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Raptors ‘not on the same page’ yet as search for team identity continues – Sportsnet.ca

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The last Toronto Raptors team to start a season 0-4 featured Loren Woods at centre, Mike James at point guard and Joey Graham at small forward.

Rafael Araujo came off the bench. Rob Babcock was the general manager and Sam Mitchell the head coach. They eventually started the season 0-9 and won only 27 games on merit.

That was in 2005-06.

The current edition of the Raptors is a lot better than that, but they are till 0-3, tied for last in the Eastern Conference and seemingly incapable of not getting in their own way in crunch time.

A four-game losing streak to close out 2020?

Not impossible.

As Kyle Lowry put it after his team coughed up on themselves in the fourth quarter of their 100-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers: they’re in a bad spot.

“I just think we’re not all on the same page right now,” Lowry said after a rare loss against his hometown team, a series the Raptors have dominated over his career in Toronto. “That’s a big thing with us. We’re not on the same page but we’re working towards that. It’s just that right now we’re adding a couple of new guys, new positions and new roles and this and that and I think the shortened pre-season, the short time off, guys are still getting their legs under them a little bit.

“[But] we don’t have time to waste no more, we’re 0-3 and we need a win really, really bad. I feel like we’re getting to that point where it’s a must-win. We gotta do everything we possibly can to win the next game.”

That would be New Year’s Eve back in Tampa when the Raptors host the New York Knicks. Normally that would be guaranteed-win-night, a moment where the mature, mentally tough former champions feast on a young team trying to find their way in the league.

But this edition of the Raptors seems short on guarantees.

For a few years, it was a lock that the Raptors would make life miserable for Sixers centre Joel Embiid. It was only a season ago — though it seems like another age — that the Raptors held the Philadelphia big man scoreless in 32 minutes. Embiid was 0-11 from the floor and 0-of-3 from the line and turned it over four times, too.

That came on the heels of the Raptors reducing Embiid to tears after Toronto booted Philadelphia from the playoffs en route to the 2019 NBA title.

But that was another time and another Raptors team, where the centre tandem was Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, not some combination of Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher and Alex Len.

This 2020-21 version of the Raptors is very much trying to find their identity. Proof? Little-used and all but forgotten Stanley Johnson was even getting key minutes off the bench. Anything is possible, it seems, with this group, good or bad. What they land on is yet to be determined.

In the meantime, freed from his constraints Embiid roamed comfortably. The Raptors’ primary solution was, seemingly, to foul the seven-foot, 300-pounder. Embiid finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds while shooting 14-of-16 from the line. The Raptors got to the line 14 times as a team and their trio of centres was a combined 2-of-12 from the floor for nine points.

Embiid dominated down the stretch, clogging the paint and protecting the rim as the Raptors collapsed on offence. Toronto managed just two field goals and scored six points in the game’s final 6:55, giving up a five-point lead without much of a fight in the process. On the other end, Embiid was able to get to the line or create plays for others — such as when he found Seth Curry wide open for a three with a minute left that pushed the Sixers’ lead to five.

It was a nice play by Embiid, but another breakdown by the Raptors in a key moment — a theme to this point in the season.

“We’ve had a little bit of an issue of finding that guy in the first three games, from [JJ Reddick on New Orleans] to Patty Mills [on San Antonio] to Curry tonight,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “That just comes down to being in sync, connected or whatever defensively … It was like nine guys under the basket because everybody thought Embiid was shooting. He kicked it out to Curry who was the only guy left out there on both teams, I think.”

Lowry was Lowry — he finished with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds — but he was a man on an island. He got some assistance as OG Anunoby — a ghost through the first two games since signing his four-year, $72 million contract — stepped up with 20 points and five steals.

But elsewhere the Raptors were lacking, and the question is do they lack something tangible or can they find a way to cover the gaps? The Raptors have blown double-digit leads — they were up by 14 midway through the third quarter against the Sixers — in all three of their losses.

“[We’re] Just letting our foot off the pedal and just not keeping the same urgency that we have when we’re going on our runs, getting these big leads,” said Anunoby. “Just playing smarter too, where sometimes, you know, we take bad shots, don’t play as hard on defence. So just keeping our foot on the pedal the whole 48 minutes to finish out the game.”

A more complete effort would help and, optimistically, there was some promise on Tuesday night. Coming into the game the Raptors were ranked 20th in the NBA in points allowed but made a more concerted effort to gum things up against Philadelphia.

It worked to an extent — if Toronto can hold their opponents to 38 per cent shooting and force 18 turnovers more often, their three-game losing streaks will be few and far between. But they’ll need some offence, too, as they aren’t going to win many games shooting just 36 per cent from the floor and making 19 turnovers themselves — including three in the final seven minutes.

“I think we’re not being strong enough with the ball,” said Nurse, perhaps talking about Pascal Siakam, who was 8-of-23 from the floor, didn’t take a free throw and was last seen walking off the floor and directly to the dressing room in a huff after fouling out with 25.6 seconds left in the game.

“We’re making some hard driving things and it seems like we’re either having a late pass handling issue, a finishing issue — or even when we do go up without a pass, we lost the ball out of bounds a few times,” Nurse said. “… We just kind of have not handled the ball with enough strength late in the game.”

The Raptors have a day to regroup before hosting the Knicks — who are 2-1 — on Dec. 31st back in Tampa.

It’s a must-win game to close out 2020. Lowry even said so. Stranger things have happened, but through three games, the Raptors have shown anything is possible and not all of it is good.

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Habs Headlines: The Canadiens defend decision to select Logan Mailloux – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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In today’s links, defending the Mailloux pick, QMJHL leads the charge in Habs draft picks, the Hughes brothers make history, and more.

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Jessica Klimkait wins judo bronze to make Canadian history – CBC.ca

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Having just lost the most devastating match of her career, a semifinal defeat to go for gold in the women’s under-57 kilogram judo event, Canada’s Jessica Klimkait wasn’t sure initially she could step back out on the mat for another match. 

She was heartbroken. The world’s number-one ranked judoka in her weight class, Klimkait imagined a golden moment in Tokyo to end her first Olympic experience.

But there was still a medal up for grabs. It was not the colour Klimkait wanted but it still a chance to step on the podium.

Klimkait cried a bit. She talked to her coach. And then not long after she got back on the mat for her bronze-medal match.

Inside the hallowed Nippon Budokan near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Klimkait showed resilience, power and poise to battle back and win bronze for Canada.

WATCH | Klimkait makes Canadian history, captures Olympic bronze:

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Find live streams, must-watch video highlights, breaking news and more in one perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.

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Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont., becomes first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in judo as she defeats Slovenia’s Kaja Kajzer to win the bronze medal. 10:34

“Right now I’m going to be emotional about missing that gold medal but I think looking back I’m going to be proud of myself because the last two or three years have been extremely hard,” Klimkait said. 

She defeated Slovenian Kaja Kajzer to become the first Canadian woman to land on the Olympic judo podium.

Kosovo’s Nora Gjakova won gold, while France’s Cysique won second. Japan’s Tsukasa Yoshina also won bronze as they award two third-place finishes in judo.

WATCH | Klimkait steps to the podium for her historic medal:

Jessica Klimkait receives the first ever Olympic medal to be awarded to a Canadian woman in judo. 1:14

It’s Canada’s first medal in judo since the 2012 Olympics.  

“I came here with gold in mind. That was the goal for me,” she said, fighting back tears.  

“At the end of the day I’m just happy I was able to collect myself after that loss and come away with a medal.”

Stunning loss in semis

But about an hour earlier Klimkait’s Olympic gold medal dreams were dashed by France’s Sarah Léonie Cysique.

The referee handed Klimkait a third shido, or penalty, after a failed attack. That gave Cysique a stunning win.

“I’m a really offensive player. The only solution that I had was that I was trying to attack. I kept trying to attack. Some of them were not as great as they could have been,” Klimkait conceded. 

Klimkait, 24, had to battle through four matches on Monday to secure the bronze, including the demoralizing semifinal.

“I just used all my mental strength that I could and kept it about trying to perform in the bronze medal match despite my emotions and some physical fatigue,” she said.

WATCH | Klimkait reflects on her historic medal for Canada:

Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont., discusses her victory in the women’s under-57 kilogram judo event. 1:24

Klimkait, from Whitby, Ont., has been carving a new path in the sport for Canada over the past number of years, alongside world No. 2, Canadian Christa Deguchi. 

But it wasn’t a completely smooth journey for Klimkait in becoming Olympic champion.

Just before the pandemic hit in March 2020 and COVID-19 shut down sports around the world, Klimkait and Deguchi were months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot, and then Klimkait suffered a knee injury.

The pandemic pause was a blessing for Klimkait as she was able to rest and recover. She told CBC Sports that if she wouldn’t have gotten the time off, she wouldn’t have been able to train properly and would have lost the fight-off – that would have ended her Olympic dream.

WATCH | Sport Explainer – Judo:

Need a refresher on judo? Get to know the sport before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 2:23

With only one Olympic spot available per country per event in judo, it had been decided that whoever of the two finished higher at the 2021 worlds would get Canada’s 57kg berth.

In early June, Klimkait defeated Momo Tamaoki of Japan by waza-ari in the world final, becoming Canada’s second world champion in the sport after Deguchi won in 2019.

Klimkait won the world championship and booked her ticket to Tokyo. Deguchi finished fourth. 

“The last two or three years have been really uncertain for me in trying to qualify for the Olympics,” Klimkait said. 

“I had to tuck the dream of the Olympics away and try to get better at judo for a while. I just did my best to be the best player I could and hoped that would be enough for qualification.”

WATCH | Klimkait wins judo world championship gold, qualifies for Tokyo:

Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont. became only the second Canadian to win a judo world championship title, defeating Momo Tamaoki of Japan in the women’s under-57 kilogram final in Budapest, while also earning the right to represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics. 11:39

It was somewhat of a full-circle moment for the Canadian judo program – Canada’s first judo medal was won inside the same Budokan venue at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo by Doug Rogers, taking the heavyweight silver. 

It would take two decades before Canada would win another judo medal, as Mark Berger won heavyweight bronze at the 1984 Games.

Bronze medallist Canada’s Jessica Klimkait celebrates during the medal ceremony for the judo women’s -57kg contest at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on Monday. (Franck Fire/AFP via Getty Images)

Coming into these Games in Tokyo, Canada had won two silver medals and three bronze medals.

Canada hadn’t won an Olympic medal in judo for nine years. 

But Klimkait has ended the drought in the same place judo became an Olympic sport. 

“That’s been a goal and dream of mine not only to attend the Olympic Games but to be on the podium. Obviously the highest step on the podium would have been preferred,” she said.

“I still wanted to feel that pride even if it wasn’t gold.”

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Habs draft pick Logan Mailloux’s sharing of intimate photo raises questions about accountability, experts say – The Globe and Mail

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With the 31st pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens selected Logan Mailloux on July 23, 2021.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

The decision by the Montreal Canadiens to select a junior hockey player who shared explicit images without his sexual partner’s consent – and had asked not to be picked while he works on improving his character – has provoked a backlash inside and outside the hockey world.

The Canadiens used their first pick from among dozens of National Hockey League prospects to take Logan Mailloux, an Ontario defenceman who played in Sweden last season on loan from his Canadian junior team, the London Knights.

Mr. Mailloux, who has turned 18 since the 2020 incident, was playing with SK Lejon in Sweden’s third division last fall when he sent images to teammates of the sexual encounter, along with information that identified his female partner.

He was charged with distributing a sexual photo without consent in Sweden and paid fines amounting to $5,300. When news of the incident broke in North America last week on sports site Daily Faceoff, Mr. Mailloux released a statement asking NHL teams to avoid drafting him. “I don’t feel I have demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft,” he said.

The NHL has no mechanism for players to withdraw their candidacy. Mr. Mailloux was passed over by all other NHL teams with picks in the first round before the Canadiens made their choice.

Tara Slone, co-host of the weekly Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sportsnet, said she was disappointed and disgusted by the Canadiens and team general manager Marc Bergevin.

“It’s sort of jaw-dropping. You start thinking things are improving and the needle is moving a little bit, and we take a bunch of steps backward,” Ms. Slone said in an interview. “I quite frankly found it baffling and heartbreaking at the same time. As a woman who works in hockey, I could not comprehend the decision.”

Ms. Slone said many of the men who run hockey “know they can get away with it and hockey trumps everything. It’s consequence-free.”

Elliotte Friedman, Ms. Slone’s Sportsnet colleague, said she was far from alone in her dismay. People around the hockey world, including him, “felt sick to their stomachs” after the pick, he said. “It put a stain on what was a really good week for the sport,” Mr. Friedman said on his podcast. Hockey media stalwarts from TSN, including Craig Button and Bob McKenzie, also expressed shock and dismay.

Farrah Khan, manager of Consent Comes First, a support organization against sexual and gender violence at Ryerson University in Toronto, said the Canadiens showed a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of consent in brushing aside the incident and the player’s wish to be left alone to sort out his issues.

She questioned what the Canadiens have in place to help the player. “We know there’s a problem with misogyny in sports. He is one player of many across sports teams that have caused sexual harm. What are the Canadiens doing concretely to address the issue?” Ms. Khan said.

The Canadiens did not respond to the question Sunday.

Mr. Bergevin, the general manager, justified the choice on the weekend, saying the team would be able to “provide [Mailloux] the tools” to address his behaviour. Assistant general manager Trevor Timmins said Mr. Mailloux meets with “a lady psychiatrist a couple times a week” and will be welcomed to training camp before the next season. The team has a plan, he said.

“We feel he is sincere in his redemption quest,” Mr. Timmins said. “We believe in giving people second chances.”

Mr. Mailloux told reporters Saturday he will try to take advantage of resources offered by the Canadiens. He also said he has apologized several times to his victim. “At this point I hope she knows I am sincere about this. I am really sorry,” he said.

The victim in the case wrote to The Athletic site last week to say Mr. Mailloux’s apology was a three-line text, and she didn’t believe it was sincere. “I do not think that Logan has understood the seriousness of his behaviour,” she said. “All I wanted was a heartfelt apology for his behaviour.”

Ms. Slone of Sportsnet said the Canadiens failed to take the victim into account in their selection. “There isn’t much attention paid to her side.”

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