Morning Coffee – Wed, Jun 17

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Raptors go straight to Florida.

Inside the NBA Bubble: Details from NBPA memo obtained by The Athletic – The Athletic

Phase 1 (June 12-22)
Location: Players who are currently outside of the United States should have returned to their team’s home market by June 15 and all other players must return to their team’s home market by June 22 for mandatory testing beginning on June 23. The only exception is the Toronto Raptors, who, due to quarantine and travel issues in Canada, will travel directly to Naples, Fla., and use the Alico Arena in Florida Gulf Coast University as their practice facility.

– Players may work out at their team facility on a voluntary basis.

– Only individual workouts will be permitted and players must contact their team to schedule any workouts or treatment sessions.

-Teams may also conduct virtual workout sessions (e.g., via Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc.) that players would do from their homes.

– Once in market, players are expected to remain at home (with members of their household) and only leave for training or treatment at the team facility or essential activities (e.g., purchasing groceries).

– Anyone residing at a player’s household is asked to limit their travel and exposure to other people.

Phase 2 (June 23-30)
Location: Team practice facility (except for Toronto Raptors)

– Consistent with Phase 1, players are expected to remain at home with their household members, only leaving for essential activities.

– Teams will begin mandatory COVID-19 testing of all players and staff.

– Testing will consist of a shallow nasal swab and oral swab (COVID-19 PCR test) and a blood draw (serology/antibody test). The long (nasopharyngeal) swab that has been reported to cause discomfort will not be used.

– Players may also volunteer to participate in a Yale University study that has the goal of developing a saliva-based test for the coronavirus.

– If a player or a household member is feeling sick or has any symptoms associated with COVID-19, they must report symptoms to the team’s medical staff and follow the guidance provided by the staff. These symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, unusual muscle pain, headache, new loss of sense of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, other flu like symptoms or dizziness.

NBA health and safety protocols: League recommends coaches wear masks – Sports Illustrated

The NBA shared a 113-page health and safety protocol with its teams Tuesday night, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Athletic’s Shams Charania adds, while players and coaches that sit on the front row of the bench will not be required to wear a mask during gameplay, the league is recommending that such coaches do wear masks during games.

Inactive players and coaches that sit in the second row must wear masks at all times, per The Athletic.

The news comes less than two weeks removed from commissioner Adam Silver’s appearance on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” in which Silver alluded to potentially having certain coaches not be able to serve as bench coaches.

A number of the league’s 22 teams have head coaches who are more than 65 years old, making them potentially more vulnerable if they contract COVID-19.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (71), Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni (69) and Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry (65) are all 65 or older.

Swabs and Sensors: Memos Offer Details of Life in N.B.A. ‘Bubble’ – The New York Times

When N.B.A. teams arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort next month for the resumption of the 2019-20 season, every player and team staff member will be expected to stay on the campus at nearly all times.

Confirmation of that rule was among the standout disclosures that teams and players received on Tuesday in the most detailed look yet at what life will look like at the complex in Florida. Two memorandums — one from the league office to teams, and the other from the players’ union to agents — highlighted many of the key guidelines and restrictions that the league will enforce.

A complete, 113-page guidebook of health and safety protocols that the league and the players’ union are expected to formally sign off on this week was also sent to teams Tuesday night.

To try to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus from the surrounding community, any player or staff member who leaves the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, Fla., without approval and wishes to return will face a quarantine period of “up to 10 or more days,” according a league memo viewed by The New York Times.

Delegations capped at 35 people per team for the 22 clubs that have been invited to the N.B.A.’s planned restart will thus be largely limited to shuttling back and forth among their assigned team hotels, seven practice facilities and the three arenas used for games at the complex. A 33-page player handbook sent to teams Tuesday also included many details about an array of entertainment options, recreational activities and personal services that will be provided to try ease the rigors of a grind that is scheduled to last three months for the two teams that reach the N.B.A. finals.

The union memo, also viewed by The Times, referenced the imminent completion of the 113-page document as a “robust health and safety manual” that has been the subject of negotiations involving officials from the N.B.A., Disney and the players’ union, with input from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various health officials and medical experts.

Raptors: 3 biggest questions for Toronto going into the NBA restart

3. Can Kyle Lowry still perform at an All-Star level?
Kyle Lowry has a lot of miles on his body and he’s not getting any younger. While the hiatus provided him with the opportunity to rest his legs and sharpen his mind for the postseason, the six-time All-Star is already 34 years old and could be prone to injury at Walt Disney World since he hasn’t been able to train and play since March.

Before games were suspended, Lowry was averaging 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the Raptors in 52 games. Those are numbers Toronto is hoping Lowry can put up in the playoffs.

However, it’s not a guarantee that he will since we don’t know how the hiatus affected Lowry.

2. Does Marc Gasol have anything left in the tank?
Marc Gasol missed 28 games for the Raptors due to hamstring issues, though he returned just before the league’s hiatus. The Spaniard was averaging 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds before Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test forced commissioner Adam Silver to suspend games.

Like Lowry, Gasol is getting up there in age. He’s 35 and not as mobile as he used to be, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Raptors knew when they traded for Gasol last season that they weren’t getting the 2013 version who won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

It will be interesting to see if Gasol is effective in the 2020 playoffs for the Raptors. The long layoff provided the three-time All-Star an opportunity to get back in shape, though, with Toronto head coach Nick Nurse telling reporters that Gasol’s face has “looked slim” on Zoom calls.

Report: Raptors lone team traveling to Florida for training camp | theScore.com

The Toronto Raptors will be the only team staging a training camp in Florida ahead of the NBA’s return to play in Orlando, according to a National Basketball Players Association health and safety manual obtained by The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Raptors players will travel directly to Naples, Florida, during Phase 1 of the NBPA’s protocol due to travel restrictions in Canada, according to the manual. The team will practice at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Alico Arena.

Players from the other 21 clubs participating in the season restart will report to their respective team training facilities for the start of Phase 2, which begins June 23.

Toronto players will be permitted to work out at Alico Arena on a voluntary basis during Phase 1. They must contact team management in advance to schedule a time if they wish to partake in individual workouts or treatment sessions.

The Raptors are scheduled to remain in Naples until Phase 4.A begins. Other teams will begin traveling Orlando’s Walt Disney World on charter flights or buses between July 9-11 ahead of the league’s July 30 start date.

NBA news: Phil Handy on Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan trade, Raptors’ 2019 championship

The Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA championship in one of the most historic single-season runs in NBA history. Led by Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in an intense seven-game series, overcame an 0-2 deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, and ended the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty. Heading into that monumental 2018-19 season, Toronto made three notable changes: They hired Nick Nurse as head coach, traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, and hired assistant coach Phil Handy.

The Raptors had suffered three straight playoff series losses at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2017-18, having the Coach of the Year in Dwane Casey and a franchise record 53 wins couldn’t stop them from getting swept by the Cavs for a second consecutive season. Changes were made.

The hiring of Nurse came on June 12, just days after the 2018 NBA Finals. After being promoted to head coach, Nurse then looked to beef up his coaching staff in anticipation of another big playoff run. With LeBron headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference was considered wide open.

Prior to his NBA career, Nurse was the head coach for the Manchester Giants of England for the 1999-2000 season. Phil Handy was a player on the team. Together they won the league championship. That relationship stayed strong throughout the years, and the two were reunited in Toronto.

Handy recently joined ClutchPoints’ Battle for LA Podcast with Tomer Azarly and Ryan Ward to talk about his short but memorable tenure with the 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors, among other topics.

3 sacrifices that won the Toronto Raptors the 2019 NBA championship – Raptors HQ

Serge Ibaka
There are players in this league who need to hear their name called before the game. It’s seemingly more important to them than winning. Carmelo Anthony comes to mind here. Once a dominant offensive player during his prime, his game has since deteriorated. Yet he has refused on multiple occasions to take a bench role.

Then there’s the rare starting-caliber player who unselfishly takes up a sixth man role to help his team win. Former San Antonio Spur Manu Ginóbili is one of these players.

So, too, is Serge Ibaka.

Now, from an offensive standpoint, Ibaka isn’t anywhere close to someone like Anthony — a former scoring champ and 10-time All-Star. But you could argue that Ibaka has contributed more to winning because of his willingness to be a team player.

Prior to the 2019 playoffs, the 11-year vet was a starter for the vast majority of his career. And during the 2018-19 season with the Raptors, he started the majority of games at centre, occasionally conceding his spot to Jonas Valančiūnas when the matchup dictated it. But after JV got hurt early in the season, he became the full full-time centre.

That all changed when the Raptors acquired Marc Gasol at the trade deadline. Nurse decided to split the starting duties between the two bigs, again largely based on matchups. However, once the playoffs began, Nurse installed Gasol in the starting lineup, permanently relegating Ibaka to bench duties.

Matchup-wise, Gasol was just a better fit, which he proved time and time again, shutting down all-star Nikola Vučević during the Orlando Magic series and then using his bulk and smarts to slow down Embiid during the 76ers series. In fact, as many dismayed Raptors fans on Twitter can attest, Embiid took full advantage whenever Ibaka was covering him, powering his way by Ibaka or getting him to bite on pump fakes. Gasol was simply the guy for the job and needed to start.

Can you imagine how this conversation went? “So, Serge. You know that starting role you’ve had your entire NBA career and almost your entire time as a Raptor? Yeah, that’s not happening any more. This new guy’s going to take your spot. Cool beans?”

But Ibaka didn’t sulk or hang his head. Instead he accepted his role and stayed ready for when it was his time to shine. He contributed off the bench throughout the playoffs, not just with his offense, but also his defense and rim protection.

Stat Just Happened: The Toronto Raptors are home to some of the NBA’s most accurate 3-point shooters | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

According to NBA.com, that’s Toronto’s shooting percentage this season on catch-and-shoot 3s, which are 3-pointers taken within two seconds of possessing the ball and without a dribble, typically coming off of a pass from a teammate.

Why catch-and-shoot 3s? They make up the highest portion of the team’s 3-point attempts on the season. And why is it noteworthy? It ranks the Raptors fifth in the entire league, trailing the Utah Jazz (41.3 percent), Miami Heat (39.4 percent), Washington Wizards (39.0 percent) and New Orleans Pelicans (38.8 percent). It’s even more impressive considering the Pelicans are the only one of those teams taking more catch-and-shoot 3s per game than the Raptors. In total, those shots represent over a quarter (29.4 percent) of their field goal attempts on the season. Once again, there are only a handful of teams in the league ahead of the Raptors in that regard.

The Raptors have five players in particular who have been knocking down catch-and-shoot 3s at a blistering rate. Leading the way is undrafted rookie Matt Thomas, who has made 48.4 percent of those opportunities. Of players who have attempted at least 50 catch-and-shoot 3s on the season – an incredibly low bar that spits out 285 names – only Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill is shooting a higher percentage (50.6 percent) than Thomas.

Following Thomas are Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Terence Davis and Marc Gasol, each of whom have made more than 40.0 percent of their catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts. Additionally, Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby are making them at an above average rate compared to the rest of the league.

Thomas might be Toronto’s most accurate catch-and-shoot threat, but Powell and VanVleet are its most prolific. As you can see in the table below, Powell and VanVleet take and make the most on the team. Together, they’ve helped make up for the loss of Danny Green, who was Toronto’s most dependable 3-point shooter last season – in the regular season, at least. VanVleet has started in place of Green and Powell has either backed him up or filled in for him as a starter in the games he has missed due to injury.

How the Raptors adopted Moreyball

If you watched the Toronto Raptors this season you might have noticed the continued evolution of Nick Nurse’s offense away from the midrange game.

The demise of the midrange isn’t a particularly new phenomenon, it’s been around for a few years and often associated with Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and “Moreyball” philosophy. The offensive strategy is predicated on the idea that the best shots are either right at the rim or from 3-point range, and therefore, midrange shots should be taken sparingly.

It’s an idea touched on at length in Kirk Goldsberry’s book Sprawball and the graph below explains the reasoning behind the offense.

Essentially, shots at the rim go in at the highest rate and shots further from the net gradually become more difficult. This, however, doesn’t account for the fact that 3-point shots are worth 50% more than 2-point shots, and therefore, shooting 45% from 2-point range is less efficient than shooting 35% from 3-point range.

The graph below shows the average NBA shot’s point yield between the 2013-14 season and 2017-18 season. Notice how the average points per shot are the highest right at the rim and behind the 3-point line where shots are more valuable.