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How the NBA’s restart plan impacts the Toronto Raptors

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TORONTO – By Thursday afternoon, the NBA should have the framework in place to restart the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida later this summer.

With a conference call scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET, the board of governors is expected to vote on and approve the league’s proposed plan, according to multiple reports.

The details, as per ESPN and The Athletic, are as follows:

– 22 teams would be included: the 16 teams that occupied a playoff spot when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the season to be put on hold on March 11, as well as the six teams that were within six games of the eighth seed in their respective conferences – Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix in the West and Washington in the East.

– Each team would play eight regular-season games, with games targeted to begin on July 31.

– If the ninth-place team finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth seed in their conference, they will compete in a play-in tournament to decide which club qualifies for the playoffs. The team in ninth would have to eliminate the eighth seed twice in order to advance.

– Outside of a potential play-in tournament to decide eighth place, the playoff seeding and competition structure is expected to remain status quo: separate East and West brackets, seven-games series’ and no reseeding.

Of course, the health and safety protocols that will need to be implemented to mitigate risk and protect players, coaches and team personnel on site are far more important than these logistical or formatting particulars. While some of those details have already been reported – daily testing, social distancing guidelines off the court, no guests permitted on the Disney campus until the playoffs, etc. – many are still being negotiated between the league and the players association.

The virus is in charge, roadblocks remain and plans could still change. On a conference call with the NBA’s head coaches a few weeks ago, commissioner Adam Silver insisted that he’s not afraid to move the timeline of a return or even pull the plug on it altogether in a scenario where it’s deemed unsafe to move forward.

However, for the first time since the league closed its doors nearly three months ago, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Barring an unforeseen development, basketball is coming back.

What does that mean for the reigning champion Toronto Raptors? First and foremost, they’ll get a chance to defend their title. They’ll also have an opportunity to finish what they started back in October.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” said Raptors all-star Pascal Siakam, who spoke to the Toronto media via conference call on Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, you don’t want your season to just go to waste. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into the whole season, working hard. I think particularly for us with injuries and everything that we’ve been through, trying to get healthy all season, working really hard as a team, and beating the odds each and every game, obviously we don’t want to see it end like that. So, we want to be able to play and continue to move forward and hopefully that can happen. We’re excited about attacking another title.”

When play resumes, Toronto will reclaim its record of 46-18 – which, as a refresher, ranks second in the Eastern Conference, 6.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee and 3.0 games ahead of third-place Boston. The Raptors are one of four teams to have already clinched a playoff spot, joining the aforementioned Bucks and Celtics, as well as the Lakers.

It’s expected that teams will reconvene in their home cities in early July before beginning training camp at Disney later in the month. The Raptors will almost certainly go straight to Orlando to simplify the process and maximize training time.

Roughly half the team is currently in Toronto, with the other half scattered throughout the United States. The NBA believes it has government support from both the U.S. and Canada and league officials have assured players they will be permitted to travel between countries when they need to, sources confirm.

They will need to follow quarantine protocol each time they cross the border, though. With that in mind, it makes more sense for the players and personnel that are in Toronto to meet the others in the U.S. and quarantine there for 14 days before camp than it would for those in the U.S. to come back to Canada and have to quarantine twice.

Teams are hoping to get at least two-to-three weeks of training camp in before playing meaningful games, knowing it’s going to take time for everybody to get back in shape.

It’s been more than 12 weeks since the Raptors last played a game. Until recently, many players hadn’t stepped foot in a gym. For most of that time they were limited to riding stationary bikes and lifting weights at home, going for runs outside or, in some cases, taking shots by themselves on a portable hoop. These are things that every team has had to deal with during the layoff.

Unlike some of the lower-seeded clubs, who will be jockeying for position in the standings once the regular season resumes, the Raptors have the luxury of easing their way back in. That could be critical, especially for a veteran group.

Making up a 6.5 game difference in eight contests to catch Milwaukee for first place is almost impossible, but holding off Boston and locking up second remains important. It’s still advantageous to face Brooklyn (currently a half game up on the Magic for seventh place) or Orlando in Round 1, as opposed to Indiana or Philadelphia (note: the Nets haven’t officially ruled their injured stars – Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant – out but their returns sound unlikely).

Still, as the ninth-oldest team in the NBA and one with aspirations of returning to The Finals, you have to imagine that the Raptors’ top priority will be getting everybody back up to speed, keeping their prominent players healthy and preparing for the playoffs. That was their approach well before a global pandemic forced them into a long layoff.

What could work in the team’s favour, even if it takes them some extra time to get those older bodies revved up again, are their chemistry, style of play and basketball IQ.

Their core has been together for years – they won a championship together – and they didn’t make any major changes at the trade deadline, so there’s a familiarity there that other teams might not have. As teams shake off rust, conventional wisdom suggests that offences could suffer, at least initially. Toronto’s strength is on the defensive end and it’s predicated on the vision and overall intellect of older players like Kyle Lowry or Marc Gasol.

It may take time to get your shot or your legs back, but your mind will still be ticking. As one of the smartest teams in the association, the Raptors should have that advantage.

“I think we have a great group of guys, people that actually genuinely care about each other,” Siakam said. “Most of the group, we [workout in] L.A. [during the off-season], we do different things. I feel like there’s chemistry there. We’ve been playing [together] for a while, we [won a] championship together, things you don’t really forget. And if anything was lost we’ll find it back.”

Another silver lining for the Raptors – one of the NBA’s most banged-up teams over the first 64 games of the regular season – is that they should be well rested. Gasol, who may have been overworked coming off a full year of basketball and was battling a lingering hamstring issue, has had several months to heal. Guys like Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who had accumulated a myriad of bumps and bruises over the course of a long regular season, will come in fresh.

That applies to every team, of course, but few dealt with the volume of injuries Toronto did. The Raptors only had their full roster available twice and not since their fifth game of the campaign, which was more than eight months ago. Theoretically, no team should benefit more from the hiatus, unless Irving and Durant are able to return for Brooklyn.

If the Raptors can go all the way again they’ll have to play until October. That would mean spending more than three months in the NBA’s bubble, or “campus-like” environment.

“It’s going to be tough. I’ve been [in one place] for so long, l lose track of time, I don’t even know what year it is,” Siakam said, speaking for most people these days. “I don’t know what’s going on, to be honest.”

For guys that are used to the travel of a busy NBA schedule, it’s going to be strange to be in one spot. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the teams that go deep into the playoffs, it will be weird to live in a singular hotel room for so long. It’s going to be hard to be away from home, to play in an arena without fans or to avoid giving your teammates high fives.

Whatever comes next will be bizarre, but assuming it can be done safely, the return of basketball is something to look forward to.​
Source: – TSN

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The Blue Jays hand Austin Martin a record signing bonus — and expect bang for the buck – Toronto Star

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Austin Martin is set to receive the largest signing bonus the Blue Jays have ever handed out to one of their draft picks, after the versatile infielder agreed to terms on Wednesday afternoon. Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae was the first to report the sides were nearing an agreement, and the pending deal has since been confirmed by the Star. According to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline, Martin will earn $7,000,825 (U.S.) — the 12th-highest bonus in draft history.

THE MONEY

The recommended slot value for Toronto’s fifth overall pick was $6,180,700. Martin, who had been projected by most experts to be taken second by Baltimore, will receive the second-highest signing bonus of any player selected this year. Spencer Torkelson, who went first to Detroit, received the most at $8,416,300.

THE GAME PLAN

The Jays’ immediate plan for Martin remains unknown. He is a seasoned college infielder with a bat many scouts have called big-league ready. Martin is not currently on the Jays’ 60-man roster for the upcoming season, but he could be added. The Minor League Baseball season was recently cancelled because of the coronavirus.

THE POSITION

Martin was listed as a shortstop when the Jays drafted him out of Vanderbilt, but he also has the ability to play third base and possibly centre field. While most reports suggest he will become a versatile infielder, it’s the bat that caused his stock to rise in recent years. Martin led the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference in average (.392), hits per game (1.62), on-base percentage (.486) and runs (87).

FIVE FOR FIVE

The Jays also agreed to terms with their fourth-round pick. College right-hander Nick Frasso signed for $459,000, which means the club has reached agreements with all five picks. Per Callis, the Jays spent exactly five per cent more than their bonus pool, which is the maximum without losing future picks.

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What Washington's name-change deliberations reveal about Dan Snyder – theScore

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For those unfamiliar, all you need to know about Dan Snyder, who’s owned and mismanaged Washington’s football franchise since 1999, can be found right here in a press release the team issued Friday afternoon:

Yep. That’s right. In a statement announcing its intention to “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name” that is a racist slur, the Washington football team proceeded to use that name a total of 10 times. The statement’s gratuitousness even stretched as far as the typeset shorthand at the bottom, which is supposed to signal the conclusion of the dispatch. Right to the end, Dan Snyder remains a shameless, cynical jackass.

Snyder is unquestionably the NFL’s worst owner, a true achievement in a club that also includes the Cleveland Browns’ Jimmy Haslam and the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson. A complete catalog of Snyder’s loathsomeness would fill a game-day program that Snyder would undoubtedly try to sell for an obscene price. Dave McKenna once provided a pretty good primer for the Washington City Paper … 10 years ago.

Snyder’s since had a full decade to add to his collection of worst hits. That he’s at last been forced to reckon with the racist reality of his team’s name – by being dragged to it kicking and screaming – is very much on-brand.

Though he’s never wanted to change the franchise’s name, Snyder’s long prepared for the possibility that he’d have to. As far back as the spring of 2000, he registered a trademark for the name “Warriors,” and while he publicly stated his intention to use “Warriors” for an Arena League team he was trying to launch, he never formally went through with that plan. Snyder’s actions instead were a bulwark against lawsuits related to trademarks associated with the team’s name. Snyder fought these suits with vigor, going so far as to countersue some Native American groups.

To justify keeping the name, Snyder’s trotted out Native American supporters of it whose backgrounds are suspect. In 2016, The Washington Post published a poll indicating that nine out of 10 Native Americans were not offended by the team’s name. But the poll, which was shared widely, was based on responses from those who’d self-identified as Indigenous; Nick Martin of The New Republic can better explain why this methodological flaw has proved to be so misleading. None of that stopped Snyder and other save-the-name types from trumpeting the poll results as a vindication.

Fast forward to 2020, where “recent events around our country and feedback from our community” have compelled Washington to “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” as its statement asserts. This framing winks at the conversation the country is now having around issues affecting Black and Indigenous people and suggests Snyder is now suddenly motivated by a genuine concern for their plight.

It’s bullshit, of course, since none of this would be happening if Snyder weren’t boxed in by threats from sponsors and by the city of Washington, D.C., where he hopes to build a new stadium with public money. The weekend also brought forth additional reports about Snyder’s other investors being ready to jump ship, in addition to the increasing isolation of Snyder’s inner circle. The league office got in on the act, too, issuing its own statement of support for a name change.

Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

To be clear: Washington’s sponsors and the NFL haven’t been inspired by any sort of altruism here; the name is no less racist today than it was before, but for all involved, disassociating from it now functions much better for brand positioning. All of this financial pressure is clearly the only language Snyder understands.

Washington’s team name has been changed before, way back in 1933, to what it is today. In a 2013 letter to season-ticket holders, Snyder claimed that switch was made because “four players and our head coach were Native Americans” and that “the name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”

But a contemporary newspaper account reveals that George Preston Marshall, the team’s owner when the club was located in Boston, changed the name when he switched home fields. The team was originally named the Braves because it played on the same field as baseball’s Boston Braves, but when Marshall moved to Fenway Park, he wanted a name that kept the “Indian motif” and was more closely aligned with the American League’s Red Sox. It never had anything to do with suddenly honoring the coach and players.

Marshall was also the last NFL owner to integrate. He finally did so in 1962, seven years after the rest of the league. It took a threat from Stewart Udall, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President John F. Kennedy, to prevent the franchise from using the new D.C. stadium, to make it happen. The stadium was on land leased from the National Park Service.

History’s about to come full circle. There’s no way Dan Snyder’s “review” is going to turn back now, which is fitting. In the end, his attempt to protect the team’s name shows him to be living down to Marshall’s ideals. He’ll go down as every bit the Washington football team traditionalist he fashioned himself to be, just not for any of the reasons he imagined.

Dom Cosentino is a senior features writer at theScore.

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Uncle Toni After Seeing Djokovic At 18: 'Rafael, We Have A Problem' – ATP Tour

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Some players have a special aura. They have magic in their hands. At Wimbledon in 2005, an 18-year-old Serbian was introduced to the world as one of the biggest talents of the future. Making his tournament debut, he was still yet to break into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

It only took a few points for Toni Nadal to appreciate his talent from the stands. The coach of the reigning Roland Garros champion, crowned a few weeks earlier in Paris, was sidetracked en route to the locker room from Aorangi Park, the training area at the All England Club. He decided to pay a quick visit to Court 18, where Argentine player Juan Monaco — his nephew’s habitual sparring partner and friend — was playing against a player he had never seen before.

“Who’s that kid?,” Toni asked.

“He’s 18 years old and he’s 100 and a bit in the world,” came the answer.

“What’s his name?” Toni responded.

Novak Djokovic.”

Toni Nadal burned the name into his memory. After watching the match for a few minutes he continued his walk to the locker room, where Nadal, who was just a year older than the kid who had just stunned him with his game, was waiting. When they met, Toni Nadal made a famous statement that would prove prophetic: “Rafael, we have a problem. I’ve just seen a really good kid,” said Toni.

Later, they heard the news that the Serbian, still unknown to the public, had beaten Monaco 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. It was just his second victory in a Grand Slam (2-2), after making his major debut earlier in the year at the Australian Open. But in London he was starting to show signs that, sooner rather than later, he could become a player to keep an eye on. In the second round on the London grass, Guillermo Garcia Lopez awaited Djokovic.

The Spaniard produced faultless tennis at the start of a match and seemed to be in complete control with a 6-3, 6-3, 5-3 lead.

“It was incredible because I had it practically won. At 5-4 and 40/30 in the third set, I hit a great serve into the ‘T’ and I was left with a mid-court forehand onto his forehand to win the point. I looked at the line judge and he called it in and I celebrated victory,” said García López.

However, his elation was fleeting. As the players approached the net to shake hands, the umpire overruled the call and said that the ball was out.

“The match continued. I lost my concentration in that game and we got to 5-5. I broke back and went 6-5 up, 40/0 on my serve. I had three more match points,” said Garcia Lopez.

But the Serbian saved each one and made it through the third and fourth sets 7-6(5), 7-6(3). Djokovic claimed the deciding set 6-4 to seal his first comeback win in a Grand Slam after four hours and eight minutes.

That 18-year-old boy, who had surprised Toni Nadal a few days earlier, was competing like a veteran.

“He was a player that never ever gave up, he had huge potential,” said Garcia Lopez. “His baseline shots were so solid on both sides. Maybe another player wouldn’t have come back against me. With that scoreline, coming out on top of that match means he is a born competitor.

“You could see he had the potential to make it, of course. Djokovic has so much belief in himself. He is a winner with a lot of qualities in terms of agility, mobility and shotmaking.”

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