Ugh. No one ever said life in the NBA was supposed to be fair, but what has Norm Powell done to deserve this?
What have the Raptors?
On Thursday night, Toronto provided updates on the wave of injuries that swept over them in the win against the Detroit Pistons the night before.
• Marc Gasol, who strained his hamstring in the first quarter against the Pistons, was revaluated today in Toronto and was deemed to be out “indefinitely.”
• To the surprise of all, it was revealed Pascal Siakam strained his groin midway through the fourth quarter and will be out “indefinitely.”
• And Powell, rocked by a Blake Griffin screen late in the fourth quarter, suffered a partially dislocated shoulder and will be out – you guessed it – “indefinitely.”
Given the Raptors have already lost rotation pieces Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Pat McCaw and Matt Thomas for double-digit games in a season that’s only one-third gone and Fred VanVleet has missed five, someone needs to get video of the Raptors peeing up the legs of the “Basketball Gods” (Dwane Casey voice).
As for the impact? Well, losing your leading scorer (Siakam) and best all-around player, your most important defender (Gasol) and your second-leading scorer (Powell) in one game seems to be … significant.
Gasol’s loss leaves the Raptors even more thin up front with rookie Dewan Hernandez the only other centre on the roster, so it’s not impossible that if Gasol is out for an extended period a depth piece may need to be found and acquired.
There is no replacement for Siakam who leads the Raptors in scoring (25.1 per game), rebounding, is third in assists and second in blocks while posting a team-high usage rate of 29.4 per cent.
Normally a good chunk of that load would shift to Powell, but not now.
The only hope is that Siakam isn’t out very long – it’s believed they are exercising caution for what is a fairly mild strain – and the silver lining might be that it will serve a bit of a break for a young player carrying a new and heavier load of responsibilities while ranking seventh in the NBA in minutes played to this stage.
The same can be said for Gasol, who could likely benefit from a breather after playing 12 straight months of basketball, ending with the World Cup in China in early September.
On paper, the Raptors can likely backfill Powell’s minutes more easily, but there is otherwise no way to polish what must be a heartbreaking turn of events for a player who seems to snake-bitten at times.
Watching Powell rolling on the floor, clutching his left shoulder in agony?
If you’re the type who likes to see good things happen to good people, it was not the moment for you.
Perhaps the best you can take away from it is that he didn’t require surgery.
Otherwise, the timing couldn’t be worse for Powell or – given Siakam’s injury – the Raptors.
The six-foot-four slasher was playing the best basketball of his career, and whether that would have resulted in him being the kind of fixture as a microwave sixth man and occasional starter good teams need or a juicy trade chip down the line, an extended Powell absence complicates matters for Toronto in the short- and medium-term.
How the injuries ultimately affect the Raptors’ seeding in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race – a half-game separated second through sixth before play Wednesday night – or their ability to get what should be a solid nine-man rotation firing on all cylinders when they don’t have Kawhi Leonard as a safety net is another matter.
In a season where the margin for error is slim, it’s less than ideal.
Fortunately, it appears that Serge Ibaka – averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds on 57 per cent shooting over his past three games – is back to the form he was flashing before he missed 10 games with a sprained ankle and ready to take up the slack.
He’ll likely appreciate a return to the starting lineup and a steady diet of 30-plus minute nights Gasol’s absence will afford. The Raptors and the rest of the league will get a more extended look at the viability of Chris Boucher as a regular rotation piece, a second chance for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and perhaps more small-ball lineups featuring OG Anunoby at the four spot will become the norm.
Missed will be Gasol’s long-range shooting, paint defence and ability to run the offence 25 feet from the basket – all of which help explain why the Raptors are 11.2 points better per 100 possessions with Gasol on the floor than they are when he sits, even while he’s averaging a career-low 6.6 points a game on a career-low 36.4 per cent from the floor.
But Powell’s loss could be different if only because a similar injury to the same shoulder cost him six weeks and 21 games last year and represents another roadblock between him and his ultimate potential.
Raptors fans understandably love to celebrate the team’s plucky underdog stories – Siakam’s rapid rise to All-Star status as a late first-round pick; VanVleet’s emergence one of the league’s most respected players after being undrafted – but Powell often gets overlooked.
It could be that his role has been perpetually in flux since being pressed into starting as a rookie, or because he got paid relatively early in what is still only a five-year career and struggled in the first two years after he got the extension or because of his penchant for some forehead-slapping plays along the way.
It could be that we forget that the Powell we’ve seen this year could have been on display last year, had he not been pushed out of a starting spot by the acquisition of Danny Green.
But Powell deserves credit for turning himself into an important rotation player after being taken 46th the 2015 draft, and for finding a way to do it on deep teams that have averaged nearly 56 wins a year since he broke into the league.
And he deserves credit for taking the opportunity to start presented to him earlier this season, when Lowry and then VanVleet got hurt, and sprinting with it.
Not only have the past 21 games been the best six-week run of his career, he’s been one of the most efficient guards in the NBA.
Yes, that Norm Powell.
Since becoming a starter after Lowry fractured his thumb on Nov. 8, Powell has averaged 16.7 points a game on 51.1 per cent shooting, including 42 per cent from three on a robust 5.3 attempts. It translates into a True Shooting percentage of 63.5 per cent, among the league’s best for wing players. He’s averaged 1.2 steals a game, too.
He’s the only guard in the NBA to score at least 16 points a game while shooting better than 50 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from three (with five attempts or more) and while averaging at least one steal per game.
And he’s done while treading lightly too, with a usage rate of just 20.5 per cent.
He’s still prone to some frustrating turnovers and odd defensive lapses, but he’s flat out won games for the Raptors too.
What does it all mean?
Hopefully not too much, for the Raptors at least.
NBA on Christmas Day
The Raptors and Celtics tip off a full Christmas Day schedule on Sportsnet, Sportsnet ONE and SN NOW starting at 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT, followed by 76ers vs. Bucks, Lakers vs. Clippers and Nuggets vs. Pelicans.
If anything it solves a looming potential lineup crunch that had Nurse musing about starting Powell over VanVleet. That issue has disappeared for now.
VanVleet could be ready to return Friday after a four-game absence with a sore knee and will slide into the starting spot Powell was keeping warm for him.
McCaw will presumably keep getting every chance to show that he can contribute at a level that far exceeds his meagre offensive output (6.3 points per 36 minutes on 40 per cent shooting over the past two seasons).
Rookie Terence Davis II should also benefit. In the 11 games Lowry was out and before McCaw returned, he delivered 10.8 points a game on 54.2 shooting (46.7 per cent from three) while averaging 21.1 minutes a game.
With Lowry and now McCaw back, Davis is averaging just 14.7 minutes over the past eight games while scoring just 4.6 points a game on 34.2 per cent shooting. That should change.
Matt Thomas, due to return in a week or so from a broken finger, should be able to carve out some minutes also.
Things will sort themselves out, but it’s a lot to take in at once. It’s not often that a team loses three of its top seven players in the space of a single game, but stranger things have happened.
But as it relates to Powell’s injury and the timing, it’s not too often they feel that unfair.
Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail
A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.
The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.
One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.
The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.
But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.
Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.
In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.
But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.
But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.
Their first job was deflecting.
In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.
Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.
This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.
Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.
But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.
But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.
While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.
On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.
By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?
This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.
Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.
Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.
This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.
Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.
While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.
This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.
It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.
It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.
The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.
At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.
Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.
Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.
Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open
Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.
“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.
We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.
I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.
Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.
Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.
The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.
Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.
The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.
“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.
Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca
RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.
Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.
Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”
Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.
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