TORONTO – This is the era of athlete empowerment and activism, and no where is that more evident than the NBA.
It’s been a special thing to watch as a generation of young athletes with gifts, fame and wealth have recognized that their collective voice can be a force of good and an agent of change.
But they’re done asking.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic made history on Wednesday afternoon when they refused to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at the Walt Disney World Resort in response to the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wis., of Jacob Blake, who was unarmed and, according to his lawyer, left paralyzed after taking at least seven shots from behind.
It’s believed to be the first boycott of its kind in the history of the major North American sports.
The tip was scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET, but the Bucks never took the floor to warm up, and the Magic – who did briefly – soon retreated to their locker rooms. By 4:20, equipment staff were gathering up players’ belongings and packing away basketballs.
Not long after, reports circulated that the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder were planning to boycott Game 5 of their first-round series, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., the NBA announced that all games scheduled for Wednesday would be postponed and rescheduled, including Game 5 of the Los Angeles Lakers‘ series with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Suddenly the feasibility of the NBA’s entire return-to-play plan, which was thought to be vulnerable to the pandemic, could conceivably be undone by an apparent epidemic of police violence against unarmed Black people.
The possibility of games being boycotted was first voiced by Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell of the Toronto Raptors and echoed by various members of the Boston Celtics. The Eastern Conference rivals are scheduled to tip off their second-round series on Thursday night.
“I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on somebody,” said VanVleet on Tuesday. “Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we’re not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks – that’s going to trickle down. If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney’s office, and state’s attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice. I know it’s not that simple, but at the end of the day if we’re gonna sit here and talk about making change then at some point we’re gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose.”
The Celtics and Raptors had a players’-only meeting Tuesday night at the Gran Destino Tower, the hotel they share with Boston, Milwaukee, both Los Angeles teams and the Nuggets and Jazz.
A league-wide meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night an 8 p.m., according to multiple reports, with teams meeting individually before that. How the rest of the season unfolds will likely be determined from there.
With a boycott already in play, the question now is, “What next?”
“It’s an active discussion,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum. “Obviously it started with the Raptors and obviously that’s who we’re playing. It’s been talked about with other guys on other teams. People are upset or angry and we’re just trying to come together and figure out a way how we can do something. Obviously, people are going to say, ‘Well, what is sitting out going to do?’ Obviously, if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs we understand how big of an impact that will have. Everybody’s going to have to talk about it, continue to raise awareness.
“We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world, because it’s affecting us. It’s affecting everybody. We’re more than just basketball players; we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”
At the point of the season where basketball is normally paramount, it very much seems like a distraction. A collection of 20-something athletes, mostly Black, mostly American and many with first-hand experience dealing with law enforcement, are determined to change the conversation.
Normally Raptors head coach Nick Nurse would be in the thick of preparing a game plan for his team against the Celtics. Instead, he’s been having meetings, listening and trying to lend support to his team dealing with another video of another unarmed Black man suffering in a violent encounter with police.
“The players are deeply disappointed that the same thing happens again in a relatively short timeframe,” said Nurse, referring to the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. “They want to be part of the solution, they want to help, they want justice. They want this particular problem to be handled in a much better way. That’s the first thing.
“Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to try to demand a little more action. That’s really what they want. I think there’s enough attention and not quite enough action and that’s what I can sense from the discussions, is their disappointment. Like, ‘Man, how can we get something to change, like now. We need something to change, not just attention on the problem. We need a plan of action.’”
Nowhere has athlete activism been more evident than in the NBA where LeBron James and other prominent stars have boldly put a name and voice to causes in a way that was unthinkable when Michael Jordan was the brightest light in the sports firmament, or when Tiger Woods was the most dominant athlete on the planet.
The movement was kickstarted when James and his then Miami Heat teammates posed for pictures with hoodies up in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Black teenager shot by overzealous-neighbour-with-a-gun George Zimmerman, who, in turn, was acquitted at trial, claiming self-defence. It seemed like a moment where the biggest stars of the day reached back across time and were willing to stand for something like Jim Brown, Muhammed Ali, Bill Russell and others had during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Speaking truth to power was one of the foundational moments in the NBA’s history, specifically. Players won concessions from owners when they threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game. More recently, the rapid ouster of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling when recordings of him making racist comments surfaced was, in part, accelerated when there were suggestions the Golden State Warriors were going to boycott Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers in 2014.
But the latest fight is big and difficult and with hard-to-define goals and objectives. And it’s not getting easier. Players who have taken the opportunity to talk about their feelings and frustrations about another incident of police violence have shown a rare vulnerability and evident anguish.
“I think for us, we just wanted to make a difference, wanted to make a change, and seeing [the shooting of Blake] shows that things are the same,” said Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. “It makes you question, ‘Have you made the [right] decision or not, or whatever the case might be?’ And for me, it hurts. It hurts to see that … we came here for a reason and using our platform and wanting to send a message and hopefully bring awareness and bring a change, but I don’t know. It just feels like we’re stuck. It feels like we’re stuck. It feels like things are not changing.”
The players, standing on the cusp of history and taking it upon themselves to rebalance 400 years of prejudice and injustice, have gone one step further.
The players have decided not to play.
Winter’s Coming. Will Canada’s Pandemic Bicycle Boom Last? – The New York Times
Since 1992, July for me has often meant spending three weeks driving thousands of kilometers to report on the cyclists competing in the Tour de France.
So even though I’m not there this year, it has still taken a bit of adjustment to deal with the tour being in September. Delayed and being held under special pandemic protocols, the race is nevertheless going on as coronavirus cases spike in France. Indeed, Nice was declared an infection red zone just as it was about to host the opening stages.
Within the race, it looks as if the protocols have more or less worked. No team has had two positive tests, which would have forced it to withdraw. Although there has been a sprinkling of positives, including one from Christian Prudhomme, the race director.
While I’m not in France to experience the tour, another development in the world of cycling — a local one — has helped offset my disappointment. Canadians have gone crazy about cycling.
I don’t just write about cycling. As a low-performance athlete, I usually spend my summers putting in dismal results in time trials, races against the clock, and preparing for cyclocross, the end-of-season racing that mixes in some running and nearly every possible riding surface on its circuits, including deep mud and smooth tarmac. Lately, when I’ve been riding outdoors, I’ve been doing it with a lot more people.
By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu.
In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.
Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.
The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?
To get some sense of what’s to come and how cities might keep cycling fever going, I spoke with Beth Savan, a senior lecturer and adjunct professor in the geography and planning department of the University of Toronto. Dr. Savan was the main investigator in a study published last year by researchers at her university, along with others at McGill University and Simon Fraser University, about how to increase cycling in Canada.
She said she was encouraged that people rushed out to buy new bikes rather than dust off old ones because it suggests that they may be more invested in sticking with cycling. She also noted that this is the first bicycle boom since the advent of the e-bike. (Gretchen Reynolds recently reported on studies looking at whether electrically assisted bikes are safe and if they actually provide good exercise.)
Dr. Savan has also noticed in recent months that the lines between recreational and transportation uses of bikes are blurring, another sign that the national interest in cycling might persist.
“People will now take a nice route to go on their errands to get some exercise or some pleasure along the way,” she said. “It’s kind of a new situation.”
Augmenting that effect has been the large number of people working from home who are now also largely shopping within their neighborhoods. Many of those people, she said, have discovered that bicycles are more effective than cars for those short trips.
For the winter, Dr. Savan said that Canadian cities should think about adopting the model of some places in Scandinavia, where sidewalks are cleared first, then bike paths and finally roads. Her group’s study, by the way, shows that winter cycling before the pandemic was strong in many places that bore the full brunt of the season.
Dr. Savan urged local government to view their current cycling accommodations as pilot projects to cycling rather than as temporary pandemic measures.
“To try and engineer lower a lower proportion of trips undertaken by car, that’s really where the challenge is,” she said. “As people start to feel more confident about going back to work in indoor spaces, they will be tempted to drive more.”
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During the 1970s and ’80s, Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s music was largely overlooked. Now the composer, who lives on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, has found an audience, Grayson Haver Currin reports.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
Novak Djokovic damages racket in fit of anger during Italian Open quarter-finals – CBC.ca
Less than two weeks after getting defaulted from the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic lost his cool again midway through a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the Italian Open quarter-finals Saturday.
When Djokovic was broken at love to even the second set at 3-3, he slammed his racket to the red clay in anger in Rome.
With the frame broken and the strings all mangled, Djokovic was forced to get a new racket and received a warning from the chair umpire.
“It’s not the first nor the last racket that I’ll break in my career,” Djokovic said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again. I don’t want to do it but when it comes, it happens.
“That’s how, I guess, I release sometimes my anger and it’s definitely not the best message out there, especially for the young tennis players looking at me, and I don’t encourage that — definitely.”
WATCH | Djokovic loses his temper yet again:
The top-ranked Djokovic had said Monday that he learned “a big lesson” after he was thrown out of the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball in a fit of anger. Djokovic also acknowledged then “that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.”
At the Foro Italico, Djokovic had already appeared frustrated during the game before he broke his racket, glaring toward the umpire following a couple of overrules and a point that was ordered to be replayed.
“That’s just me,” Djokovic said. “Of course I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best.”
WATCH | Novak Djokovic hits line judge with ball at U.S. Open:
Ruud 1st Norwegian to reach semis of Masters 1000 tourney
The 97th-ranked Koepfer, who screamed at himself in frustration throughout the match, was also warned for misbehaviour early in the third set.
Aiming for his fifth title in Rome, Djokovic’s semifinal opponent will be Casper Ruud, who eliminated local favourite Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted two hours 57 minutes.
Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach the semifinals of a Masters 1000 tournament. His father, Christian Ruud, got as far as the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters in 1997.
Shapovalov into semis
The other semifinal will feature No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., against No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.
Shapovalov edged No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, while Schwartzman upset clay court specialist and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5.
WATCH | Shapovalov’s 100th win sends him into semis:
While fans have not been admitted to the tournament yet — Italy’s sports minister said Friday that 1,000 spectators will be allowed in for the semifinals and finals — workers, family members and other onlookers inside the picturesque Pietrangeli stadium provided some support for Berrettini, who is from Rome.
Nicola Pietrangeli, the 1957 and 1961 Rome champion and the man the stadium is named after, was also among those sitting on the white marble stands.
“There would have been a lot more adrenaline with fans,” Berrettini said.
NBA Playoffs 2020: The Boston Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever – NBA CA
The Boston Celtics could be up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals just as easily as they are down 2-0.
Blowing double-digit leads in each of the first two games of the series, the Miami Heat have out-hustled the Celtics for 48 (and some change) minutes in back-to-back games to give themselves a commanding lead.
With Boston on the brink of the infamous 3-0 deficit that no NBA team has ever come back from, Game 3 becomes a must-win if the Celtics are going to continue their push for their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
There’s been a common thread in Games 1 and 2 (aside from the double-digit comebacks) that have placed Boston in this situation: Miami’s 2-3 zone defence. Our Scott Rafferty analyzed that issue in detail, and it’s been a glaring weakness for Boston’s offence all season.
But luckily for the Celtics, they still haven’t used all the cards up their sleeve. They still have a weapon stored away that could present itself at any moment now, as former All-Star forward Gordon Hayward‘s return is on the horizon.
Hayward, who suffered an ankle injury in the Celtics’ first game of the postseason and has been out since, was upgraded to “doubtful” before Game 2. While that wasn’t much of an update, it showed he was getting closer to returning to the floor. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss confirmed that following Thursday’s loss, stating that Hayward is “progressing toward a return for Game 3,” adding that he felt good after Wednesday’s practice and will “get more on-court work Friday with the hope of playing Saturday.”
On Friday, he was officially listed by the team as “questionable” for Game 3.
It will surely take some time for Hayward to get back into the flow of things after missing one month of action, but he immediately helps Boston take steps toward breaking that impenetrable zone defence.
His 19.0 points per game in the bubble speaks for itself, giving the Celtics an extra scoring threat that the Heat will have to worry about. He can shoot from the perimeter (converting 38.3% of his 3s this season), he’s a solid slasher with the ball and cutter without the ball, and he’s a strong midrange shooter, pairing well with sharp playmaking skills that should help dissect that zone.
Most importantly, Hayward loves working in the soft spot of the 2-3 zone (right at the foul line), which should give Miami’s defence more trouble than its seen thus far.
In Games 1 and 2, the Celtics elected to go with Marcus Smart or Daniel Theis to try and pierce the heart of that zone. Smart’s passing makes him an OK option for that middle spot, but he’s better off on the perimeter, where he’s converting 42.1% of his 3s this series. The Heat will live with him or Theis taking that midrange pull-up, whereas it becomes a much more efficient source of offence for Boston with Hayward taking that shot.
According to NBA Stats, Hayward shot 49.3% on midrange jumpers and 43.4% on shots in the paint (non-restricted area) this season. Having him in the middle will prevent the zone’s two defenders up top from expanding so far out, shrinking that long and athletic defence even just a tad bit more.
The Heat will be forced to collapse on Hayward, where he can showcase his playmaking ability to find open shooters on the perimeter. That makes Miami much more reliant on perfect and quick rotations to challenge Boston’s 3-point shooters.
If the Heat’s defenders don’t collapse on him or the centre (typically Bam Adebayo) doesn’t take a step up, Hayward will gladly take looks like the one below over and over again.
Even though he misses that particular jumper, it’s a shot Miami is much less likely to live with compared to Smart or Theis pulling up from there. Even when Hayward attacks from the perimeter, he has no problem stopping short of that centre defender for little pull-up jumpers like this one against the Heat earlier this season:
The Celtics have been dependent on quick passes for (often contested) 3-pointers, which has also developed into bad decisions for live ball turnovers or long rebounds going the other way to spark Miami runs off of offensive droughts. Having someone that can hit shots like the ones above makes that zone defence much more vulnerable than it has been so far.
Hayward’s return wouldn’t just be a luxury for the Celtics, it’s essential for them to keep their season alive in trying to even the series.
The Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever if their title pursuit is going to continue.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.
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