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Nurse returning as Canada’s coach with sights set on qualifying for Paris Games –



Nick Nurse is all in and he wants the Canada’s best basketball players to join him on a three-year plan that ends on a medal podium on the greatest stage of all.

Nurse and Canada Basketball announced Monday that he will be coaching the men’s national team through the next Olympic cycle with an eye toward Canada qualifying for the 2024 Games in Paris.

For him it’s a chance to complete a job left undone, but he can’t do it alone. So the guy from Carroll, Iowa, wants the country’s top basketball talent to let their intentions be known now: Are they in, or are they out when it comes to representing Canada internationally?

Nurse laid out his vision in an open letter to Canadian basketball fans that started “Dear Canada,” but was clearly aimed at letting those who want to play for the country at the 2024 Olympics know what would be expected of them over the next three summers.

He’s already met with what could be the core of the national team at a Canada Basketball summit of sorts that was held in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League, at which 11 “key” players were in attendance, but felt the need to be transparent about the process, and his expectations.

“I think (my) extension and the three-year commitment we’re asking from the players go hand in hand,” said Nurse in an interview with Sportsnet on Monday afternoon. “And I’ve been in heavy communication with these guys (since) Victoria, about the plan going forward and whether they could give me feedback and digest the plan and see if they wanted to be a part of that plan.

“We laid out the details, the commitment, the timeframes of when the Games were, when training camps would start to coincide with all the key dates in the NBA in the basketball world, and just said, ‘This is it; this is the cycle, it’s a three-year cycle if you’re committed to this.

“And if you’re not sure if you feel like playing then check back in 2025.”

Nurse wants a core group to train next summer and be available for the World Cup qualifying windows in June and August. He is also putting as much emphasis on the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup with an eye toward qualifying for the 2024 Olympics there, rather than relying on the uncertainty of another winner-take-all Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the summer of 2024.

It takes a coach with a certain amount of juice to speak so plainly in a Canadian basketball environment where great pains are taken to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes for fear of alienating anyone from the program. But all the tiptoeing hasn’t amounted to much as the commitment Canada has been able to get from its growing pool of NBA players has been spotty.

Nurse started with the national team in the summer of 2019, fresh off winning a title as a first-year NBA head coach with Toronto Raptors.

But even in that brief time he’s witnessed first-hand some of the issues that have kept Canada punching well below its weight internationally.

During preparations for the 2019 World Cup he saw what was projected to be a roster filled with NBA talent get whittled away as training camp approached until only two players – Khem Birch and Cory Joseph – of the nearly 20 Canadians in the league made the trip to China, where Canada finished 21st out of 32 teams and missed a chance to pre-qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

This past July, Canada’s 12-man roster featured eight NBA players, but there remained a considerable list of its best players that chose not to play, even after initially indicating their commitment.

As it was the only player on the roster that had played for Nurse before was Joseph.

It’s not a problem unique to Canada – NBA players from other countries don’t always play internationally, citing contract concerns, family conflicts, injury or fatigue.

But it’s hard to avoid the reality that the teams with the best track records globally have a core of players willing to temporarily put aside their own interests.

France won the silver medal with two starters – Nic Batum and Evan Fournier – heading into NBA free agency. Australia won bronze in large part because Patty Mills played even as he was without an NBA contract. And while the gold-medal winning Team USA had a vast talent pool to choose from, they were still reliant on three players – Kris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker – flying to Tokyo almost directly from the concluding game of the NBA Finals and playing the Olympic tournament opener just four days later. It was a sacrifice that flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about sports performance in the “load management” era.

Nurse was paying attention.

“That’s the kind of commitment we’re looking for (and) I would also say that’s more of the culture we’re trying to build,” he said. “I think the culture or mission of those countries is way ahead of where we are right now, that’s why those guys commit to play.

“I think there’s also a camaraderie when those guys start playing together and sticking together, that the (national team) almost becomes like a second home to them, and they become kind of brothers … and I think that’s what we’re trying to build here, and that’s the kind of commitment we’re talking about.”

Canada’s Head Coach Nick Nurse leaves the court following second half FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying basketball action against Greece, at Memorial Arena in Victoria, Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Chad Hipolito / CP)

Talent wins – Nurse knows that. The Raptors had very, very good seasons before Kawhi Leonard arrived and after he left, but they only won a title in 2018-19, the one season the two-time Finals MVP played in Toronto.

And in an ideal world, Nurse would love to have the best Canadians also be the most committed to the road to Paris. But if he can only have one, he’s choosing continuity and chemistry over waiting, finger’s crossed, for top talent to parachute in at the last minute.

Canada had more NBA players (eight) than the other five teams at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament had combined, yet a team with no experience playing together struggled to get past an undermanned Greek squad and was sent home by a Czech Republic entry led by journeyman Tomáš Satoranský.

“I think that continuity and playing together over a number of summers would probably outweigh (talent) in some respects,” said Nurse. “And that’s a little bit of a lesson (in Victoria). Czech Republic returned nine or 10 of 12 from that team that finished sixth (at the 2019 World Cup) and it shows … from start to finish, there was a chemistry, a bond between those guys, that’s hard to overcome. And that’s, again, what we’re trying to build some of that chemistry of some of those bonds and connections.”

It starts at the top. Nurse is on board and all in. After a coaching journey that has taken him all over the world, he says he feels almost indebted to Toronto and Canada after nine seasons in one place, by far the longest stretch of his career. Canada is his coaching home. His two younger sons are Canadians, born in Toronto. He jokes that his dream is that they one day they wear the red and white.

But before that, he wants to help Canadian basketball get to where it should be, to help build a tradition that they want to be part of. He’s got a plan to do just that and he’s putting it out there for all to see.

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COVID-19: Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena among Ontario facilities to see major capacity limit increase – Global News



The Ontario government has announced a major boost of maximum COVID-19-related capacity limits at major outdoor and indoor sporting venues, such as the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto.

“With public health and health-care indicators currently stable and proof of vaccination now in effect, we are able to recommend cautiously easing capacity limits in certain settings,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in an update Friday afternoon, noting the increases will mostly be in places where vaccine proof is required.

“Increasing capacity limits does not mean we can let our guard down. We must remain cautious and humble in the face of this Delta variant.”

Read more:
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test will be needed to access Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field

Moore said the revised rules will take effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

At indoor meeting and event spaces (convention and conference centres, banquet halls etc.), theatres, cinemas, concerts, sports events, racing venues and commercial TV and film shoots with audiences will be able to increase the number of people in attendance to up to 50 per cent of approved capacity or 10,000 people (whichever is less).

For outdoor event spaces where it is standing room only for patrons, up to 75 per cent of approved capacity or 15,000 people (whichever is less) will now be allowed.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario expands capacity limits for some indoor, outdoor settings'

COVID-19: Ontario expands capacity limits for some indoor, outdoor settings

COVID-19: Ontario expands capacity limits for some indoor, outdoor settings

When it comes to outdoor event venues where people are seated, up to 75 per cent of approved capacity or 30,000 people (whichever is less) can now be accommodated.

Officials said seated outdoor venues can see higher numbers of people because mobility is less and therefore it reduces the risk of potential transmission of COVID-19.

The announcement came just a day after the Toronto Blue Jays announced the release of additional seats for the final six home games of the regular season, citing ongoing discussions with Premier Doug Ford’s office and Moore. The team said the increase would be in line with public health measures.

Read more:
Ontario enforcement agencies report few incidents in early days of COVID-19 vaccine certificates

In an update right after Moore’s announcement, the Jays announced the 500L section at the Rogers Centre would be reopening to visitors now that up to 30,000 fans will be permitted to attend.

The current capacity limit at the Rogers Centre under Ontario’s COVID-19 regulations is 15,000 fans. At Scotiabank Arena, the limit was capped at 1,000 fans. Both venues have vaccination policies in place.

When Moore was asked why he is recommending these changes now, he said the COVID-19 situation in Ontario has been stable for several weeks and the province needs to have a “balanced and proportionate public health response” to the pandemic.

Read more:
Ontario COVID-19 vaccine certificate program for many indoor public settings now in effect

“For the majority (of attendees), they will be protected through vaccination, they will be wearing masks, they will be screening and monitoring for any symptoms … and I do think that is a much safer environment that we can start to safely and cautiously open,” he said, calling the recent implementation of vaccine certificates a “game-changer.”

“We’ll monitor these caps over the coming weeks to make sure this process remains safe. I’m confident that we can do this safely, and slowly, and cautiously because we all need balance. We’ve made sacrifices over the last year and a half and so have these businesses, and I think this will allow them to open safely and not be sources of infection or outbreak.”

As for how long vaccine certificates will be needed to access many indoor public settings, Moore suggested the program could be in place until the winter.

He went on to say as part of the provincial government’s gradual approach to reopening, it will assess other settings where capacity limits could be eased. He also pointed to early modelling on cases that suggested there could be a sharp rise of cases after Christmas.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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NBA denies Canadian Andrew Wiggins of religious exemption to skip COVID-19 vaccine –



The NBA has denied Canadian Andrew Wiggins’s request for a vaccination exemption, leaving the Golden State Warriors swingman ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco’s vaccination requirement.

The ruling was announced Friday, hours after the New York Knicks said their entire roster is vaccinated, making all their players eligible to play in their home games.

Because of local coronavirus regulations in New York and San Francisco, the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Warriors are required to be vaccinated to play in their home arenas unless exemptions for medical or religious reasons apply.

Wiggins, from Vaughan, Ont., sought an exemption from the league for religious reasons.

“The NBA has reviewed and denied Andrew Wiggins’s request for religious exemption from the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s order requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events,” the league said in a statement.

“Wiggins will not be able to play in Warriors home games until he fulfils the city’s vaccination requirements.”

NBA says unvaccinated players can play

Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, though the NBA has said that they will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days, and at least once — possibly more — on game days. Fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.

However, the Knicks, Nets and Warriors face stricter rules because of their local regulations, which the NBA has told teams do not apply to visiting clubs.

WATCH | ‘Bring It In’ panel discusses vaccine passports’ effect on sports:

Discussing mandatory vaccine passports as fans return to stadiums | Bring It In

24 days ago

With fans returning to stadiums across Canada, host Morgan Campbell discusses the enforcement of mandatory vaccination in stadiums across the country with panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin. 7:44

The Knicks are the first of those teams to say they have met the mandate.

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said earlier this week that a couple players wouldn’t yet be eligible, but he was confident everyone would be able to participate by the time the regular season begins on Oct. 19.

Local mandate not yet in effect

Wiggins still has time, as San Francisco’s mandate doesn’t take effect until the middle of next month. Training camps open Tuesday.

The NBA has struck agreements this off-season to have virtually all parties involved in games — referees, coaches, stat-crew workers and anyone else who will be in close proximity to players on or off the court in NBA arenas — vaccinated in order to participate.

The one exception: The players themselves, with the National Basketball Players Association rebuking all efforts from the NBA to mandate that they be vaccinated. About 85 per cent of players were vaccinated at the end of last season. The league-wide figure is believed to have increased since.

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2020 Ryder Cup pairings: U.S. runs it back, Rory McIlroy out for Saturday foursomes – Golf Channel



After his team dug itself a 6-2 hole on Friday at the Ryder Cup, European captain Padraig Harrington had some decisions to make when deciding on his pairings for Saturday morning’s foursomes session.

One pressing question was whether he’d sit Rory McIlroy for the first time in McIlroy’s cup career. McIlroy had played in every session since making his debut in 2010 (26 for 26), but he’d dropped both his team-play matches on Friday at Whistling Straits while failing to reach the 16th hole in either one.

Ultimately, Harrington decided that his visiting side’s best chance at a comeback was to sit McIlroy on Saturday morning.

“We have plenty of options on our team,” Harrington said. “Spoiled for choice in many ways, and yeah … I’m very comfortable again with the team I’ve put out tomorrow. Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team.”

McIlroy and Poulter, who lost in foursomes on Friday morning, will both be benched, while Harrington will mix things up slightly elsewhere, splitting Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, and pairing them with Tyrrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, respectively. Two of Europe’s foursomes pairings are intact: Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup

Meanwhile, on the American side, captain Steve Stricker is going back to the well, keeping all four of his previous foursomes teams. All but Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth won on Friday morning, though Thomas helped lead a four-ball rally alongside Patrick Cantlay on Friday afternoon as the U.S. duo tied Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

Cantlay reunites with Xander Schauffele, who is 2-0. Dustin Johnson, also 2-0, reunites with Collin Morikawa.

“We had one other group that we were thinking about putting out, but it went so well this morning that I figured why mess things up and change things up at all,” Stricker said. “We changed the order a little bit is all, but we kept the same pairings.”

The U.S. leads by four points, its largest advantage after Day 1 since 1975. History is on the Americans’ side, too, as just once in five previous instances since 1979 (the year that the Great Britain and Ireland side was expanded to include continental Europe) has a team coughed up a lead of more than three points after the opening day.

Here are the matchups and starting times for Saturday morning’s foursomes session:

8:05 a.m. ET: Koepka/Berger vs. Rahm/Garcia
8:21 a.m.: Johnson/Morikawa vs. Casey/Hatton
8:37 a.m.: Thomas/Spieth vs. Hovland/Wiesberger
8:53 a.m.: Schauffele/Cantlay vs. Westwood/Fitzpatrick

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