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A Raptors win full of important statements and a trip through the usual weekend mail

Fun game, glad their back and playing semi-real games an still say the win was only the second most impressive over the Lakers this year. The one out in California in November, the second game of a long road tripe early in the season when they were still trying to figure it out and had lost both Kyle Lowry an Serge Ibaka two nights earlier in New Orleans was better.

That said, the Raptors looked really good on defence almost the entire night and there were some above-average moments on offence, too, in the 107-92 win.

This was crazy good, Seven passes, two paint touches, three drive-and-kicks and an open corner three.

Delightfiul.

And there were a few other things that caught the old eye that we’ll go over before we wind up with the traditional Sunday mailbag.

THREE POINTERS

Making statements

That was certainly some night from Kyle Lowry and we’ll try to make sense of him around these parts as a player later on today because I think I should but his other point was well made.

When he was on one knee for what had to seem like an eternity one thought was going through his mind. He told us after the game that he was on his knee for about four minutes, he put an indentation in the towel he was using as a cushion and he had padding on beneath his legging.

Still …

“I tip my hat off to the Lakers and their organization for staying down there with us during the Canadian anthem. What I said in my post-game interview (on ESPN), to be down there for four straight minutes … To think about another human being kneeling on another human being’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, that’s a bad thought to have, an unbelievable messed up thing that that man did to an innocent Black man.

“Those are the things that went through my head.”

A few metres away, Nick Nurse was also thinking:

“I think even though it was conformity and showing unity all over the place I still want it to have some kind of individual thought and meaning, for me, and for me I was trying to honour (Colin) Kaepernick, it was almost four years ago — I think three years and eleven months ago exactly — to the day when he kneeled and I thought what he did was super courageous and it really doesn’t have anything to do with borders and anthems and flags and that kind of stuff. It’s about drawing attention, rightly so, to racism and police brutality, and that’s what I was thinking about, was honouring him.”

That’s pretty good stuff right there.

A bit sluggish

It wasn’t the most crisp offensive performance we’ve ever seen and that’s perfectly understandable given the circumstances of it being the first game at real speed in nearly five months and the defensive skills of the Lakers, who are pretty darn good themselves.

One way that you could tell is the fact the Raptors had four 24-seccod violations in the games and that’s wildly uncharacteristic for them.

They are at their best when the ball is zinging around quickly and they are getting up quick shots in transition. That’s their offensive forte, they do not do well in slogging out halfcourt possessions and that’s what has to improve over the next seven games.

Some different looks

There was a bit of time there in the third quarter when the Raptors went crazy small with a  frontcourt of Pascal Siakam and Rondae Hollis-Jeffferson and three guards, we saw Norm Powell brining the ball up the court on a handful of possession and Nick was up to some of his madness for short stints.

The benefit of being as good as they are is that it allows the Raptors to truly experiment and try new and wonderful things over these eight games and we got a snippet of that last night.

Much of it had to do with the fact Terence Davis did not in any way have a major impact on the game and that there was no good matchup to use Chris Boucher in. But that’s the thing with this team, there are enough capable guys that if two aren’t getting it done, there are two others who won’t kill you when they’re asked to play a few minutes.

That’s it for that game, there’s another one to worry about tomorrow afternoon so let’s get to the mail, shall we?

Q: I trust you are staying well and enjoying getting back to Basketball related activities. I have to admit I am watching some other teams play that I wouldn’t normally spend the time watching.  I was pleased to see the Bucks beat Boston last night because it helps the Raptors and Boston has a relatively easy schedule.

I originally thought the teams had to be within 4 games to be invited to the Bubble but Washington is outside that. Was the criteria to be within 6 games? I don’t know why Washington is there because the teams that get to play them will have an easy game and I don’t think it is fair to the teams trying to maintain their seeding or trying to get in the playoffs. I think the Suns will be a greater challenge than Washington and the Nets would have been if all their players had shown up. So the question is why Washington?

The scheduling people didn’t do the Raptors any favours. Many people have said that the Raptors schedule is the most difficult of all the teams in the seeding games. And they are the last team to get started by playing the Lakers team that had already played their first intense game. Again putting the Raptors at a distinct disadvantage. By the time you answer this we will know the result, but do you agree that this puts the Raptors at a disadvantage?

There is a lot of talk about Nick Nurse becoming the coach of the year because of the team success after losing 40 percent of their starting lineup including a superstar. Yet there is no talk about Ujiri becoming Executive of the Year.  Do you think Ujiri deserves to be mentioned in the conversation for Executive of the year and should he win it? Who do you think will win it?

Take care of yourself and your family.

David

Cornwall

A: No, the four-game thing was for the end of these eight games; if the ninth place team is within four games of No. 8 they will have play-in games for the final post-season slot.

Why Washington was invited puzzled me, too, but it did create at least some competition for the last East spots and might give some games some more juice.

You’re not going to find too many of us who are bigger fans than I am of Masai and the job he and bobby do.

But this year is on the coaches and players. If you want to look at it harshly, Masai replaced Kawhi and Danny Green with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson. That’s unfair and not at all indicative of his talents but the success of this season goes to Nick and the guys on the court

Q: Hi Doug,

I was wondering how you saw the Raps rotation going now that we are fully healthy and if we stay that way? Do you have a consensus starting 5 and which players do you see getting the most minutes off the bench? I am more asking towards the playoffs rotation rather than the regular season games prior to seeding. Looking forward to seeing our raps in action with games that count! 

Alex

Waterdown, ON

A: I don’t see any reason to deviate from the norm. Start Lowry, VanVleet, Anunoby, Siakam and Gasol with Powell, Ibaka and Davis as the three main backups. The benefit of what the Raptors have is that they have is a diverse, talented, proved group behind that in Boucher, Hollis-Jefferson, McCaw and Brissett and can go whichever way is needed in a particular game or series.

Q: Good morning, Doug. 

I’m looking forward to the welcome distraction that Raptors games will bring to my household, to spicing up conversations with friends and family that have been heavy with worry and tedium the last few months. 

Meek Mill’s narrated NBA Restart introduction video last night was mesmerizing, powerful, and emotional. The two renditions of the Star Spangled Banner were also. 

Canada has its own issues with social justice reform, perhaps not as stark as the US, but a growing chorus of voices is getting louder, will remain persistent, and will be heard. 

In light of this, do you expect to see Raptors players, coaches and sideline staff kneel for O Canada? Will their opponents also?

Regards,

Roel 

Mississauga 

A: That was a very powerful opening to the restart, no question about it.

The answer to your question will have already been obvious from Saturday night but as I write this on Saturday afternoon, I am fully supportive of any of the Raptors staff kneeling if they feel so inclined.

The issues at play are certainly not limited to the United States, a fact we are all aware of.

Q: Will you be doing your annual column of your awards ballot?

Thanks,

Max

A: I was kind of wavering, to tell you the truth. The ballots went in last Tuesday and they’ll eventually be made public by the league but I may need something to put in the holiday Monday blog and that may as well be part of it.

So, yes. I will.

Q: Good afternoon Doug,

What a farce baseball has become which is not surprising after the way they “put” together an agreement that sounded more like take it as it is. From what I see there are more games being postponed than played. The Marlins are a total joke and should be shut down until there is a cure available. How many teams now have cases of Covid19??

Bob

A: It truly seems like baseball – in every regard – is making it up as they go along and being reactive rather than proactive and that’s ridiculous.

As many know, I was and am quite in favour of sports coming back for a variety of reasons. But the unspoken codicil to that – and I can’t believe I had to say it so I often didn’t – was that a return had to come with a cogent, well thought out plan that took into consideration every possible trouble spot. The last thing baseball did was that and I do not think the season will be finished.

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Q: At first when I saw the schedule for the Raptors I thought it was almost designed to ‘knock them down a peg’. Especially compared to the Celtics’ easy schedule.
Was there said reason for it to be so difficult in comparison (i.e. strength of schedules prior to suspension)?
Is it that the NBA wants the best teams to get to try their stuff against the champs?
At the same time, it also crossed my mind it could be a good thing for the Raptors anyway, as they get first-class competition to get them ready for the playoffs.
What are your thoughts?

Chris B

A: The idea was to just pick up from the schedule that existed  on March 11 and find the next eight games between qualified teams. It was not workable entirely an they made some adjustments.

I think the Raptors ended up with the third or fifth hardest schedule among the 22 teams with regard to the record of the opponents.

But given seeding doesn’t really matter and home court advantage doesn’t exist, it’s probably better to play better team in what amounts to an eight-game exhibition schedule.

Q: Hi Doug,

I’m really enjoying basketball from Orlando.  It appears that depending on the arena where the teams play the look of the displays of score, time left and shot clock changes. 

I liked what I saw in one of the games where the shot clock was displayed in the paint at either end which was helpful. 

Saturday’s game of the Raps and Lakers without the shot clock was disappointing. 

I think they’ve done a great job but wish the display for the home audience could be consistent across the various arenas. Congrats to the Commissioner and the NBAPA.

Brain B Toronto

A: There were certainly some minor technical glitches last night and I know they’ll work today trying to iron them out. I presume the difficulties in doing broadcasts from three different arenas with three different production trucks and likely not the most experienced of crews working would present all kinds of issues.

I think we can give ‘em a break three days in while they get it all sorted, which I bet they will.

Q: Hey Doug, 

I have been watching the NBA’s social justice movement and was particularly interested in Norman Powell’s take on the jersey options.

With the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and the information about the Uighur forced labour/detention/possible genocidal actions coming out, the NBA’s relationship with China would seem to be a topic that could come up, let’s say, more than it has.

Do you know if there were any forbidden jersey names related specifically to China themes? Did any players attempt to make statements or were interested in making statements regarding this?

The NBA wear jerseys with the swoosh on them and Nike has been one of the corporations linked to the forced labour of the displaced people. 

I am very interested in this dynamic. What have you heard? What do you think?

Hudson P

A: Forbidden? No. There was a list of possible and approved choices agreed to by the players association and the league and I have no idea what was left off but the focus was, and is, going to be on issues closer to home at the moment.

The NBA’s relationship with China is frayed and as for Nike-China or the United States-China or Canada-China, tis such a web and so much is inter-connected it’s like one giant global Jenga game.

Obviously there are serious issues that China needs to address and if some global pressure needs to be applied to move human rights along, it should be. How that’s done and by who is difficult to determine in some ways.

Q: Hi Doug

When I watched the first scrimmage, I was struck by just how much room there is around the court without everyone seated there. I had no idea there was that much extra space. 

I know that those seats are a great source of revenue and the camera operators get great shots from their vantage points, but do you think the league would consider mandating that everyone move back a bit more. I can’t count the number of times I’ve held my breath as a player lands awkwardly on someone’s feet, and I’m hoping that there’s no injury. 

I know it’s probably wishful thinking, but I wonder if this will highlight the need for extra space, or will the bottom line win on this one?

Thanks

Jo

A: The expanse of space is wonderful and I know the players appreciate it because we’ve asked them and I like that the benches are spread out because it pained me to watch them all scrunched up on them.

I don’t think things will change because of the money the courtside and baseline seats generate but I do think the players association will push hard when it comes time to deconstruct these games to remove all photographers an a row of seats on the baseline to extend the apron at each end.

It’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with when they meet to discuss what worked and what didn’t when this is all over.

Q: Hi Doug.

Love your column!

In my opinion, the Raptors’ TV commentators should be, first and foremost, play-by-play commentators, only providing insightful, ‘colourful’ comments and stories when it doesn’t detract from what’s happening on the court. During the game, colour commentators should be trying to enhance viewers’ perception and understanding of what’s happening now on court, not to just fill as much air time as possible with disjointed ramblings. Keep the long stories and the detailed strategic explanations and predictions out of the play-by-play of the game. Move them to the pre-game, post-game and halftime shows.

Playing Portland yesterday, there were at least 16 minutes during the 20 minute first half (and almost as much in the second half) when there was NO play-by-play – just Sherman talking about himself, telling stories and reminiscences, his analyses, predictions and prescriptions for success. But it’s not just Sherman, since Jack and Leo are just as bad.

This massively detracts from my interest and enjoyment of watching the game – sometimes to the extent that I even mute the TV. During the regular season I can follow live stats on the TSN & Sportsnet apps and hear the 590/1050 radio commentary (although the 5-6 sec. time discrepancy sucks). But these three ‘scrimmage’ games aren’t covered.

Matt does a good job when he can, but let’s prioritize the play-by-play over the colour commentary so I can continue to enjoy the Raptors.

Keep up the good work, Doug.

Mathew Templer

A: I don’t doubt your feelings and you make valid points but I think you might the minority here.

My opinion is that it’s hard to do live TV and the last thing any broadcsst4r should do is just describe what everyone is seeing, seems counter-productive. There needs to a conversational aspect to a telecast and some story telling and I’m okay most nights if they err on the side of entertainment too much.

But you know what I’d be fine with?

A bi more silence at some points every game.

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

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