldn’t overcome. The Raptors’ cause was aided by the Knicks shooting 3-of-36 from three. Among the culprits was Knicks second-year forward RJ Barrett of Mississauga, who scored just 12 points and was 0-of-8 from deep against his hometown team.
His teammates’ showing gave Siakam lots to cheer about on the sidelines and he was active in doing so. If he was upset about being sat out he didn’t let it show. According a source, Siakam was frustrated at not being able to play and help his team, but understood the decision.
It was all in sharp contrast to the mood earlier, when the impression was that things were not all right. First-year Raptor Alex Len said that he could sense the tension as the team dealt with a rare three-game losing streak.
Nurse echoed the sentiment before the game: “They don’t like to lose. They’re invested in this thing and they don’t like the feeling that they’ve had, again, considering all three games we’ve held a double-digit lead and played very well in stretches.”
Whatever is to be made of the decision to sit Siakam, replacing him with Powell certainly seemed to pay off in the early going. Powell was shooting just 4-of-23 before he got the start. Maybe Nurse was hoping it would spark him, given that Powell averaged 18.7 points a game in 26 starts last year.
Powell knocked down his first three shots and had seven points before the game was four minutes old.
And the Raptors managed their minutes without Lowry reasonably well also. In the first quarter they only gave up a point in the two minutes Lowry was out, and in the second quarter broke four minutes — not that New York was all that impressed.
They came back from down seven in the second quarter to go into the half tied 42-42 as the young Knicks, coached by Tom Thibodeau, showed their defensive teeth and continued to get production in all aspects from Julius Randle, who had 13 points on seven shots even as the Raptors limited New York’s shooting as a team.
Regardless of the Siakam situation, Nurse was looking for solutions coming into the game and wasn’t shy about where he would look for them.
He gave significant minutes to Davis in the first half for the first time this season, which created the awkward spectacle of Davis – who is facing seven charges for an alleged domestic assault in the off-season – getting minutes in the absence of Siakam.
Not seeing the floor was the rookie Flynn or sharpshooter Matt Thomas, but Yuta Watanabe did make his Raptors debut. Then out of nowhere came 11 third-quarter points from Len, playing in place of Aron Baynes, who took a hard knock in a collision with Randle. Len spotted up for three corner triples and made them all. Those timely contributions and eight more third-quarter points from Powell allowed the Raptors to take a 71-64 lead into the fourth quarter and Toronto didn’t look back.
The longer-term question is what effect the unusual decision to sit out an all-NBA player will have on the relationship between Siakam and Nurse and the rest of the organization.
It certainly sets an unusual precedent. The only other comparable disciplinary action by the team during Masai Ujiri’s tenure running the team came when Serge Ibaka was suspended for one game on Dec. 29, 2017 after getting into an altercation with one of the team’s support staff on the bus following a road loss in Oklahoma City.
Siakam was not suspended – he doesn’t lose a game cheque – but it was still a significant gesture given what was clearly a moment of frustration for the 26-year-old, who is in the first year of a four-year maximum extension worth $136 million.
The team could have fined him or taken him out of the starting lineup or dealt with it behind closed doors or done nothing at all.
All would have been more common approaches. But as one source put it, the Raptors and Nurse chose to emphasize culture and rules, even potentially jeopardizing a much-needed early season win.
Would Lowry be treated the same way? It’s hard to imagine.
But Nurse made his call. He made a number of them, and the Raptors got a needed win and were able to make a point all in the same night.
Habs Headlines: The Canadiens defend decision to select Logan Mailloux – Habs Eyes on the Prize
Jessica Klimkait wins judo bronze to make Canadian history – CBC.ca
Having just lost the most devastating match of her career, a semifinal defeat to go for gold in the women’s under-57 kilogram judo event, Canada’s Jessica Klimkait wasn’t sure initially she could step back out on the mat for another match.
She was heartbroken. The world’s number-one ranked judoka in her weight class, Klimkait imagined a golden moment in Tokyo to end her first Olympic experience.
But there was still a medal up for grabs. It was not the colour Klimkait wanted but it still a chance to step on the podium.
Klimkait cried a bit. She talked to her coach. And then not long after she got back on the mat for her bronze-medal match.
Inside the hallowed Nippon Budokan near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Klimkait showed resilience, power and poise to battle back and win bronze for Canada.
WATCH | Klimkait makes Canadian history, captures Olympic bronze:
Bring on the cheers
Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.
“Right now I’m going to be emotional about missing that gold medal but I think looking back I’m going to be proud of myself because the last two or three years have been extremely hard,” Klimkait said.
She defeated Slovenian Kaja Kajzer to become the first Canadian woman to land on the Olympic judo podium.
Kosovo’s Nora Gjakova won gold, while France’s Cysique won second. Japan’s Tsukasa Yoshina also won bronze as they award two third-place finishes in judo.
WATCH | Klimkait steps to the podium for her historic medal:
It’s Canada’s first medal in judo since the 2012 Olympics.
“I came here with gold in mind. That was the goal for me,” she said, fighting back tears.
“At the end of the day I’m just happy I was able to collect myself after that loss and come away with a medal.”
Stunning loss in semis
But about an hour earlier Klimkait’s Olympic gold medal dreams were dashed by France’s Sarah Léonie Cysique.
The referee handed Klimkait a third shido, or penalty, after a failed attack. That gave Cysique a stunning win.
“I’m a really offensive player. The only solution that I had was that I was trying to attack. I kept trying to attack. Some of them were not as great as they could have been,” Klimkait conceded.
Klimkait, 24, had to battle through four matches on Monday to secure the bronze, including the demoralizing semifinal.
“I just used all my mental strength that I could and kept it about trying to perform in the bronze medal match despite my emotions and some physical fatigue,” she said.
WATCH | Klimkait reflects on her historic medal for Canada:
Klimkait, from Whitby, Ont., has been carving a new path in the sport for Canada over the past number of years, alongside world No. 2, Canadian Christa Deguchi.
But it wasn’t a completely smooth journey for Klimkait in becoming Olympic champion.
Just before the pandemic hit in March 2020 and COVID-19 shut down sports around the world, Klimkait and Deguchi were months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot, and then Klimkait suffered a knee injury.
The pandemic pause was a blessing for Klimkait as she was able to rest and recover. She told CBC Sports that if she wouldn’t have gotten the time off, she wouldn’t have been able to train properly and would have lost the fight-off – that would have ended her Olympic dream.
WATCH | Sport Explainer – Judo:
With only one Olympic spot available per country per event in judo, it had been decided that whoever of the two finished higher at the 2021 worlds would get Canada’s 57kg berth.
In early June, Klimkait defeated Momo Tamaoki of Japan by waza-ari in the world final, becoming Canada’s second world champion in the sport after Deguchi won in 2019.
Klimkait won the world championship and booked her ticket to Tokyo. Deguchi finished fourth.
“The last two or three years have been really uncertain for me in trying to qualify for the Olympics,” Klimkait said.
“I had to tuck the dream of the Olympics away and try to get better at judo for a while. I just did my best to be the best player I could and hoped that would be enough for qualification.”
WATCH | Klimkait wins judo world championship gold, qualifies for Tokyo:
It was somewhat of a full-circle moment for the Canadian judo program – Canada’s first judo medal was won inside the same Budokan venue at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo by Doug Rogers, taking the heavyweight silver.
It would take two decades before Canada would win another judo medal, as Mark Berger won heavyweight bronze at the 1984 Games.
Coming into these Games in Tokyo, Canada had won two silver medals and three bronze medals.
Canada hadn’t won an Olympic medal in judo for nine years.
But Klimkait has ended the drought in the same place judo became an Olympic sport.
“That’s been a goal and dream of mine not only to attend the Olympic Games but to be on the podium. Obviously the highest step on the podium would have been preferred,” she said.
“I still wanted to feel that pride even if it wasn’t gold.”
Habs draft pick Logan Mailloux’s sharing of intimate photo raises questions about accountability, experts say – The Globe and Mail
The decision by the Montreal Canadiens to select a junior hockey player who shared explicit images without his sexual partner’s consent – and had asked not to be picked while he works on improving his character – has provoked a backlash inside and outside the hockey world.
The Canadiens used their first pick from among dozens of National Hockey League prospects to take Logan Mailloux, an Ontario defenceman who played in Sweden last season on loan from his Canadian junior team, the London Knights.
Mr. Mailloux, who has turned 18 since the 2020 incident, was playing with SK Lejon in Sweden’s third division last fall when he sent images to teammates of the sexual encounter, along with information that identified his female partner.
He was charged with distributing a sexual photo without consent in Sweden and paid fines amounting to $5,300. When news of the incident broke in North America last week on sports site Daily Faceoff, Mr. Mailloux released a statement asking NHL teams to avoid drafting him. “I don’t feel I have demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft,” he said.
The NHL has no mechanism for players to withdraw their candidacy. Mr. Mailloux was passed over by all other NHL teams with picks in the first round before the Canadiens made their choice.
Tara Slone, co-host of the weekly Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sportsnet, said she was disappointed and disgusted by the Canadiens and team general manager Marc Bergevin.
“It’s sort of jaw-dropping. You start thinking things are improving and the needle is moving a little bit, and we take a bunch of steps backward,” Ms. Slone said in an interview. “I quite frankly found it baffling and heartbreaking at the same time. As a woman who works in hockey, I could not comprehend the decision.”
Ms. Slone said many of the men who run hockey “know they can get away with it and hockey trumps everything. It’s consequence-free.”
Elliotte Friedman, Ms. Slone’s Sportsnet colleague, said she was far from alone in her dismay. People around the hockey world, including him, “felt sick to their stomachs” after the pick, he said. “It put a stain on what was a really good week for the sport,” Mr. Friedman said on his podcast. Hockey media stalwarts from TSN, including Craig Button and Bob McKenzie, also expressed shock and dismay.
Farrah Khan, manager of Consent Comes First, a support organization against sexual and gender violence at Ryerson University in Toronto, said the Canadiens showed a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of consent in brushing aside the incident and the player’s wish to be left alone to sort out his issues.
She questioned what the Canadiens have in place to help the player. “We know there’s a problem with misogyny in sports. He is one player of many across sports teams that have caused sexual harm. What are the Canadiens doing concretely to address the issue?” Ms. Khan said.
The Canadiens did not respond to the question Sunday.
Mr. Bergevin, the general manager, justified the choice on the weekend, saying the team would be able to “provide [Mailloux] the tools” to address his behaviour. Assistant general manager Trevor Timmins said Mr. Mailloux meets with “a lady psychiatrist a couple times a week” and will be welcomed to training camp before the next season. The team has a plan, he said.
“We feel he is sincere in his redemption quest,” Mr. Timmins said. “We believe in giving people second chances.”
Mr. Mailloux told reporters Saturday he will try to take advantage of resources offered by the Canadiens. He also said he has apologized several times to his victim. “At this point I hope she knows I am sincere about this. I am really sorry,” he said.
The victim in the case wrote to The Athletic site last week to say Mr. Mailloux’s apology was a three-line text, and she didn’t believe it was sincere. “I do not think that Logan has understood the seriousness of his behaviour,” she said. “All I wanted was a heartfelt apology for his behaviour.”
Ms. Slone of Sportsnet said the Canadiens failed to take the victim into account in their selection. “There isn’t much attention paid to her side.”
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