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.
Winter’s Coming. Will Canada’s Pandemic Bicycle Boom Last? – The New York Times
Since 1992, July for me has often meant spending three weeks driving thousands of kilometers to report on the cyclists competing in the Tour de France.
So even though I’m not there this year, it has still taken a bit of adjustment to deal with the tour being in September. Delayed and being held under special pandemic protocols, the race is nevertheless going on as coronavirus cases spike in France. Indeed, Nice was declared an infection red zone just as it was about to host the opening stages.
Within the race, it looks as if the protocols have more or less worked. No team has had two positive tests, which would have forced it to withdraw. Although there has been a sprinkling of positives, including one from Christian Prudhomme, the race director.
While I’m not in France to experience the tour, another development in the world of cycling — a local one — has helped offset my disappointment. Canadians have gone crazy about cycling.
I don’t just write about cycling. As a low-performance athlete, I usually spend my summers putting in dismal results in time trials, races against the clock, and preparing for cyclocross, the end-of-season racing that mixes in some running and nearly every possible riding surface on its circuits, including deep mud and smooth tarmac. Lately, when I’ve been riding outdoors, I’ve been doing it with a lot more people.
By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu.
In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.
Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.
The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?
To get some sense of what’s to come and how cities might keep cycling fever going, I spoke with Beth Savan, a senior lecturer and adjunct professor in the geography and planning department of the University of Toronto. Dr. Savan was the main investigator in a study published last year by researchers at her university, along with others at McGill University and Simon Fraser University, about how to increase cycling in Canada.
She said she was encouraged that people rushed out to buy new bikes rather than dust off old ones because it suggests that they may be more invested in sticking with cycling. She also noted that this is the first bicycle boom since the advent of the e-bike. (Gretchen Reynolds recently reported on studies looking at whether electrically assisted bikes are safe and if they actually provide good exercise.)
Dr. Savan has also noticed in recent months that the lines between recreational and transportation uses of bikes are blurring, another sign that the national interest in cycling might persist.
“People will now take a nice route to go on their errands to get some exercise or some pleasure along the way,” she said. “It’s kind of a new situation.”
Augmenting that effect has been the large number of people working from home who are now also largely shopping within their neighborhoods. Many of those people, she said, have discovered that bicycles are more effective than cars for those short trips.
For the winter, Dr. Savan said that Canadian cities should think about adopting the model of some places in Scandinavia, where sidewalks are cleared first, then bike paths and finally roads. Her group’s study, by the way, shows that winter cycling before the pandemic was strong in many places that bore the full brunt of the season.
Dr. Savan urged local government to view their current cycling accommodations as pilot projects to cycling rather than as temporary pandemic measures.
“To try and engineer lower a lower proportion of trips undertaken by car, that’s really where the challenge is,” she said. “As people start to feel more confident about going back to work in indoor spaces, they will be tempted to drive more.”
The raging fires of the Western United States brought an unwelcome export to much of British Columbia: dense, sun-blotting smoke.
During the 1970s and ’80s, Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s music was largely overlooked. Now the composer, who lives on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, has found an audience, Grayson Haver Currin reports.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
Novak Djokovic damages racket in fit of anger during Italian Open quarter-finals – CBC.ca
Less than two weeks after getting defaulted from the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic lost his cool again midway through a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the Italian Open quarter-finals Saturday.
When Djokovic was broken at love to even the second set at 3-3, he slammed his racket to the red clay in anger in Rome.
With the frame broken and the strings all mangled, Djokovic was forced to get a new racket and received a warning from the chair umpire.
“It’s not the first nor the last racket that I’ll break in my career,” Djokovic said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again. I don’t want to do it but when it comes, it happens.
“That’s how, I guess, I release sometimes my anger and it’s definitely not the best message out there, especially for the young tennis players looking at me, and I don’t encourage that — definitely.”
WATCH | Djokovic loses his temper yet again:
The top-ranked Djokovic had said Monday that he learned “a big lesson” after he was thrown out of the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball in a fit of anger. Djokovic also acknowledged then “that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.”
At the Foro Italico, Djokovic had already appeared frustrated during the game before he broke his racket, glaring toward the umpire following a couple of overrules and a point that was ordered to be replayed.
“That’s just me,” Djokovic said. “Of course I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best.”
WATCH | Novak Djokovic hits line judge with ball at U.S. Open:
Ruud 1st Norwegian to reach semis of Masters 1000 tourney
The 97th-ranked Koepfer, who screamed at himself in frustration throughout the match, was also warned for misbehaviour early in the third set.
Aiming for his fifth title in Rome, Djokovic’s semifinal opponent will be Casper Ruud, who eliminated local favourite Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted two hours 57 minutes.
Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach the semifinals of a Masters 1000 tournament. His father, Christian Ruud, got as far as the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters in 1997.
Shapovalov into semis
The other semifinal will feature No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., against No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.
Shapovalov edged No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, while Schwartzman upset clay court specialist and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5.
WATCH | Shapovalov’s 100th win sends him into semis:
While fans have not been admitted to the tournament yet — Italy’s sports minister said Friday that 1,000 spectators will be allowed in for the semifinals and finals — workers, family members and other onlookers inside the picturesque Pietrangeli stadium provided some support for Berrettini, who is from Rome.
Nicola Pietrangeli, the 1957 and 1961 Rome champion and the man the stadium is named after, was also among those sitting on the white marble stands.
“There would have been a lot more adrenaline with fans,” Berrettini said.
NBA Playoffs 2020: The Boston Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever – NBA CA
The Boston Celtics could be up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals just as easily as they are down 2-0.
Blowing double-digit leads in each of the first two games of the series, the Miami Heat have out-hustled the Celtics for 48 (and some change) minutes in back-to-back games to give themselves a commanding lead.
With Boston on the brink of the infamous 3-0 deficit that no NBA team has ever come back from, Game 3 becomes a must-win if the Celtics are going to continue their push for their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
There’s been a common thread in Games 1 and 2 (aside from the double-digit comebacks) that have placed Boston in this situation: Miami’s 2-3 zone defence. Our Scott Rafferty analyzed that issue in detail, and it’s been a glaring weakness for Boston’s offence all season.
But luckily for the Celtics, they still haven’t used all the cards up their sleeve. They still have a weapon stored away that could present itself at any moment now, as former All-Star forward Gordon Hayward‘s return is on the horizon.
Hayward, who suffered an ankle injury in the Celtics’ first game of the postseason and has been out since, was upgraded to “doubtful” before Game 2. While that wasn’t much of an update, it showed he was getting closer to returning to the floor. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss confirmed that following Thursday’s loss, stating that Hayward is “progressing toward a return for Game 3,” adding that he felt good after Wednesday’s practice and will “get more on-court work Friday with the hope of playing Saturday.”
On Friday, he was officially listed by the team as “questionable” for Game 3.
It will surely take some time for Hayward to get back into the flow of things after missing one month of action, but he immediately helps Boston take steps toward breaking that impenetrable zone defence.
His 19.0 points per game in the bubble speaks for itself, giving the Celtics an extra scoring threat that the Heat will have to worry about. He can shoot from the perimeter (converting 38.3% of his 3s this season), he’s a solid slasher with the ball and cutter without the ball, and he’s a strong midrange shooter, pairing well with sharp playmaking skills that should help dissect that zone.
Most importantly, Hayward loves working in the soft spot of the 2-3 zone (right at the foul line), which should give Miami’s defence more trouble than its seen thus far.
In Games 1 and 2, the Celtics elected to go with Marcus Smart or Daniel Theis to try and pierce the heart of that zone. Smart’s passing makes him an OK option for that middle spot, but he’s better off on the perimeter, where he’s converting 42.1% of his 3s this series. The Heat will live with him or Theis taking that midrange pull-up, whereas it becomes a much more efficient source of offence for Boston with Hayward taking that shot.
According to NBA Stats, Hayward shot 49.3% on midrange jumpers and 43.4% on shots in the paint (non-restricted area) this season. Having him in the middle will prevent the zone’s two defenders up top from expanding so far out, shrinking that long and athletic defence even just a tad bit more.
The Heat will be forced to collapse on Hayward, where he can showcase his playmaking ability to find open shooters on the perimeter. That makes Miami much more reliant on perfect and quick rotations to challenge Boston’s 3-point shooters.
If the Heat’s defenders don’t collapse on him or the centre (typically Bam Adebayo) doesn’t take a step up, Hayward will gladly take looks like the one below over and over again.
Even though he misses that particular jumper, it’s a shot Miami is much less likely to live with compared to Smart or Theis pulling up from there. Even when Hayward attacks from the perimeter, he has no problem stopping short of that centre defender for little pull-up jumpers like this one against the Heat earlier this season:
The Celtics have been dependent on quick passes for (often contested) 3-pointers, which has also developed into bad decisions for live ball turnovers or long rebounds going the other way to spark Miami runs off of offensive droughts. Having someone that can hit shots like the ones above makes that zone defence much more vulnerable than it has been so far.
Hayward’s return wouldn’t just be a luxury for the Celtics, it’s essential for them to keep their season alive in trying to even the series.
The Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever if their title pursuit is going to continue.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.
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