Morning Coffee – Tue, Jun 16

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To ball or not to ball.

Raptors advisor Embry says NBA can make greater impact on social unrest by playing | CBC Sports

Since George Floyd’s death last month in Minneapolis, numerous NBA players including Raptors veteran guard Kyle Lowry have joined the hundreds of thousands of people who have protested across the U.S.

The NBA, shuttered on March 11 due to the global pandemic, is tentatively scheduled to resume on July 30 in Orlando, but some players including Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard say now’s not the right time to play.

“Basketball, or entertainment, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction,” Howard said in a statement. “I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA championship. But the unity of my people would be an even bigger championships that’s just too beautiful to pass up.”

Embry understands the sentiment, but doesn’t agree with it.

“I would play because I think through sports we can be a model for the greater society in that we come from diverse backgrounds, we come together to work toward a common goal and that’s to win the championship in a team sport,” Embry said. “I think we can be a model for the greater society, so that’s why I think I would play.”

New NBA coalition voicing concerns of players

As a growing faction of NBA players remains uncertain about committing to the league’s plan for restarting the season in an Orlando bubble environment, a coalition of players including Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Avery Bradley believes it has a responsibility to take on a leading role in exploring answers and solutions for fellow players the group believes to be justifiably reluctant to speak for themselves, sources tell ESPN.

The coalition of players pursuing a further examination of the NBA’s plan to restart the season in Orlando delivered a statement to ESPN on Monday describing its thought processes and motivations.

Irving and Bradley, two of a number of veteran players who have taken expanded roles in organizing player conference calls in the past week, believe they’re providing a voice for those players who fear retribution if they openly voice their concerns, sources told ESPN.

Irving, Bradley and the coalition of players want to pursue some concerns further with the league, sources said, including: the investment of resources and ideas of all league constituencies — from the commissioner’s office, ownership level, management and the players’ association — in social justice reform.

Among concerns surrounding the league’s return to play after a three-month shutdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, sources said the coalition is citing: a surge in positive coronavirus cases in Florida, conditions surrounding the restrictive environment in the bubble, insurance and liabilities for players based on possible illnesses, and injuries in a truncated finish to the season.

In a statement to ESPN shared by leaders of the coalition of players, the group described itself as a movement working to unite NBA players and those well beyond the limits of the league’s structure.

“We are a group of men and women from different teams and industries that are normally painted as opponents, but have put our egos and differences aside to make sure we stand united and demand honesty during this uncertain time,” the coalition said.

NBA return: The players are bearing the risk of coming back – Sports Illustrated

Basically, the ability to generate revenue for the league falls almost entirely on the players’ willingness to, uh, play, but if they don’t, the league can shred their current collective bargaining agreement and demand an even bigger piece of the income pie in the next one. I’m no economics expert, but if the league’s path to generating income relies so much more on the players than the owners, and if the league can make money even by simply playing games in empty arenas at a theme park, shouldn’t it be the players getting a bigger share?

This is why I found Kyrie Irving’s decision to tap on the brakes last week interesting. Even if Irving doesn’t want to completely stop the league from coming back, I do believe players, through collective action, have a little more leverage at this exact moment than they would normally. If Irving’s pushback against the league’s comeback plan results in more robust commitments from owners to social justice causes, or even just improves conditions for players in the bubble, then it will have been a masterstroke.

The problem is what happens if the season doesn’t resume. Again, the baseline assumption is that owners would use that scenario to take more money away from players in future seasons. For all the talk about Adam Silver being a players’ commissioner and his friendly relationship with the game’s biggest stars, it wouldn’t exactly be a progressive portrayal of Silver and the owners if they used players not wanting to come back during a pandemic and civil uprising to squeeze every last dollar out of them. It sounds like the league is prepared to play hardball if guys don’t want to come back, no matter how taxing the situation could be in Orlando.

Of course, this isn’t an easy situation for any party involved. Owners have been paying players through the season suspension despite the lost revenue, and guys getting paid indefinitely while there is no basketball isn’t feasible. If basketball doesn’t come back in any capacity, that also means a hit for arena workers, training staffs, and a host of other people who don’t have much of a voice in these negotiations. And sorting out issues like sponsorship deals, national television contracts, or regional sports networks are another massive looming headache.

Tracy McGrady Says He’d Vote Not to Play in NBA amid COVID-19, Racial Protests | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Basketball Hall of Fame Tracy McGrady told Rachel Nichols on Monday’s episode of The Jump that he would “vote not to play” if he were still in the NBA amid conflict related to a return-to-play plan (2:20 mark):

The 41-year-old, whose last season in the league was 2012, cited his desire for “radical change” in terms of police brutality and racial injustice as well as the fact “there are still people dying from this coronavirus.”

NBA Power Rankings: Orlando season restart edition

4. Celtics (43-21, LW 5). Jayson Tatum broke out as an elite, All-NBA level player in the month of the season. Jaylen Brown was just a step behind him. Pair those two with veteran and scoring machine Kemba Walker and a healthy Gordon Hayward, and that is as athletic, versatile, and switchable 1-4 as there is in the league. Those players, and the Celtics fourth-ranked defense, make them a threat to make the Finals out of the East. The question becomes, are big men Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams good enough to hang with the Bucks (and Philly in the first round, if that’s the matchup)? Teams with size will test Boston.

5. Raptors (46-18, LW 4). Toronto had the second best defense in the NBA over the course of the season and that can carry them a long way in Orlando, especially when combined with the breakout season of Pascal Siakam. Nick Nurse has done a Coach of the Year job of putting players in positions to succeed. However, the Raptors are 2-7 against other teams who are the top three seeds in either conference – Toronto beat the teams it was supposed to beat, but can it rise up and knock off the best teams in the playoffs without their closer from last season’s championship run?

W.N.B.A. and Players Agree to Plan for 22-Game Season Starting in July – The New York Times

W.N.B.A. players have ratified a plan between the league and the players’ union to play a 22-game season, beginning in late July, along with a full playoff schedule, all at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the league announced Monday.

Players who opt into the 2020 season — they have until June 25 to notify their teams if they will participate — will receive 100 percent of their 2020 salaries, assuming the league is able to complete both the regular season and playoffs. This was critical to getting the players to agree, according to Terri Jackson, the executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.

“They understood that if players are committing to this, that we needed their commitment on that,” Jackson said in a phone interview Monday. “And so we got there.”

Many details remain to be sorted out: A start date has not been finalized, and the league has identified several other potential destinations as fallback positions if the plan to play at IMG Academy becomes untenable — either because of a change in local government policy or a spike in coronavirus infections in the area.

Jackson said that another round of approval from the players’ union would be required before the season actually begins.

Both sides also expect to address living accommodations for players with varying family situations, as well as how the league’s return would affect activism related to police brutality and systemic racism — an issue that the N.B.A. is also working to address as it moves forward to complete the 2019-20 season.

“The players are launching a bold social justice platform,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a phone interview Monday. “And one of the positives of being all together is their ability to use that time as a call to action around driving change. This country definitely needs that.”

Nneka Ogwumike, the Los Angeles Sparks forward and the president of the W.N.B.P.A., said the union’s executive committee had already connected with groups that could help the players use the season as a platform for activism.

“We’ve always been the first in line to speak about social issues,” Ogwumike said. “And we see this as a really magical moment for us to turn to turn the unexpected into something that could be very beautiful, with 144 voices in the same place.”

Why Sports Teams Want the Day Off for Voting – WSJ

The Grizzlies play a few blocks from the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and their employees live in a city inextricably linked to the civil-rights movement. They felt it was imperative that people who work for the organization “never have to make a decision between voting or incurring a financial loss.”

That’s why the Grizzlies allocated paid time off to be used during local and national elections—a tangible policy shift and not simply a rhetorical flourish.

The Timberwolves and Lynx were next. They made Election Day a company holiday in a package of measures they have enacted since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis resulted in a wave of national unrest.

Minnesota’s basketball teams employ more than 200 people, and the organization said it wants to make sure they are engaged citizens, regardless of their political affiliation. They now have the day off as part of what the franchise is calling its “let your voice be heard” initiative.

“The discussion is certainly happening at a national level, but I think this can be a movement,” Casson said. “I don’t think this has to be mandated. I don’t think somebody has to come and tell you what you have to do or should be forced to do.”

He’s been flooded with interest from teams and companies in other businesses considering similar moves, Casson said.

Teams could be prompted to take action by their most prominent employees. As they negotiate the details of restarting the season, some NBA players have discussed asking their teams to mandate company holidays for voting, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The NCAA issued guidance to member schools on Friday that suggested designating Nov. 3 as a day off from college sports “so athletes can vote and participate in their ultimate responsibility as citizens.” The Mid-American Conference announced plans last week to find another date for a Buffalo vs. Northern Illinois football game that was scheduled for that Tuesday night.

The movement in the college ranks swelled with a June 3 tweet from Georgia Tech associate basketball coach Eric Reveno, who was inspired by his players and urged the NCAA to recognize Election Day, a gesture that would empower nearly a half-million college athletes and instill the habit of voting.

“I love this idea,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr wrote.

It’s not just teams and leagues that are encouraging people to vote. It’s also the players themselves—including one of the world’s most famous athletes. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James announced plans last week to start a nonprofit organization called More Than a Vote with the goal of registering voters and foiling attempts at voter suppression.

It’s not clear that Election Day policies have much of an effect. In a 2009 working paper, Princeton economist Henry Farber found that election holidays on their own were not reliable strategies to increase voter turnout.

But the cause is up for grabs at individual companies because Election Day legislation has stalled in Congress.

President Barack Obama supported making Election Day a federal holiday while in office, saying in 2016 that the U.S. is “the only advanced democracy that makes it deliberately difficult for people to vote” and increasing voter turnout would be “the single most dramatic political change that could occur in this country.” Sen. Bernie Sanders also proposed a bill that would turn Election Day into a federal holiday called Democracy Day.

The case for Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry’s elusive All-Defence selection | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

Kyle Lowry has one All-NBA selection and six All-Star selections to his name, but he has never made an All-Defensive Team.

Yes, you read that correctly – Kyle Lowry has never been All-Defence. Believe me, it shocked me too.

Lowry has been showing out on the defensive end for the Toronto Raptors since he’s arrived. He’s turned it up a notch over the last couple of seasons becoming a known pest to opposing players. And the results have shown up in the team’s defensive rating. Toronto has finished with a top-five defence each of the two previous seasons. This year, they have the second-best defensive rating in the league only behind the Milwaukee Bucks.

And still, Lowry, who is recognized around the NBA as being one of the better defenders at his position, isn’t getting much All-Defence buzz.

It’s time we give Kyle Lowry’s defence the respect it deserves.

First things first, let me go ahead and say it: when it comes to charges, there’s no one better in the NBA at taking them than Lowry.

I mean, the dude even took them at the All-Star Game! While blocks get the most praise, charges drawn have just as much of an impact as a large swat, and Lowry’s mastered the art of taking one.

Raptors Over Everything podcast: NBA’s plans to restart called into question

Welcome to Raptors Over Everything, a Yahoo Sports Canada podcast covering the latest developments regarding the Toronto Raptors. Find the show on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Host William Lou is joined by Yasmin from the Dishes and Dimes podcast to discuss the NBA’s plans to restart.

1-year anniversary of the 2019 championship

Kyrie Irving questions if restarting the season would detract from BLM protests

NBA players not fully informed of the risks

What’s at stake for the Raptors in this year’s playoffs

Pascal Siakam’s growth into a No. 1 option

Appreciating one of Kyle Lowry’s last prime years

Raptors Getting New Uniforms, Tweaking Logo in 2021 | Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net News : New Logos and New Uniforms news, photos, and rumours

SportsLogos.Net has learned that the Toronto Raptors will be getting rid of their current uniform set and will tweak their primary logo following the 2019-20 NBA season. This information has been confirmed to us by multiple reliable sources.

While the *details* on the new look have yet to be revealed, we’ve got a pretty good hunch that the team will adopt a chevron-style uniform as their primary/full-time set in 2020-21. This design was most memorably seen on their red “NORTH” uniforms worn during their run through the 2019 playoffs and seemed quite popular with fans. (Please note, the graphic at the top of this post is just our own guess of what the new uniform could look like)

The chevron look was certainly embraced by the team in 2018-19, they chose to wear it for their title-clinching game at Golden State rather than their usual uniform. When it came time to design their championship rings, the chevron was again used as the main element. NBA uniform rules prevented the team from wearing the uniform for a second season in 2019-20.