‘Next man up’: ailing Raptors look to bottom of roster to prove worth – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO — Here’s a Toronto Raptors lineup you’ve never seen before: point guard Patrick McCaw running the floor with Matt Thomas and Stanley Johnson on his wings, behind Oshae Brissett and Chris Boucher in an all-Canadian frontcourt.
Desperate times. About half of Toronto’s roster wore a neutral-toned blazer for Tuesday’s game, forcing Raptors head coach Nick Nurse to utilize some unorthodox maneuvers with the limited chess pieces remaining on his board. And with Terence Davis wallowing in a rookie slump, plus 33-year-old Kyle Lowry unsustainably playing nearly 40 minutes per game, those five represent Toronto’s defacto second unit for the time being.
So Nurse threw them out there at the end of the first quarter and watched his mad experiment play out. And all they did over the final three minutes of that quarter was beat the visiting and similarly stricken Portland Trail Blazers, 8-0. It went so well that Nurse ran the unit back out for the beginning of the second, before returning Lowry to the game after 90 seconds to restore order.
“It’s next man up, next man up” Lowry said after the Raptors fell to the Trail Blazers in the dying moments, 101-99. “We’ve got great guys. Young kids trying to go out there and prove their worth, go out there and execute and play.
“I love when these guys play like that. They played well, they got us the lead. They’re growing. And when you see the growth, it makes you excited as a veteran guy.”
To recap: the mercurial McCaw has, when healthy, fluctuated between promising play and maddening moments throughout a scattershot season, such as the blunder late in Tuesday’s game when he rifled an in-between pass at Lowry’s legs, leading to a crippling turnover.
Thomas was playing his first NBA game in six weeks, and only the 13th of his life after he spent the last two years shooting out the lights in Spain.
Johnson has been on the outside of Nurse’s rotations looking in all season and requested to play with Toronto’s G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, on Monday night just to get some extended run in a high-level game.
Brissett also played with the 905 on Monday, which he is contracted to do as an end-of-roster, two-way player.
Boucher — last year’s G-League MVP — actually had the most NBA minutes this season of the lot, averaging 13.2 per night over 33 games as a soon-to-be-27-year-old in what is essentially his rookie year. And he came into the night 10th on the Raptors in minutes played.
“Those guys were great — they were unbelievable in the first half,” Nurse said. “I think they scored 34 points off the bench. Jeez, we’ll take that every night of the week and we’d be in really good shape.”
It’s probably not wise counting on those 34 points every time out, particularly against stiffer defensive opposition than the Trail Blazers, who spent stretches of Tuesday’s game spectating. But some energy and production from that group is going to be necessary for a team trying to survive significant absences at the top end of its roster.
The Raptors’ lack of options offensively really caught up with them against the Blazers, as Lowry was forced to make 23 attempts (16 from beyond the arc) and Nurse was left drawing up isolation plays for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in crunch time. There are shots to be claimed in this offence, and it’s up to one of Toronto’s reserves to prove they deserve to be making them.
Credit Brissett for putting up his hand. He was terrific during that late first-quarter stint, following up a big put-back off a miss on the offensive end with an intercept at the other, before sinking a no-hesitation three after a pinballing series of passes he started in transition:
“He really stays within himself. He’s really just trying to hustle, play defence, rebound and play rhythm offence,” Nurse said. “If it comes to him, he’s going to take the shot if he’s open. And if he’s got the ball, and he doesn’t have something, he gets off it. I think it’s important to have some guys like that.”
Brissett says his focus coming off the bench is playing aggressively, which sounds easy enough but isn’t when you’re an undrafted rookie thrust into the chaos of a live NBA game. Things like crashing the offensive glass, boxing out beneath his team’s rim, making a quick, decisive decision when the ball hits his hands.
“I’m starting to get it a lot more, with all the film that we watch, before, after games, and how much attention coach puts on those things. That’s really my job,” he said. “I’ve got to go in there and focus on (the defensive) end, and then the offence will come. I can’t really mess up on the defensive end or I’ll be right back on the bench.”
But the success of players like Brissett and Boucher — they each had a dozen with three offensive rebounds against Portland — highlights the struggles other Raptors have had in similar moments. Davis, for instance, appears dangerously close to being out of Nurse’s rotations altogether after playing only eight minutes Tuesday.
“He’s not playing very well,” Nurse said. “It was probably five (minutes) too many.”
Meanwhile, even amidst Toronto’s current straits, Malcolm Miller can’t get on the floor. Nurse gave him a few opportunities around Christmas, including a 17-minute stint during a three-point victory over the Dallas Mavericks in which Miller was a plus-29. But he’s since returned to the end of Toronto’s bench.
It’s not like he’s a focal point of Toronto’s offence, but it’s telling that Miller hasn’t scored a point in his last 14 appearances, including that brief stint when he was a rotation piece. The ability is there — he scored 13 points (going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the process) late in a blowout of the New York Knicks in November. But lately, Miller’s looked more timid and passive during his limited run, lacking the energy and aggressiveness Nurse generally looks for when awarding opportunities to players on his roster’s fringes.
“I did try to work him in there. He was kind of first off the bench there for about three games in a row,” Nurse said. “I’ve got to evaluate what I’m seeing out there and I didn’t quite see enough, and was hoping I could get a little more from another guy. And that’s it.
“You know me — if you go out there on these wildcard subbing things and produce, you may stay in the rest of the game. If you go out there and you’re impacting the game, you’re going to keep playing. That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
That’s why players like Brissett and Boucher are getting the run they are now. And it’s why you’re seeing funky lineups such as the one Nurse went to Tuesday. Part of its involuntary — the Raptors are running out of players and can only push Lowry so far. The other is which reserves are ready to seize the ample opportunities the Raptors currently have to award. And who’s going to help the Raptors get through this.
If it’s to be Brissett again Tuesday, it’ll happen in his third game in three nights. Same goes for Johnson and Thomas, who joined him in playing half an hour for the 905 on Monday. Brissett was asked if he’s feeling the weight of it all yet.
“I’m not even trying to think about that,” he said. “Just keep going tomorrow, stay focused, and try to play.”
Sail Canada says coach Lisa Ross was fired for financial reasons, not because she was pregnant – The Globe and Mail
Lisa Ross wants her job back.
The two-time Olympic sailor for Canada was named to the national sailing team’s coaching staff three years ago.
Nine days after telling Sail Canada in March that she was pregnant and would take maternity leave later this year, Ross was fired.
Ross was in Andora, Italy, where she’d been coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship. She was about to head to Spain for more competitions and training camps.
The 46-year-old from Mahone Bay, N.S., said that during the March 17 video call with Sail Canada’s chief executive officer Don Adams and high-performance director Mike Milner, she was told to pack her bags and return to Canada.
“It was strange and shocking,” Ross told The Canadian Press. “It was a five-minute phone call where I was fired, basically, without cause.
“I was in Europe. I was in the middle of a planned six-week trip.”
Sail Canada said lack of money, and not Ross’s pregnancy, was the reason for her firing.
“Sail Canada terminated Lisa Ross’s contract for financial reasons which had nothing to do with Lisa Ross being pregnant,” the organization said in a statement to The Canadian Press.
“Discussions and the decision to terminate Lisa Ross’s contract took place well before she verbally informed Sail Canada High Performance Director that she was pregnant.”
Sail Canada said Ross’s salary was supported by Sport Canada Gender Equity funding, which was eliminated at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
“Sail Canada was able to maintain Lisa Ross’s position in the next fiscal year through the Return to Sport funding program but, unfortunately, that funding is no longer available in 2023-2024,” the organization said.
Ross’s annual salary was $80,000. The federal government renewed its funding for gender equity in sport in October with a commitment of $25.3-million over three years.
“This is not available at present but we have been informed it may be some time in the future,” Sail Canada said in a statement. “We do not know if female coaching will be part of the areas of funding.
Sail Canada said it made its decision to fire Ross “because of financial reasons based on the information available at the time of budget finalization.”
“With the 2023-2024 Olympic season fast approaching, and in order for Sail Canada to prioritize Olympic hopefuls and maintain a balanced budget, Sail Canada has to make drastic cuts to its High Performance budget.”
Sail Canada said it sought a Nova Scotia labour lawyer’s advice on Feb. 21 to vet the decision to dismiss Ross.
Ross departed for Europe at the end of February and had no inkling that her job was on the chopping block until she was sacked March 17.
“I just would have liked the opportunity, if funding was the issue, to visit any possibility of ensuring that I can continue in my role as one of the more senior coaches on the staff,” Ross said.
Sail Canada said it waited until after the European championship March 10-17 to fire her “so that it would not become a distraction for the athletes.”
Ross was the only woman on Sail Canada’s technical staff of a high-performance director and coaches.
Since her dismissal, Rosie Chapman was hired on a contract basis.
Chapman is partially subsidized by athletes and costs 20 per cent of a full-time salary, Sail Canada said.
Ross competed for Canada in 2004 in Athens in women’s three-person keelboat and 2008 in Beijing in women’s dinghy.
She coached laser sailor Brenda Bowskill at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Ross was named the Canadian sailing team’s development coach in 2020, but she coached the senior men’s laser team that year.
Ross didn’t coach at Tokyo’s Olympics in 2021. She was on maternity leave with her second child.
She was coaching the 49er FX women’s development team when she was fired. Her third child is due Sept. 1.
She’d planned to continue coaching until August when she could no longer fly.
Ross intended to be back with the athletes in time for January’s world championship and to help prepare them for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She says she communicated that plan to Sail Canada the day she told the organization she was pregnant.
Milner replied that same day: “You should also know Rosie and I have been talking on and off for more than a year on joining our team and I think this is a great opportunity for the girls while you are on mat leave.”
Milner also wrote in that e-mail to Ross that his “initial thought” would be to have Chapman become the international coach after April’s Princess Sofia or Hyeres regattas “and focus you on domestic training.”
Ross has filed claims with Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Board and Human Rights Commission, but has not sued Sail Canada.
“I’m not asking for a massive amount of money,” Ross said. “I’m asking for my job back.”
The World Sailing Trust recently launched a half-dozen recommendations under an initiative called Project Juno to “support better maternity policies in sailing.”
While Sail Canada insists her pregnancy did not cost Ross her job, it says the organization has pregnancy and parental leave policy “that is in keeping with the Ontario Employment Standards Act” and also subject to Sport Canada’s Athletes Assistance Program policies and procedures.
Ross says she has never seen that policy.
She hasn’t filed a complaint with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which was established almost a year ago to administer Canadian sport’s universal code of conduct. Sail Canada is a signatory to OSIC.
“I want my job back, so I want to focus on that,” Ross said. “I want to be a part of the sport system that I’ve been a part of since I was 17.
“I went to my first Pan Am Games when I was 17. It’s been a scary process to go through, just even with my relationship with Sail Canada because that’s been a huge part of my life and I want that to continue.”
Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA
Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.
Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.
A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.
At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.
It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.
The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.
But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.
Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”
Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.
Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup – ESPN – ESPN India
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.
Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.
Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.
Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.
Sail Canada says coach Lisa Ross was fired for financial reasons, not because she was pregnant – The Globe and Mail
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