Toronto Raptors general manager Bobby Webster has a lot of things to figure out and a limited amount of time to get it all done.
Not all problems are created equal.
Unable to play in Toronto due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Webster’s club is in the midst of building out a temporary home in Tampa Bay on the fly — including a world-class practice facility in a hotel ballroom — with barely three weeks until the 2020-21 season is due to start.
He’s also trying to navigate a tightrope, which features fairness and due process on one side, and the team’s progressive reputation for actively supporting women and their role in and around professional sports on the other.
The issues could potentially be in conflict as second-year guard Terence Davis continues to train with the team after being charged and investigated for an off-season domestic assault situation. The Raptors guard is alleged to have hit his girlfriend in the face and knocked over her toddler in the process.
Under Raptors president Masai Ujiri — who has yet to comment on the Davis issue — the club has worked to be seen as leaders as it relates to the roles of women within a professional sports organization. The club was proud that vice president of basketball operations Teresa Resch and assistant coach Brittni Donaldson were two of 14 women to earn championship rings with the Raptors in 2019. Their diversity, the Raptors argued, was a key to their success.
But so far, as they try to get settled in Tampa, the Raptors seem to be doing better with the logistics of starting from scratch in a new city than keeping their reputation scratch-free.
In his first comments since Davis was charged after the altercation in a New York City hotel room in late October, Webster attempted to explain Davis’s continued presence with the team as a matter of due process: under the NBA-NBPA Joint Policy on Domestic Violence, the entire matter — from eventual discipline to issues like putting a player on paid leave of absence — is handled by the office of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
That Davis is in Tampa in advance of training camp is the league’s decision, Webster seemed to be saying.
But the questions got harder and Webster faltered.
Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons pointed out that, given the Raptors’ progressive reputation, having Davis with the team (he was even included for discretionary events like their volunteer mini-camp in Los Angeles last week, for example) could make them seem hypocritical.
“We’ve spoken at length with Terence — multiple people in our organization,” Webster said. “Obviously we wouldn’t make the decision if we weren’t comfortable with the information that we had. Obviously, it doesn’t preclude us from getting new information that will come out in the future for us to make a decision. But we felt we were thorough on our end.
“ … You know us, we take this incredibly serious,” Webster continued. “There’s no basketball issue that would ever prevent us from doing anything [with regard to his role with the team], but we also have to go with our relationship and our understanding of the conversation and what happened.”
Clearly Webster’s hands are tied, to some degree. Any disciplinary action taken before the league’s investigation is concluded — which likely won’t happen until after Davis’s Dec. 11 court date at the earliest, one would assume — would be grieved by the players’ union.
And clearly the Raptors feel the need to be fair to Davis as this all plays out, or at least they’ve been comfortable to do so. The club picked up the non-guaranteed second year of Davis’s contract on Sunday. The logic was that failing to do so before the investigation finished would have triggered a grievance from the players’ union.
But it would have sent a message, regardless. So would keeping Davis at a distance during discretionary team events.
It might have been construed as a different kind of leadership.
But Webster seems to have shown some of his cards, at least in implying that the club believes they were “thorough” in their own inquiry. And that rather than keep Davis at arm’s length for now they have decided to keep him as part of the group — “we also have to go with our relationship and our understanding of the conversation and what happened.”
It’s not hard to read between the lines and conclude that Davis — arguably the team’s most promising prospect based on a strong rookie season for the undrafted shooting guard — has already been given the benefit of the doubt, well before his court date.
To the extent something happened between him and his girlfriend, it could be implied, it was relatively minor — if there is such a thing as a sliding scale for domestic violence.
And who knows, maybe there are grounds for that. Former Celtics guard Jabari Bird was instantly placed on paid administrative leave just prior to training camp after he physically assaulted a girlfriend, attempted to strangle her and confined her to his apartment. Bird was eventually traded and waived and has yet to return to the NBA.
That the league — which holds most of the cards for the moment — hasn’t limited Davis’s contact with the team could be telling.
But at least until the investigation into what happened between Davis and his girlfriend is concluded — either by the legal system or by the NBA — a wiser path for the Raptors would be to avoid implying that Davis’s word is good enough for them and to get him on the floor in as routine fashion as possible.
There is a lot going on and a balance to be struck, but on the Davis matter the Raptors seem to have already shown their hand.
Hall of Famer, Braves legend Hank Aaron dies at age 86 – Sportsnet.ca
ATLANTA — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players, died Friday. He was 86.
The Atlanta Braves, Aaron’s longtime team, said he died peacefully in his sleep. No cause was given.
Aaron made his last public appearance just 2 1/2 weeks ago, when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to help spread the to Black Americans that the vaccine was safe.
“Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases.
But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king.
It was a title he would be hold for more than 33 years, a period in which the Hammer slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Ali or Jordan.
Before a sellout crowd at Atlanta Stadium and a national television audience, Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record with No. 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Hall of Famer finished his career with 755, a total surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 — though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds finished his tarnished career with 762, though Aaron never begrudged someone eclipsing his mark.
His common refrain: More than three decades as the king was long enough. It was time for someone else to hold the record.
No one could take away his legacy.
“I just tried to play the game the way it was supposed to be played,” Aaron said, summing it up better than anyone.
He wasn’t on hand when Bonds hit No. 756, but he did tape a congratulatory message that was shown on the video board in San Francisco shortly after the new record-holder went deep. While saddened by claims of rampant steroid use in baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Aaron never challenged those marks set by players who may have taken pharmaceutical short cuts.
Besides, he always had that April night in 1974.
“Downing was more of a finesse pitcher,” Aaron remembered shortly before the 30th anniversary of the landmark homer. “I guess he was trying to throw me a screwball or something. Whatever it was, I got enough of it.”
Aaron’s journey to that memorable homer was hardly pleasant. He was the target of extensive hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s cherished record of 714, much of it sparked by the fact Ruth was white and Aaron was black.
“If I was white, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron said almost a year before he passed Ruth. “But I am black.”
Aaron was shadowed constantly by bodyguards and forced to distance himself from teammates. He kept all those hateful letters, a bitter reminder of the abuse he endured and never forgot.
“It’s very offensive,” he once said. “They call me `nigger’ and every other bad word you can come up with. You can’t ignore them. They are here. But this is just the way things are for black people in America. It’s something you battle all of your life.”
After retiring in 1976, Aaron became a revered, almost mythical figure, even though he never pursued the spotlight. He was thrilled when the U.S. elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008. Former President Bill Clinton credited Aaron with helping carve a path of racial tolerance that made Obama’s victory possible.
“We’re a different country now,” Clinton said at a 75th birthday celebration for Aaron. “You’ve given us far more than we’ll ever give you.”
Aaron spent 21 of his 23 seasons with the Braves, first in Milwaukee, then in Atlanta after the franchise moved to the Deep South in 1966. He finished his career back in Milwaukee, traded to the Brewers after the 1974 season when he refused to take a front-office job that would have required a big pay cut.
While knocking the ball over the fence became his signature accomplishment, the Hammer was hardly a one-dimensional star. In fact, he never hit more than 47 homers in a season (though he did have eight years with at least 40 dingers).
But it can be argued that no one was so good, for so long, at so many facets of the national pastime.
The long ball was only part of his arsenal.
Aaron was a true five-tool star.
He posted 14 seasons with a .300 average — the last of them at age 39 — and claimed two National League batting titles. He finished with a career average of .305.
Aaron also was a gifted outfielder with a powerful arm, something often overlooked because of a smooth, effortless stride that his critics — with undoubtedly racist overtones — mistook for nonchalance. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner.
Then there was his work on the base paths. Aaron posted seven seasons with more than 20 stolen bases, including a career-best of 31 in 1963 when became only the third member of the 30-30 club — players who have totalled at least 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
To that point, the feat had only been accomplished by Ken Williams (1922) and Willie Mays (1956 and ’57).
The Montreal Canadiens depth is about to be tested – Habs Eyes on the Prize
The Montreal Canadiens have had a very straight forward season thus far. They have used 18 skaters and two goaltenders. The only transactions they have made have been to save cap room on off days.
Even Victor Mete, who is the only extra player on the active roster, has yet to play a game this season.
That will very likely change on Saturday when the team plays their third straight game against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canadiens depth has been the strength of their team through five games. From every line scoring, to minutes being distributed evenly, the team has proven that they have effective depth.
The other prong to that depth is having internal replacements. It was the reason the team added Corey Perry and Michael Frolik before training camp opened even though the lineup appeared set. A team with playoff aspirations — especially in the reality of the current season — needs to have players come in and perform.
With Joel Armia suffering from a concussion and Paul Byron leaving early after taking a shot off of his foot, there is a good chance someone will have to come into the lineup. Canadiens coach Claude Julien has no issue going to his taxi squad, especially for the two veteran forwards.
“Those two players have been a great example to our young players,” Julien said after Thursday’s 7-3 win against the Canucks. “They are leading the way right now. What we like about that is their experience and what they are showing to young players who want to become good professionals. They have a great attitude. That’s why [general manager Marc Bergevin] went out to get them: If things happen along the way, we have depth. They are players who can play, who can help us. We’ll see what our injury situation is and how we can react with any changes.”
The situation to bring both into the lineup isn’t as simple as changing the lineup card. Between the team’s cap situation and waiver situation, there will need to be some maneuvering. The Canadiens may have enough cap space to bring one player up without needing anyone to go on long-term injury reserve (LTIR). LTIR would require a player to miss a minimum 24 days or 10 games which is a lot of time for what could be a short-term injury just to get around the cap. LTIR would allow a team to replace the salary of the player. Regular injured reserve is only a minimum of a week but provides zero cap relief.
There is the chance, if both Armia and Byron — who Julien said would be evaluated day-to day — are out that the Canadiens may have to play with 11 forwards and seven defencemen since Mete is on the active roster.
Another possible option would be to send down Alexander Romanov for Saturday’s game, and play Mete in his spot on defence. That would allow both Perry and Frolik to be called up even if no one is placed on LTIR. It’s not ideal for the rookie defenceman, but it wouldn’t need to be a long-term solution either.
Bergevin knew he would have to pull off some cap gymnastics this season. He did his stretching during the off-season to prepare for the inevitability of injuries. Now we’ll have to see what happens now that those gymnastics, and the depth, is being tested.
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