The rollback of democratic safeguards by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has reached a new low. PiS and its allies last week passed an amendment to broadcasting laws that would bar companies that are majority-owned by entities from outside the European Economic Area from owning a controlling stake in Polish broadcasters. Nicknamed “Lex TVN”, the bill is widely seen as targeting TVN, owned by Discovery of the US — which provides news coverage that is often critical of the government.
The change is a further step to squeeze media freedom, echoing what has happened under Hungary’s populist-nationalist leader Viktor Orban. PiS has already reduced Poland’s public broadcaster to a crude propagandist for the government. A state-owned oil group has been used to buy up various local media outlets. Advertising from state bodies has been channelled to pliable media groups. Poland’s media watchdog is also dragging its feet on an 18-month-old application to renew the broadcasting licence of TVN’s main news channel, TVN24.
This matters. A takeover of TVN by pro-government owners would leave only the smaller Polsat as an independent source of national TV news, skewing the media environment ahead of a general election due in 2023. PiS is not as strong as it was. It can no longer rely on a consistent majority in Poland’s lower house after falling out with a coalition partner. Its popularity has slipped since draconian changes to abortion laws last year. The opposition is still fragmented but it has been given a boost by the return of Donald Tusk, the former premier and EU Council president. The attempt to secure a more malleable media environment seems hardly coincidental.
Once again, Poland’s EU and US partners are grappling with how to prevent Poland from being “lost” to liberal democracy. Pressure to date has had limited effect. Warsaw said this month it would amend a system for disciplining judges which the European Court of Justice ruled was against EU law; Brussels had threatened fines if it did not. But opponents fear the changes will still be cosmetic.
Brussels has less scope to respond to the media bill, for example by using the mechanism allowing it to block EU funds to countries that do not respect the rule of law. By allowing EEA ownership of media, the amendment seems structured not to contravene existing EU law. Vera Jourova, a European Commission vice-president, has suggested in response to “Lex TVN” that the EU needs a Media Freedom Act to uphold pluralism. But that is for the future.
The US has some moral influence. Even though it would be constrained from ever cutting its military presence in Poland by the risk of weakening Nato’s eastern flank, Washington should continually remind the PiS government of the security support Poland relies upon. It has applied pressure on some wayward allies in the past by withholding meetings with officials. Polish media have speculated that the White House might not invite Warsaw to the summit of democracies President Joe Biden plans for December.
Since Poland’s upper house may reject Lex TVN, forcing the lower house to hold a second vote, vocal EU and US criticism might yet peel away enough votes to prevent PiS from achieving another majority. If not, the damage to Poland’s investment climate could yet begin to weigh on its economy. Discovery plans legal action against Warsaw over alleged violations of a bilateral investment treaty. Its experience will serve as a cautionary tale. It would be a blow to PiS if investors turn their back as elections approach.
NBA preseason 2021-22: Toronto Raptors Media Day Open Thread – RaptorsHQ
The date seems to have snuck up on us, but somehow, it’s here already: It’s Toronto Raptors Media Day!
Of course, things are a bit different today. On the good news side, Raptors Media Day is back in Toronto, after a bizarro year in Tampa. On the less good side, we’re still in a pandemic, and everyone in the league is surely going to be facing questions today about the Rolling Stone report about NBA players and vaccinations that dropped over the weekend.
Hopefully, though, there’ll also be a chance to talk about hoops! And with this year’s Raptors team in a state of semi-transition, with a few new faces (and some old faces missing), there are plenty of basketball-related questions to be asked.
Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse are scheduled to speak to the media today, as are a few players including Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. We’ll follow along right here and post whatever videos and soundbites that the team makes available!
In the meantime though, be sure to check out our pre-preseason reading, including:
Check back for updates throughout the day!
10:30 a.m.: Bobby Webster speaks
Raptors GM Bobby Webster was the first member of the organization to speak on Media Day and he got the most important question of the day out of the way right off the bat: He said that the Raptors are one second dose away from being fully vaccinated. And they expect that final second dose to be administered before opening night.
I’m not gonna lie, I literally said “Oh, thank God” out loud here in my office.
A couple other tidbits from Webster:
- Unvaccinated players from other teams will be able to travel to Canada under the “national interest” exemption. They’ll have stricter guidelines than vaccinated players, though.
- Webster likes what he sees from Goran Dragic, in terms of being a mentor to the team’s younger players.
- Webster also thinks — no surprise here coming from the team’s GM! — that the Raptors will surprise a few people this year, and that if a couple players “pop,” they’ll be able to move up a spot in people’s minds.
- Finally, Webster says that OG Anunoby has a huge opportunity in front of him with Pascal Siakam out to start the year. Look for more thoughts on that from Sean Woodley later on!
One other key thing to come out just now: Jose Calderon is in the house!
11:00 a.m.: Nick Nurse at the podium
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse stepped up to the mic after Webster, and he started off by expressing his excitement about the team’s length and versatility. Indeed, with almost every player on the roster about 6’8” with a long wingspan, this team is very much built from Nick Nurse’s ideal mold.
More from Nurse:
- He says it’s “really good” to be back in Toronto. You love to see it!
- The coach mentioned scoring might be a challenge, which, if you’re paying attention at home, is kind of a “no duh” statement. But he says he believes in “scoring by the system,”meaning it’ll be a team effort, and that he hopes the transition game will fuel the office.
- Nurse thinks Scottie Barnes will have a huge role. Aaaaaand, I’m already concerned about the expectations we’re putting on a very raw rookie. (At least they’re working on his jumper, according to Nurse!)
- Will there be zone defense? There will be zone defense!
took 11 minutes for Nurse to mention playing a bunch of zone with all the long dudes. about 9 minutes more than the over/under I had in mind.
— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
12:00 p.m.: The players speak!
Following 30-minute sessions from Webster and Nurse, several Raptors players had about 20 minutes to take questions from the press, starting with Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet, as one might expect, says his expectations are to win a championship, every year.
He also says he’s ready for his expanded role, and that his voice on the team has been steadily growing since his first year — but that it will still be a challenge for him, on-court, going from the two-point-guard look to being the number one guy. Indeed, it might be the biggest challenge the entire team faces.
And hey, speaking of that former number one point guard…
Nope, I’m still not ready for that.
What I am ready for: Fred saying “I know I’m one of the best defenders in the league,” regardless of what All-Defense voters think.
If you have the chance, I definitely encourage you to track down video of VanVleet’s press conference. He’s very considerate and deliberate in the way he speaks and what he speaks about. He’s a joy to watch, on and off the court.
Pascal Siakam took the podium after VanVleet, and he started out talking about his shoulder surgery — his first ever surgery! Everything is “moving in the right direction,” and he’s feeling healthy, though he hasn’t been cleared for team workouts yet, just individual work.
Siakam also spoke about his role and being the number one guy. Even though he had the max contract and the team was fully invested in him, it was hard for him to feel like the guy with Kyle here — not as a knock against Kyle Lowry, but just because he came in as a young guy and it was Kyle and DeMar DeRozan’s team, and it was hard for him to see himself in that role. Which totally makes sense! He also spoke about what that leadership looks like, from being vocal on the court to simply checking in with his teammates via text.
Pascal also answered a question in French which even after all these years still brings a huge smile to my face. I have no idea why! Just something about the international flavour it brings to the team’s interaction with media brings me joy.
Next up we got Gary Trent Jr., on the mic, and he opened by saying he appreciated the trust the organization showed in him by offering him his new contract, and the comfort he felt getting the deal done early.
Overall Trent seemed a bit reticent to answer questions — or maybe I just felt that way after hearing Fred and Pascal speak so freely and openly. But he seemed excited about Toronto — until he started talking about real estate, and our completely messed up bidding system. As someone who just bought a house, probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced, let me just say, I feel you Gary!
Trent says he’s working on every aspect of his game and just trying to get better, knowing that he’s not a finished product. What more can you really ask for?
Finally, we had Goran Dragic join us! Goran showed up looking pretty buff, which is cool, and he echoed Webster’s comments about leadership and mentorship. He recalled Steve Nash being his mentor back in their Phoenix days, and hopes he can bring the same to the young players on the Raptors.
And he had lots of good things to say about Precious Achiuwa, saying that he’s already seen a lot of growth and the Achiuwa will bring a ton of energy to the team — and said people might be surprised by Aciuwa’s jumper.
Dragic also said giving Kyle Lowry his Heat #7 was no issue, as they’re good friends, and recalled Lowry hitting the game-tying buzzer beater in game 1 of their playoff meeting back in 2016. He praised Toronto fans and the atmosphere in the building, saying every time you play here it’s a long, long night.
Dragic confirms there was not a blood feud between him and Kyle when Kyle asked to wear #7 in Miami. Dragic is wearing #1 now, btw.
— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
Finally, Dragic said it’s a young team who’s gonna play hard and he’s looking forward to being a part of that — and that Scottie Barnes is already standing out as a player who works hard and loves to have fun.
Hopefully we’ll get to hear from Scottie himself later this week!
For now, that’s about a wrap on Media Day. If we get any more news bits we’ll update as we go, and you can also look out for a wrap up from Sean Woodley later on today.
At NBA media days, COVID and vaccines remain dominant topics – Sportsnet.ca
Utah centre Rudy Gobert revealed that after much deliberation, he decided to become vaccinated. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has gotten his booster shot already. Boston coach Ime Udoka had his shots and tested positive for COVID-19 anyway.
And Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving is keeping everyone guessing.
The NBA season arrived Monday with media days in advance of training camp, with the ongoing pandemic as much if not even more of a topic than basketball. This will be the third season affected at least in part by the pandemic, almost certainly not the last, and some teams revealed that their rosters are 100 per cent vaccinated entering the season.
“When I felt like it was the right time, I did it,” said Gobert — the first NBA player who was known to test positive for COVID-19, back on March 11, 2020.
The Spurs have a fully vaccinated roster, Popovich said. The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers said last week that they would have the same, and some other clubs — including Utah, Portland, Houston and Charlotte — said they were at the 100 per cent mark.
Other teams are close to being fully vaccinated.
Miami will be by the start of the season, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday because the Heat vaccine rate has not publicly revealed by the team.
Toronto general manager Bobby Webster said the Raptors are “one dose” away from being there, as did Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk.
Leaguewide, the rate is believed to be around 90 per cent and climbing.
“There is still a lot of stuff going on out there,” Popovich said. “You see all the bumps in cases here and there. You see all the areas where people are not vaccinated. It’s a double-edged sword. I think we are in good shape right now. We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure we can be safe, which means we’ve got to be disciplined day to day to day to day.”
Players who are vaccinated will not be tested often; unvaccinated players will be tested on all practice days and travel days, and at least once on game days.
The list of unvaccinated players includes Washington’s Bradley Beal — who missed out on the chance to play for an Olympic gold medal with USA Basketball this summer after testing positive.
Beal said he remains unvaccinated for “personal reasons,” and has questions about why someone can still contract the virus even after being vaccinated.
“Would I love to sit here and tell you that we’re 100 per cent vaccinated? I’d be thrilled about that,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “The fact is that we’re not, and that’s all I’ll say on that matter regarding who is and who’s not. It’s a delicate balance. It is not my place to tell somebody that they have to be vaccinated.”
Irving is among the individuals at the centre of that debate in the NBA right now.
By local rule in New York, to play for the Nets at home this season Irving would have to be vaccinated or receive an exemption — something that Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins sought from the NBA unsuccessfully last week because San Francisco has similar rules. Irving wasn’t at media day in Brooklyn on Monday, instead appearing remotely and refusing to say if he plans to play in home games.
“Please respect my privacy,” Irving said.
Added Nets forward Kevin Durant, at media day: “That’s on Kyrie. That’s his personal decision.”
Irving is keeping his status and reasoning private. Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac is not.
Isaac, whose mother works in health care, has had COVID-19 already. He is not vaccinated, but insisted he is not anti-vaccine, anti-medicine, or anti-science, either.
“I thank God, I’m grateful, that I live in a society where vaccines are possible and we can protect ourselves and have the means to protect ourselves in the first place,” Isaac said. “That being said, it is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice. … I’m not ashamed to say that I’m uncomfortable with taking the vaccine at this time.”
Media day tends to have some loose moments, and Durant was at the forefront of one of those when he was asked why people call him “KD.” The reporter — “Dave from Basketball Digest” — was none other than David Letterman, who got laughs from media that were present even though Durant didn’t outwardly show any happiness with the line of questioning.
Popovich joined San Antonio reporters to ask the hard-hitting question of why shooting matters in basketball, and in Miami, Jimmy Butler crashed Kyle Lowry’s first Heat availability in an effort to get him to endorse his coffee brand.
“He’s going to pay me very handsomely,” Lowry said.
There were also reminders that the pandemic isn’t over.
Udoka, entering his first season as Celtics’ coach, is wrapping up a 10-day quarantine after testing positive and plans to be at the team’s first practice Tuesday. Phoenix’s Devin Booker wasn’t at Suns media day, already in the league’s health and safety protocols — indicating some sort of testing or contact-tracing issue.
But camps are opening. A regular 82-game season is planned. Fans will be back in buildings. Popovich, the NBA’s longest-tenured current coach who said he qualified for his booster shot already because he’s in his 90s — he’s really only 72 — may have summed up the order of things in the NBA now perfectly with this assessment: “Normalcy, with a good dose of caution.”
“I think getting vaccinated is your choice,” Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “I think it’s absolutely your choice. But at the same time, we’re trying to protect the entire NBA. Not just our team, but the entire NBA.”
Quiet media day shows Pistons will let their game do the talking – Detroit Bad Boys
The No. 1 overall pick wasn’t interested in making headlines. And while there is burbling tension regarding vaccination status and regional guidelines and players throughout media day were answering or refusing to answer questions about their decision to not be vaccinated, Pistons players at media day made no waves and talked repeatedly about a few topics — the importance of defense, everyone working hard and getting along, and being embraced by the city of Detroit.
Media day served as the antithesis of clickbait with the boldest claim being made by head coach Dwane Casey who mentioned the San Francisco Giants surpassing expectations in baseball and said “why not us?”
At the same time, nobody was talking about playoffs, rookie of the year honors, or All-Star berths. Instead player after player said it was about attacking each day and working to get better. And while Detroit is one of only a handful of teams reportedly 100% vaccinated, all Waver would say is the team is “in good standing” regarding vaccination rates.
The focus remained on the development of a very young team and making sure they are supported as they work on their games.
As Cade Cunningham said, who, for whatever else you want to say about his potential, often sounds like a 10-year vet:
“We’re all going to come in, be consistent, play hard, play to win, make the right play. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. The team who does that more every day is going to win.”
And while I’m sure everyone in the organization would like to improve on the team’s 20-win mark from a season ago, wins are not the only litmus test for Year 2 of Troy Weaver’s restoration of the franchise.
“We have competitive guys in a competitive environment,” Weaver said about a roster that has now been completely overhauled since taking over the franchise over a year ago and with the longest-tenured player now being his 20-year-old first-round draft pick Killian Hayes.
Of course, as much as people like debating Weaver’s trio of first-round picks from last year, it was his most recent pick — No. 1 overall selection Cade Cunningham — that is driving most of the interest.
But, again, Weaver wasn’t interested in any grand proclamations.
“He’s a smart young man who loves to compete; who loves to work,” Weaver said. “There will be whatever the expectations are [from the outside], but the expectations inside the building will be to work your tail off.”
When asked about his expectations of Cade, Casey deadpanned, “One thing I know. Cade won’t be a bust.”
“It’s the NBA. Nothing is given to you,” Cunningham said. “If you can be consistent every day and work hard then good things will come. I’m not really gonna press trying to force the issue early. I’m going to make sure everything is smooth with the squad and be patient.”
At the same time, Cunningham has high expectations for himself, and he said he doesn’t take being the first selection for granted.
“I just see it as an opportunity to show everybody that I am the No. 1 pick, and I was taken there for a reason.”
When asked about Cunningham, his new teammates repeatedly highlighted his natural maturity, high basketball IQ and unselfish nature. When asked how they would work together on the floor, more than one Pistons said it would be easy because Cunningham makes it easy.
“He’s an easy guy to play with because he’s always thinking team first,” said Hayes, who will likely split ball-handling duties with Cunningham as part of a starting backcourt.
For his part, Hayes also mentioned he spent the offseason working on his game to bring more intensity, elevated defense and work on his shot so he can play off the ball.
Asked about the young backcourt duo and any potential tension regarding two young, developing point guards, Casey was emphatic that he don’t think there will be an issue.
“You’ve got to have multiple ball handlers in today’s NBA game,” Casey said, while noting today’s game is practically positionless. “You’ve got to have multiple playmakers.”
He also noted that when Hayes came back from France in September, he seemed to be a different kind of player and noted his conditioning and intensity level.
Another playmaking addition that Casey highlighted is the team’s big free-agent acquisition Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk, The center position, Casey said, will have a big play-making role in his offense. He also noted he’d had a “man crush” on Olynyk going back to his days coaching the Toronto Raptors.
Olynyk, who replaces Mason Plumlee in the big man rotation, is a career 36.7% 3-point shooter. After being traded to the Houston Rockets, Olynyk’s game really opened up and he averaged 19 points on 39% from 3 and 4.1 assists and five free-throw attempts per game. It seems the Pistons have a similar playmaking role in mind while also utilizing his perimeter game to open up lanes for the team’s young guards.
Other highlights from media day:
- Weaver said he traded Sekou Doumbouya for two reasons: He wanted to replace some lost second-round picks and he wanted to trade Doumbouya to a place that would give him an opportunity to grow.
- Casey says that Jerami Grant is still the team’s No. 1 option and go-to scorer, and that they are looking for him to add more rebounding to his game as a team leader.
- While Casey said the team would utilize the Motor City Cruise quite a bit, Saben Lee said he has had no discussions with Casey about any potential plan to shuttle him back and forth between the Cruise and the Pistons.
- Jerami Grant said he worked on his ball handling, playmaking, rebounding and shooting in the offseason, and noted that he focused on building up his body so he could absorb the kind of blows that come with being the first option and attacking the paint.
- Chris Smith, a two-way player coming off an ACL injury, said he has “a couple more months” of rehab before he can play again.
- Isaiah Livers, another rookie coming off an injury, said his timetable is a Nov. 1 return and right now he’s learning NBA terminology and soaking up everything he can from the coaching staff.
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