Morning Coffee – Thu, May 21

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Pride only hurts.

Raptors’ return to face additional challenges as NBA’s sole Canadian team – Sportsnet.ca

Travellers returning to Canada are required to undergo 14 days of self-isolation, which seemingly would prevent any returning Raptors from practicing at OVO Centre – the reason they would be coming back to Toronto at all.

Similarly, if the whole roster and staff were to gather in Toronto, how would they be treated if they were arriving en masse in either Orlando or Las Vegas – reportedly the leading candidates to host the NBA in some kind of “quarantine bubble” as is being considered?

It’s a question the Raptors have taken up with the federal government and they aren’t alone as similar issues face the NHL’s seven Canadian-based teams and the Toronto Blue Jays if and when MLB resumes.

According to sources, one solution that is being considered is the Raptors taking their operation to the U.S. and centralizing somewhere there for what most expect to be a three-week training camp prior to play beginning.

Again, this isn’t a problem unique to the Raptors, as teams in other markets are operating in jurisdictions with stiffer COVID protocols than others. In Massachusetts, for example, the Boston Celtics haven’t been cleared to return to their practice facility, and teams in New York and the Golden State Warriors could also have a higher bar to clear than those in other parts

Jeremy Lin: Linsanity is alive and well in China – Sports Illustrated

Even as sports remain shuttered, other areas of life in Beijing are returning to normal. Restaurants are open, albeit with temperature checks at the door and socially distanced table setups. Mopeds and cars clog the roads with rush-hour traffic as people head to and from work. “The biggest thing is just, we’re able to do what we want to do. It’s different. When you’re finally able to go out, you’re almost scared. Is it safe? Is it O.K.? But as you start to do it more and more, you’re like, ‘It is pretty safe, otherwise they wouldn’t allow us to do it.’ ”

Ultimately, though, Lin really just wants to do one thing. It’s why he swallowed his pride and walked away from the NBA last summer. And why he has no qualms if the CBA season resumes without fans in the stands, as has been suggested. “I’m totally fine with that,” he says. “I want to hoop. I want to compete.”

Until the pandemic hit, Lin was locked on helping the Ducks into the playoffs. After that, perhaps his agent would have gauged the NBA market to see whether any team wanted to bring him back for the stretch run. Now, of course, the future is much cloudier. “I’m going to reevaluate my options this upcoming . . .” Lin says, trailing off. “I can’t even say summer anymore, because no one really knows when free agency is going to be.”

And yet, Lin has also never been more certain about the direction his career has taken. Once haunted by the discrepancy between the attention he earned in the wake of Toronto’s title and the minimal role he played on the court in making it happen, Lin has come to terms with how his NBA exit played out. As he chats on the phone from his Beijing apartment, he is sitting next to a personal safe with his diamond-encrusted Raptors championship ring locked inside. “I got to the point where I was like, ‘Did I earn it?’ I didn’t contribute the way I wanted, but I was good enough to be on that team and to be an NBA player,” he says. “For me, I still have a lot of goals. I still have a lot of things that I want to accomplish.

“And I still have time.”

Breaking down Vince Carter’s total NBA salary from his career

Vince Carter has made $172,046,271 during his legendary NBA career, per Spotrac. The high-flyer entered the league with the Toronto Raptors back in 1998 and played in six and a half seasons there before becoming a journeyman. He went on to play for the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.

Carter made $1,760,000 during his rookie season with the Raptors. He averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the lockout year en route to winning the Rookie of the Year Award.

In his second season, V.C. earned $2,267,280. He made his first All-Star team and finished the campaign with averages of 25.7 points. Vinsanity completed his rookie contract with the Raptors by making $2,425,440 in Year 3 and $3,073,032 in Year 4.

Before the start of his fourth year, Carter signed a six-year, $85 million rookie-scale extension. The contract was set to kick in during Vince’s fifth season. He made $10,067,750 in 2002-03 while averaging 20.6 points per game.

The 2003-04 campaign wound up being Carter’s last full season with the Raptors, though he earned $11,326,219 during that campaign. Toronto traded the All-Star shooting guard to the Nets in December of 2004.

Carter made $12,584,688 in the 2004-05 campaign. He put up 24.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 77 games with the Raptors and Nets.

In his first full season with New Jersey in 2005-06, Carter registered 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He made $13,843,156 that year and followed that up by earning $15,101,625 in 2006-07.

Paul Pierce’s 5 worst takes of all time, ranked

3. Saying the Bucks had the Raptors after Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals
Man, this take was even worse than the Bucks-Celtics one.

Milwaukee beat the Toronto Raptors in each of the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals last May to take a rather commanding 2-0 lead heading to Canada.

Afterward, Paul Pierce took to Twitter to say that the “Bucks got this.”

There are a couple of reasons why this was really bad.

First of all, Pierce had just proclaimed the Bucks dead in the water two weeks prior, only to see Milwaukee backdoor sweep Boston.

Second, Pierce said that the Raptors were going to win the championship and completely abandoned them after two games.

Warriors, Raptors stay unbeaten in NBA 2K League | ABS-CBN News

Behind a big scoring night from Charlie “CB13” Bostwick and a massive rebounding effort from Malik “Slaughter” Leisinger, unbeaten Warriors Gaming Squad swept winless Lakers Gaming 2-0 on Tuesday to remain tied for first place in the NBA 2K League.

The Warriors improved to 5-0, level with Raptors Uprising GC, who topped Knicks Gaming 2-0 on Tuesday. The league’s other top teams, Mavs Gaming (4-0) and Blazer5 Gaming (2-0), were both idle Tuesday.

Both of the other matches on the opening night of Week 3 also resulted in 2-0 sweeps, with Pacers Gaming defeating 76ers GC, and Wizards District Gaming spoiling Pistons GT’s season debut.

Originally scheduled to begin its season March 24, the NBA 2K League postponed play due to the coronavirus pandemic. On April 27, the league announced an initial six-week, online-only schedule, with all 23 teams playing eight total matches from their home markets. Action finally began May 5.

Each match is a best-of-three, with the outcome of each three-game series counting as one win or one loss in the standings.

The Warriors opened Tuesday with a 69-60 win over the Lakers thanks to 29 points from CB13 plus 16 points and 25 rebounds from Slaughter.

The second game was a 105-47 destruction, with CB13 amassing 53 points and 10 assists while Slaughter piled up 10 points, 23 boards and seven assists.

Sten “SAV” Valge-Saar scored 27 points in each game for the Lakers (0-5).

Kenneth “Kenny Got Work” Hailey was the catalyst for the Raptors, recording 37 points and five steals in a series-opening, 83-65 victory over the Knicks. Eric “Timelycook” Donald had 26 points for the Raptors while the Knicks’ Christopher “Duck” Charles had 24 points and 10 assists.

Film Study: How Toronto’s defense evolved without Kawhi Leonard | NBA.com

Good defense starts in transition. According to Second Spectrum tracking, league-wide effective field goal percentage is 60.0% in the first six seconds of the shot clock, 53.1% in the middle 12 seconds, and 43.9% in the last six seconds.

According to Synergy play-type tracking, the Raptors rank 12th (lowest) in percentage of their opponents’ possessions that have been in transition (15.4%). But the 1.04 points per possession they’ve allowed in transition is the league’s lowest mark.

The Raptors’ success in transition begins with the fact that they don’t really crash the offensive glass. Toronto ranks 22nd in offensive rebounding percentage, having grabbed 25.9% of available offensive boards. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Serge Ibaka rank in the top 50 among individuals, but watch the Raptors and you won’t often see them chasing offensive rebounds. Combine that with how much they space floor offensively and they’re rarely putting themselves out of position in regard to transition defense. (It also helps that only 49% of their own turnovers, the league’s lowest rate, have been live balls.)

As they get back on defense, the Raptors will prioritize rim protection. In doing that, they’ll give up some transition 3-pointers (here are some examples – one, two, three – from their early-March game in Phoenix). But league-wide, 2-point shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock (1.26 points per attempt) are worth a lot more than 3-point shots in the first six seconds (1.11). Over the last 18 seconds of the shot clock, 3s are more valuable (1.07 vs. 1.01).

Report: All 30 NBA teams to participate in coronavirus antibody study | NBC Sports Chicago

In June, the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota Timberwolves will lead a study that hopes to determine what percentage of NBA personnel have developed antibodies to the novel coronavirus, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reports.

According to Andrews, the study has garnered support from the league office and players’ union, and players, coaches, executives and staff from all 30 NBA teams will participate. The study will feature either a finger prick procedure or drawing blood through a vein — the former a marked step towards more rapid, accessible and remote (and thus, safer) antibody testing.

Volunteers from 26 of 30 MLB teams recently participated in a similar study, which found COVID-19 antibody prevalence in 0.7% of the league’s employee population — a figure lower than expert projections at the time — according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Per Passan, 70% of respondents who tested positive for antibodies were asymptomatic.

So, what does this mean for the NBA? Testing for antibodies is not the same as testing for COVID-19 infection or immunity. It is rather a means of collecting information on what percentage of NBA personnel might have contracted the virus (and, crucially, were asymptomatic) and how the virus has moved throughout the NBA world.

Multiple NBA players who have publicly announced they contracted COVID-19 have donated their blood plasma for antibody-related research, including Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics.

The NBA suspended play on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. As of this writing, eight days have elapsed since Adam Silver’s targeted two-to-four week timeline for a decision on the fate of the season was first reported.

Basketball Was Made to Be Played Indoors. Now That’s the Problem. – WSJ

The original purpose of basketball is precisely what makes it so difficult to play safely today. For example, when a team of Chinese researchers studied transmission of this coronavirus between Jan. 4 and Feb. 11, they identified 318 outbreaks with three or more cases, according to a report they posted to the preprint server medRxiv. Their most remarkable finding was how many of those 318 outbreaks were traced to outdoor environments: none. Every single one was the result of being inside.

“We hope that in the post-pandemic future,” they wrote, “mankind will reflect deeply on the need for a healthy indoor environment.”

But how to create a healthy indoor environment for basketball is not just an issue for the NBA teams currently evaluating their HVAC systems. This is a question that has to be answered for every pickup game in every gym around the world.

Dan Costa is an unlikely expert on this particular matter. He’s the retired national program director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Climate & Energy Research Program. He’s also a longtime basketball referee.

He sees basketball players wipe sweat from their faces and touch their mouths and noses. He watches enough saliva fly out from the opening of his whistle that he disinfects it with alcohol. And the first thing he does after every game is head straight to the restroom to wash his hands.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for happy little viruses to float around,” Costa said.

To understand the peculiar risks of playing basketball—more than a dozen NBA players and team employees tested positive for the virus before the league stopped disclosing test results—it helps to study others who behave in oddly similar ways. Those people include Chinese restaurant patrons, Korean fitness dancers and Washington state choir singers.

The night before the NBA season was suspended, a choir in Skagit County, Wash., held its weekly practice. There were 61 members in attendance—mostly women, mostly elderly. They sang for 40 minutes, split into smaller groups for the next 50 minutes, spent a 15-minute break mingling over cookies and oranges, then reconvened in the larger group for the last 45 minutes. They were together for about as long as it takes to play an NBA game.

One of those choir singers had come to practice that night feeling sick with cold-like symptoms. It wasn’t a cold. It turned out to be the pandemic strain of coronavirus.

The virus then ripped through this vulnerable population. In a choir of 61 people, there were 32 confirmed and 20 probable cases of Covid-19, including three hospitalizations and two deaths, according to a report published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers behind that study believe that transmission was likely facilitated by the close quarters and exacerbated by something joyful that became devastating: singing.

The Testing Plans at the Center of the NBA’s Relaunch Efforts – The Ringer

“Hi, this is Dr. Sampathkumar. I’m so sorry I’m late,” Dr. Priya Sampathkumar said as soon as she got on a conference call with me Tuesday morning. She didn’t need to apologize. After all, she’s busy fighting a global pandemic. Sampathkumar is a consultant in the division of infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. There, she’s leading a research team working with the NBA to determine how many players and staff members have antibodies to COVID-19, which could potentially provide immunity to reinfection. The results of her research could help jumpstart the league’s reopening while also aiding the global battle against COVID-19. “With coronavirus being so new, we’re still not sure whether these antibodies will last more than a few months or if it truly means you are immune,” Sampathkumar said. “But with most viruses, when you have antibodies, it means you have immunity to the virus for several months or several years.”

Mayo Clinic has developed a fingerstick test that it believes is just as accurate as a blood draw through a vein puncture at identifying people who have been exposed to coronavirus and have since developed antibodies. They are seeking to validate the fingerstick test’s accuracy, which, if successful, could be a simpler and safer way of detecting antibodies. “It would be hugely helpful because the fingerstick blood draw could be done at home and the sample could be mailed in for testing at a lab,” Sampathkumar said. “Vast numbers of people could be tested without any need to go to the hospital or a clinic to receive a blood draw.”

The NBA has been looking for ways to support research of the pandemic since March—including recommending players who have successfully recovered from coronavirus to donate blood to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which is also run by Mayo Clinic. So far, close to 400 people from about half of the league’s teams have voluntarily participated in Mayo Clinic’s antibodies study. Portland, Minnesota, Cleveland, and Boston are among those teams, and more teams may join when their facilities open, league sources say. According to Sampathkumar, over 1,000 total people have contributed to the Mayo Clinic’s study. Participants from the NBA receive both a vein puncture and a fingerstick blood draw at their respective team practice facilities using supplies that the Mayo Clinic shipped to team doctors. In addition to helping the research of antibodies, the tests help the league get a read on COVID-19’s spread amongst the NBA population.

Sources: NBA in serious talks to restart season in Orlando, Disney World the frontrunner – The Athletic

Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort is the clear frontrunner to become the NBA’s playing site to resume the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told The Athletic.

The NBA is in serious discussions with Disney about the property, which has gained clear momentum over cities such as Las Vegas, sources said. It remains unclear when the games would begin, but multiple sources say the prospect of players fully training in mid-June and playing by mid-July has been the most popular and possible scenario discussed. NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the Board of Governors on May 12 that he aims to decide on the season in two-to-four weeks, and that he wants to wait as long as he can to make final decisions.

While the league has explored the possibility of holding games in multiple cities, it appears likely that Orlando would be a sole host. Sources confirmed that Houston, as first reported by The Ringer on Wednesday, has also received serious consideration as a host city. But Orlando is on track to win its bid so long as final details regarding testing and hotel use are resolved. For the NBA, Orlando/Disney World’s controllability as a playing site — with a private property having the necessary complexes, hotels and amenities — has been the most appealing of all the possibilities all along.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver informed players on a May 8 call that he hopes that the league is able to have daily testing, no stoppage of play if and when a player tests positive, and isolating anyone who does test positive in a quarantine. Silver also told the Board of Governors last week that he does not expect a “medical bubble” — but an environment in which people can re-enter and undergo retesting.

The synergy between the NBA and Disney — which owns the league’s main media partner – has played a pivotal part here too. What’s more, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger has strong relationships with Silver and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul. Iger even attended the NBA’s remote Board of Governors meeting on April 17, when he discussed the situation with the league’s owners and made a central point about the coronavirus that remains true.

“It’s about the data, not the date (of a return),” he reportedly told the owners that day.

Cross Canada Coaches Clinic puts nation’s basketball knowledge on display – Sportsnet.ca

As a lifelong learner with a deep curiosity about basketball, Chris Oliver set out to travel the world when on sabbatical as the head men’s coach at the University of Windsor a few years ago.

There are 64 speakers and the hour-long talks are free to the 2,500 registered attendees, with a plan to make them more widely available at a later date. The headliners include:

• Jay Triano, the long-time national team head coach, the first Canadian to be an NBA head coach and currently the lead assistant with the Charlotte Hornets.
• Scott Morrison, an assistant with the Boston Celtics and the first Canadian to make the improbable jump from USports to the NBA via the G-League.
• Roy Rana, who led Canada to the U19 FIBA world championship, built Ryerson into a USports power and is in his first year with the Sacramento Kings.
• Carly Clarke, Canada’s women’s U19 national team coach, and another FIBA world championship medallist and the head coach at Ryerson.
• Jama Mahlalela, former NBA assistant with Dwane Casey and in his second season as head coach of Raptors 905.
• Nathanial Mitchel, who was an assistant with Jerry Stackhouse at Raptors 90 and is a player development coach with Charlotte. He is also a key player development coach with the Canadian national team program.
He took in at least 50 practices in 64 countries at all levels and came away both impressed and more sure than ever: coaching in Canada was world-class.

“I came back with was just great confidence in what I knew and what I’ve been developing,” said Oliver, a three-time Ontario University Athletics coach of the year at Windsor. “But I also knew, ‘man, we have such great coaching here’”

Accordingly, from May 18th through to May 28th another element of the Canadian basketball explosion — that has seen 22 Canadian men make an appearance in the NBA this season and the Canadian women’s team ranked fourth in the world — will be on display, albeit via a computer screen rather than in-person.

Oliver is the organizer of the first annual Cross Canada Coaches Clinic, an innovative way to share hoops knowledge offered by most of the Canadian coaches who are beginning to make an impact at the highest levels of the sport and some of the lesser-known talents who may not have the profile, but have plenty of chops. (Full disclosure — I am making a presentation on basketball in the media as part of the program.)

Remember the night the first-time Toronto Raptors beat the 72-10 Chicago Bulls? – Raptors HQ

I was in the building for the Raps first ever home-playoff game. My buddy Jeff, the only person I knew with an American Express card, was allowed to jump the line and get tickets — only to watch Larry f-ing Johnson bank in the dagger. (I may have said a few things.)

I painfully remember Game 7 against Philly (the first time) not just because Vince Carter missed, but because I had to sneak away from the family dinner table to watch the action in two-minute bursts because we had guests in from Europe (they were my friends, I should have been allowed to ignore them, damnit!) That night I vowed to never miss a playoff game like that again, and two years later I had my pair of season’s tickets.

Despite having given up my seats years before, I was there for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals when the crowd chanted ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ so loud it caused The King to pause in his interview with Doris Burke (I’m not crying, you’re crying!). Through a series of flukes, I was somehow at Game 1 of the Finals and explaining the possible logic for why Patrick McCaw was in the game. He immediately hit a three, and, for one brief moment I was a God-level fan.

Then there were the little things. Darrick Martin’s literal, last-second shot that kept the Raptors’ then record three-point shooting streak alive against Dallas. The Ben Uzoh game. Carlos Rogers and “4 Rene”. Damon Stoudamire getting a national ad-campaign. The Raptor — always The Raptor — falling down stairs, flying through the air, in that delightful blow-up costume.

I’m an old man now, so my memories skew older as well, so maybe it’s not surprising that the one Raps memory that still burns most brightly comes from their inaugural season, March 24th, 1996: the night the Raptors upset the mighty Chicago Bulls.

Sources – NBA teams expecting guidelines around June 1 for players’ return

NBA teams are expecting the league office will issue guidelines around June 1 that will allow franchises to start recalling players who’ve left their markets as a first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season’s resumption, sources told ESPN.

Teams expect a similar timeline from the league on when they’ll be allowed to expand individual workouts already underway with in-market players to include more team personnel, sources said.

The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league is discussing a step-by-step plan for a resumption of the season that includes an initial two-week recall of players into team marketplaces for a period of quarantine, one to two weeks of individual workouts at team facilities, and a two- to three-week formal training camp, sources told ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, many NBA owners, executives and National Basketball Players Association elders believe commissioner Adam Silver will green-light the return to play in June — with games expected to resume sometime before the end of July, sources said.

The NBA is still considering a two-site format for the return of the season, including Orlando’s Walt Disney World and Las Vegas, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA are meeting to discuss the structure of a return, including how the league will navigate the possibility of regular-season games, play-in tournaments, playoff formats and whether the full 30 teams will be brought back to finish the season, sources said.

Many players have stayed in market or returned for individual workouts with teams. Against the league’s recommendations, some players — including Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic — returned to Europe and elsewhere abroad during the league’s hiatus.

Silver indicated that the North American sports commissioners had indicated to the Trump administration and governors that they could need their assistance in helping players return to the country, and fully expected to receive it, sources said.