This era of the Toronto Raptors is ending with a whimper.
Toronto entered the game against the Houston Rockets with the casual confidence of a team hungover from celebrating a win, not one whose players were talking about “soul searching” only the night before. Their offensive choices were lazy, trying to end the losing streak with each single selfish jumper. The defense was manic, perhaps best exemplified as Chris Boucher and Paul Watson both closed out to the corner, and Boucher bumped Watson into the shooter to offer him free throws.
“I just think we don’t have the energy, maybe, or the juices to do it as much as we need to,” said Nick Nurse after the game.
But the reality is that this is a team without soul at the moment. It has been sucked by relocation, diced by travel, and ground by illness. Players’ individual souls are tender and bruised, and soon, insult will be added to the injury of this season.
Toronto will almost certainly trade Norman Powell. That was always a possibility this season. His offensive game has popped this season as his pull-up shooting, foul-drawing, and passing have taken huge leaps. Powell is an uber-efficient secondary or tertiary scorer, and contending teams can always use a sparkplug scorer off the bench. Toronto is no longer a contending team. Powell can fetch Toronto a first-round pick at the least, as it is a seller’s market, after all. But as a result of the losing, Kyle Lowry is probably out the door too, even as insider reporters like Michael Grange insist the team isn’t looking to deal him. And that may well not have been the case if the Raptors had survived the first half of the season. They could have stood pat, let the team make another prideful playoff push, and given Lowry a proper sendoff before free agency. Who knows, maybe they could have even re-signed him if there was a realistic path to contention in the near future.
As it is, Toronto no longer deserves Lowry. A consummate professional, he insists that watching players like VanVleet grow before his eyes is all the joy he needs. But Lowry deserves a winning situation, and Toronto is very much not that at the moment. Against Houston, they showed that they do not believe they can win. They caved in almost every way against a far inferior team. So Lowry will probably be traded before the week is done, and Toronto’s winngest era in franchise history — Lowry’s era — will end. It’s up to the remainder of the players what the next era will hold.
“She’s melting,” the Rockets announcers announced gleefully as the last moments ticked off the clock. They were referring to Houston’s 20-game losing streak, but they could just as easily have been talking about the Raptors themselves.
At the end of the game, as Toronto tried halfheartedly for a last-ditch comeback, Siakam poked the ball away from John Wall. Watson picked it up and tried to throw a hit-ahead pass to Siakam, but he threw the ball diagonally across the court. Siakam gathered it and drove on the other end through traffic, but he missed the layup. What should have been easy was made difficult, and the Rockets converted an uncontested one the other way. It was an allegorical moment for the game.
Toronto’s game against the Rockets thus circled the drain in the second half, slurping and sloshing underneath the crushing weight of missed floaters, clunked pull-up threes, and awkward closeouts. The Raptors scored 13 points in a must-win fourth quarter. Any possible scritch-scratch of a spark flickered and vanished immediately; a second-half Siakam block led only moments later to a deep Christian Wood buzzer-beating triple as he faded away from his defender. Fred VanVleet alone had heart for Toronto. He scored 27 points on only 17 shots. He hit hero triples from far behind the line. He created on offense when all else failed. He played defense with intensity when his teammates loafed. He played like a winner. But he was outvoted by his teammates’ ennui and outmanned by the Rockets’ energy.
“I’m always proud of Freddy,” said Kyle Lowry. “I’m proud of him every day, every game. He plays hard every single night you can play. When you got a guy who plays hard every single night, you gotta be proud of someone like that, no matter what the outcome [is]. Win, lose or draw.”
Unfortunately for VanVleet and the Raptors, seemingly all the Rockets had heart, soul, spark; however you want to describe it, they had it. It only took losing 20 straight games to acquire such a quality. Perhaps that’s what it will take for Toronto to regain a confident sense of self.
Or perhaps it will take an actual return to Toronto. It’s no surprise that the Rehomed Raptors are soulless. Toronto’s decrepit play cannot be explained by basketball strategy alone; there’s too much talent on the team for this. Unfortunately, the cozy confines of Scotiabank and a return home to Toronto aren’t available solutions, so the team will settle instead for trading away some vital and long-tenured players later in the week. Whatever Toronto did against Houston is not sustainable going forward. As a result, the past near-decade of Toronto basketball — the We The North era, the winningest basketball in franchise history — is a relic of a bygone time. We saw the high water two seasons ago and watched the tide drift away before our eyes against Houston.
Now they’ll struggle in constant isolation for the remainder of the season and then lick their wounds in hope they’ll heal in time for whatever’s coming next to begin.
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.
Together, we are all… <a href=”https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I”>pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.
Social unrest spurred name change
Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”
In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.
LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.
Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.
Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.
Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.
Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games
But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.
Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.
The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.
Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET
You can follow along here.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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