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In ever-evolving NBA, Raptors’ length and athleticism opens doors on defence – Sportsnet.ca

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Under head coach Nick Nurse, the Toronto Raptors have always worked to stay abreast of league trends, or even push the envelope on what might be next.

As an assistant coach, Nurse received a considerable amount of credit for overseeing an effort to inject more spacing, ball movement and player movement into an offensive approach that had grown too reliant on DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range isolations. The result was a team-record 59-win season in 2017-18. Nurse also had his fingerprints on the “bench mob” – the high-tempo, aggressive defence-first group that was a big part of the Raptors’ regular-season success.

Since becoming head coach in 2019-19, Nurse’s defensive focus has been more apparent, with the Raptors embracing liberal switching on the perimeter as well as a growing reliance on zone defences – tactics that were less common across the league than they quickly became.

But basketball’s pace of change hasn’t stalled. You can only pay so much attention to games that don’t matter, but it’s hard not to notice that in pre-season play the Golden State Warriors are putting up an astounding 55 three-point shots a game. Four other teams – Sacramento, Denver, Utah and Oklahoma City are averaging 45 three-point attempts.

For context the only teams in league history to average 45 three-point shots a game were the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Houston Rockets, with James Harden at his gun-slinging peak. A decade ago NBA teams averaged 20 three-point attempts a game. Last season it was 34 and still climbing apparently.

“I don’t know if any of us sat here at some point and said the amount of threes are going to be double … or whatever the number is,” said Nurse. “… It does evolve pretty quickly though.”

Given the value of those shots, a team that wants to be effective defensively must have a plan to discourage them being taken, or at least make them more difficult.

One of the benefits of a roster rounded out with so many players in the six-foot-six to six-foot-nine range – the Raptors only have four players in training camp shorter – is the pressure they can put on perimeter shooters.

The Raptors got a taste of it last season, when six-foot-nine Chris Boucher led the NBA with .84 blocked three-pointers a game and was ranked fourth in the league in the percentage that opponents shot when he was the closest defender. Pascal Siakam ranked second in the league in the number of three-pointers contested after leading that category in 2019-20.

As a whole, the Raptors weren’t especially good at defending the three-point line – opponents shot 37.9 per cent from deep, which was above league average and ranked them 24th overall – but given the range of mitigating circumstances they faced last season it’s probably not something to dwell on. The Raptors led the NBA in that category in 2019-20 when the set a franchise record for winning percentage.

This is a different team with plenty of new faces, but maybe having a roster full of athletic, agile guys in the mould of Boucher and Siakam could pay dividends in a league where it looks like more teams are going to be hoisting threes than ever before.

Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has certainly had the importance of getting to three-point shooters impressed upon him in his weeks-old NBA career, and as a nimble six-foot-nine guard, he can play the part.

“Shot contesting is one of our pillars that we go off of on defence as well as pressuring the ball so guys don’t get easy shots so, running them off the line,” said Banton after practice Friday. “In this league guys make shots and they make it at a high clip so I feel like just doing the best you can to run out at every shot that gets put up by the other team is big for us and being in our defensive stance, just showing length and just discouraging them from making plays they’d make if we weren’t in our right spots.

“…Just being in the right spot is just the biggest part of the battle and showing your hands. Once you’re there, it puts your whole team in a better position to play defence.”

Selling out on three-point shooters takes trust. Actually blocking a shot is rare and smart teams and players will look to pump fake on careless closeouts and look for a side-step three, a chance to penetrate the paint for layups, generate kick-outs to open shooters or simply swing the ball to take advantage of a scrambling defence.

It’s not enough to run at a shooter, it has to be done properly.

“Just playing the game the way you practice — running guys off lines and the next guy helping and making the next play,” says Banton. “So, it’s just about the offence having to make the next play, not giving them that shot or that layup, having to make them make that extra pass. The guy behind you is gonna help, we’re all playing defence in one line together so we’re all trying to work in a tandem and move where we have to move and rotate to the right spots.”

It’s music to Nurse’s ears. The goal of his scheme, he says, it to challenge every shot, everywhere.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake when we get a block [on a three-pointer],” he said. “I think I’m really more concerned that we’re making a heavy contest. Obviously the block is the heaviest of all contests. We just want to make sure we make it contested. It goes to hustle and hard play: You’ve got to keep playing the whole possession. Sometimes you’ve got to fire out, fire out, fire out.

“Every now and then you get put in rotations and some teams are really good in making you do it. But you’ve got to do it. That’s just an effort and hustle thing that we want the heavy contest. Chris [Boucher] has certainly got a knack, incredible timing on that stuff. I’m not sure it’s teachable or transferable … What we teach and what we drill every day is heavy contesting.”

Changing times call for changing measures – and maybe a lot of long, athletic guys flying around at the three-point line like never before.

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Canada to join allies in diplomatic boycott of Winter Games -Trudeau

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Canada will join its allies in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to send China a message over its human rights record, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

Australia and Britain will join the diplomatic boycott, their prime ministers said on Wednesday, as other allies weighed similar moves to protest at China’s human rights record..

President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. China denies all rights abuses.

“Many partners around the world are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government. That’s why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics,” Trudeau told reporters.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren, Editing by Mark Heinrich by Alistair Bell and David Gregorio)

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Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics – CBC News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that Canada will launch a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

No federal government officials will attend the games. Canadian athletes will still be allowed to compete.

The U.S., U.K. and Australia already have announced they won’t send official delegations to the games — a collective attempt to send a message to China that its human rights abuses have not gone unnoticed.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the government is “extremely concerned” by the “repeated human rights violations carried out by the Chinese government.” He said Canada will show its displeasure with the communist regime by withholding the delegates that normally would attend high-profile events like the opening and closing ceremonies.

Asked if he was anticipating any blowback from Beijing for snubbing China as it prepares to host the world, Trudeau said “this should not come as a surprise” to the regime.

“For months, we have been coordinating and discussing the issue with our allies,” he said.

WATCH: Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympic Games

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympic Games

2 hours ago

Duration 0:55

Trudeau tells a press conference in Ottawa that Canada will join other countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in response to China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur community. 0:55

MPs, senators and civil society groups have been pushing the Trudeau government to hold China accountable for its crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong and the ongoing abuse of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Earlier this year, the House of Commons passed a motion branding the violence directed at religious minorities in China’s Xinjiang province as “genocide.” That motion followed a Commons subcommittee report that found China persecutes its Muslim minority through mass detention in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — policies the report said are designed to “eradicate Uyghur culture and religion.”

In the motion, MPs also called on the federal government to use its influence to pressure the International Olympic Committee to move the games out of China “if the Chinese government continues this genocide.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Wednesday his party’s push to relocate the games got “no traction with Mr. Trudeau” and a diplomatic boycott is the next best thing.

While he said he’s horrified by reports of violence in Xinjiang, O’Toole said a full boycott would be unfair to Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have trained so hard for the world’s premier sporting event.

WATCH: Conservative leader calls on prime minister to boycott Beijing Olympics

Conservative leader calls on prime minister to boycott Beijing Olympics

2 hours ago

Duration 1:14

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join other countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2022. 1:14

Trudeau agreed that Olympic athletes shouldn’t pay a price for China’s abuses. “They need to have one thing in mind and that’s representing the country to the best of their ability and winning a gold medal for Canada,” he said.

In a media statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said it “understands and respects” the government’s decision and applauds the effort to “draw an important distinction between the participation of athletes and the participation of government officials.”

The last time Canada pursued a full boycott of the Olympics was in 1980, when Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau blocked athletes from participating in the summer games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Citing that 1980 move, the COC said “history has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change.” The COC said the games will “create an important platform to draw attention” to ongoing issues in China.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the decision to pull diplomats and keep Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge and others at home was motivated by reports of abuse coming out of Xinjiang, an oil-rich territory in the country’s northwest.

“Clearly it is important for us to send a strong signal to China because we’re extremely concerned about allegations about the Uyghurs,” Joly said.

Joly said she has raised the possibility of a boycott with allies in nearly every meeting she’s had since being named foreign minister in October. She said she will travel to a G7 meeting in the U.K. this weekend to press other holdouts, such as France and Germany, to join the boycott.

“Canada has been playing a leadership role on this — this is in line with our foreign policy. Canada always stands up on questions of human rights,” she said.

A visitor rests near logos promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in Beijing on Sept. 25, 2021. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo)

Canada-Chinese relations soured after China detained two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — in an apparent act of retribution for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s 2018 arrest on U.S. fraud charges. In September, the two men were freed by China’s communist regime after the legal dispute involving Meng was partly resolved by U.S. prosecutors.

The western world’s relationship with China has deteriorated over the past two years. China has been accused of covering up early COVID-19 outbreaks and of pushing World Health Organization (WHO) officials to praise its pandemic response rather than scrutinize its actions.

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Olympic diplomatic boycott: PM says decision coming today – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there will be an announcement later today on the government’s decision about whether to proceed with a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

Speaking to reporters on his way into a caucus meeting on Wednesday, Trudeau said it’s important to align with allies – many of whom have chosen not to send government officials to the Games, but allow athletes to continue to compete.

“For the past many, many months we’ve been talking about our approach with allies around the world. We know that on issues like this it’s important to make sure that we are working with our allies…we will have an announcement to make later today,” he said.

The U.S. announced a diplomatic boycott on Monday as a means of protesting against human rights abuses in China towards the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

Since then, Australia and the U.K. have followed suit.

China has denied those allegations and says the boycott violates “the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto `more united,”‘ Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Many former diplomats and international security analysts suggest Canada should go further and enforce a full boycott, withdrawing all Canadian presence, including athletes.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly also commented on the issue on Wednesday, noting that Canada is acting in a “diligent” manner.

“The most important thing for Canada right now is to make sure that we can have a strong voice on the question of human rights in Xinjiang in China,” she said.

With a file from The Associated Press.

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