Examining the virtual Raptor fan situation at Disney NBA bubble

At the NBA restart at Disney Wide World of Sports, fans aren’t in attendance at the game, except virtually, by use of video screens that show their faces at the game while they sit at home. It’s a cool thing. Here’s the Toronto Star talking about the virtual Raptor fan situation:

There are about 320 “seats” occupied by the visages of fans that, in the case of the Raptors, will be chosen from the team’s season-ticket base of about 15,000 when the playoffs begin later this month.

For now, team employees are working through the inevitable wrinkles in a process that’s brand new. But they expect to see regular “fans” at post-season games, meaning the likes of Superfan Nav Bhatia and global ambassador Drake might be there — so to speak.

“We’re seeing familiar faces on those screens, and who knows what it’ll evolve to here two months from now” when the Raptors may be playing for their second straight championship, Nurse said. “So I don’t want to discount the home-court thing quite yet.”

The fans have become a quirky sidebar to the actual games as the NBA tries different ways to guarantee spectator involvement.

I thought about suggesting adding more video screens and more fans, but the whole fun of being a virtual fan is that the virtual fan gets to see his or her face on the actual broadcast. If the video screens are high up in the air, away from the court, those fans won’t be visible on the TV broadcast, and that’s not as fun for them.

In other words, the NBA is doing this correctly.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse pondering alternate ‘jumbo’ lineup

Alternate lineups can often come in handy when the situation calls for some innovation. And it’s always best to work such things out before the playoffs begin. Here’s the Toronto Star reporting on Raptors head coach Nick Nurse and possible lineup experiments that we may see once NBA play resumes July 30:

Nurse isn’t going to get into specifics but it’s pretty certain there will be different looks. Even before this portion of training began he was intrigued by a “jumbo” lineup that would include OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol with one of Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet. And he’ll toy with tweaks to existing plays, all done with plenty of practice time to get them ingrained into the players.

“We are certainly going to add some things,” he said. “I would say our late-game special situations, we will look at some additions there. A lot of it is just kind of building from what’s there. Doing stuff that looks similar but there’s a counter to it or maybe an addition or maybe moving the pieces around a little bit … Your set looks like something is coming and it changes from what maybe they thought was coming and you get an open look.”

The Raptors were an Eastern conference second-best 47-18 when play was put on hold back in March. They’re the reigning NBA champions. And have no plans to go out without a fight.

Kyle Lowry was one of key players involved with NBA restart plan

It took a great number of people to put the NBA restart together. Here’s the Toronto Sun reporting on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry:

Kyle Lowry, in fact, wound up having a rather large say in how this NBA re-start would go.

Initially, he was a member of the competition committee, but that role morphed into a working group consisting of Player’s Association president Chris Paul along with Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum and Toronto native Dwight Powell, who worked hand-in-hand with commissioner Adam Silver in developing the health and safety protocols for the recently opened NBA campus at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

“It kind of fell into my lap a little bit with how it happened,” Lowry admitted. “But it was interesting to come up with some of the concepts and to talk that over, and understand (not just) what we’re trying to do but how we’re trying to do it, and make sure that it’s done the right way for all the players, coaches, and it’s safe and in the most healthiest way we possibly can do it.

“I think that we’ve done a good job so far with the safety aspects, the health aspects. I think there’s definitely going to be some adjustments that need to be made, but that’s the one thing about our league and our professionals, is that we make adjustments on the fly and we’re able to.”

Raptors will restart the 2019-20 NBA season August 1 vs Lakers

The Toronto Raptors will restart the 2019-20 season Saturday, August 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, the team announced Friday. Under the competitive format for the restart, the 22 participating teams will have eight “seeding games,” as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.

The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association announced yesterday that they have finalized a comprehensive plan for a July 30 restart to the 2019-20 season, which includes stringent health and safety protocols, a single-site campus at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the goal of taking collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice.

In addition, the NBA and Disney have reached an agreement that makes the Arena, the HP Field House and Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex the venues for all games for the remainder of the season, with no fans in attendance.

The NBA and the NBPA confirmed today an agreement on health and safety protocols that will govern the resumption of the season. The rigorous program, which addresses risks related to COVID-19 and focuses on the well-being of players, coaches, officials and staff, was developed in consultation with public health experts, infectious disease specialists and government officials.

RAPTORS RESTART SCHEDULE

Saturday, Aug. 1 vs. LA Lakers
Monday, Aug. 3 at Miami
Wednesday, Aug. 5 at Orlando
Friday, Aug. 7 vs. Boston
Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Memphis
Monday, Aug. 10 at Milwaukee
Wednesday, Aug. 12 at Philadelphia
Friday, Aug. 14 vs. Denver

Atlanta Hawks statement on the retirement of Vince Carter

“Over the last two years, Vince Carter has been a committed leader, respected mentor and influential example on the court, in the locker room and in the Atlanta community. Throughout his historic 22-year journey covering an unprecedented four different decades, his evolving career arc was perhaps like none other in league history – from Top 5 Draft Pick to Rookie of the Year to Slam Dunk Champion to superstar and eight-time All-Star to Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year and valuable role player. It’s an honor to the Hawks organization that he completed his Hall-of-Fame career wearing Atlanta across his chest and representing our city.” — Atlanta Hawks

Raptors preparing to resume NBA season

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday that they will prepare for a resumption to the 2019-20 NBA season in Fort Myers, Florida.

The Raptors are one of 22 teams the NBA is including in their plans to play a handful of regular season games leading into what will hopefully be a full 2020 playoffs.

Select players and staff will depart from Toronto today. The Raptors will remain in the Fort Myers area until entering the NBA Campus at Disney, near Orlando, in early July for the remainder of the season.

In keeping with NBA and team safety protocols, there will be no group workouts during this phase of return to play, and strict protocols have been designed to ensure this initial level of access will take place in a safe, controlled, and healthy way.

Group workouts will only begin once teams have reported to the NBA Campus at Disney.

Norman Powell wins NBA East Player of Week

A surprise member of the Toronto Raptors stepped up and got himself named Eastern conference NBA Player of the Week today.

Over in the West, Lakers forward LeBron James, who averaged 29.0 points (.519 FG%), 10.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks as the Lakers finished the week 3-0 with victories over Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the LA Clippers, won the honor yet again.

James continues to lead the league in total assists (627) and assists per game (10.6), while ranking 13th in scoring (25.7). The 16-time NBA All-Star owns an NBA-record 64 career weekly awards, and he is the first Lakers player to earn three weekly honors in a season since Kobe Bryant in 2012-13.

But in the East, Powell earned the honor for the first time in his career. He became the 10th player in franchise history, joining Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jalen Rose, Mike James, Lou Wiliams, Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard.

Powell helped lead Toronto to a 3-0 record this past week, scoring an Eastern Conference-best 31.3 points. He also posted 2.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting .561 from the field. Powell began the week with 26 points during Toronto’s 123-114 win Mar. 3 at Phoenix. He then scored a career-high 37 points Mar. 5 at Golden State and tied a career-high with six three-pointers Mar. 8 at Sacramento.

Powell was selected 46th overall by Toronto in the 2015 NBA Draft and is the second-longest serving player on the team behind only Kyle Lowry. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April 2016.

Stephen Curry returning tonight for Warriors

It’s been a lost season for the Warriors, but they’re getting a giant boost back tonight in the form of superstar guard Stephen Curry. Here’s NBC Sports Bay Area:

Steph Curry is making his long awaited return to the Warriors on Thursday night at Chase Center against the Toronto Raptors after missing the last 58 games. Coach Steve Kerr certainly hopes his two-time MVP can play in all of Golden State’s remaining 21 games, but back-to-back’s could be a different story.

“It’s all gonna be day-to-day,” Kerr said Wednesday night on 95.7 The Game’s “Damon, Ratto & Kolsky.” “We’ll see how he’s doing on the following day after the game and go from there. I think everything is really a possibility, but it will all be determined on Steph’s health.”

According to the Bay Area News Group, “Curry said he expects to be on a minutes restriction of between 24 and 28 minutes when he makes his return on Thursday against the Raptors.”

The Raptors clinch a 2020 playoff spot tonight if they win this game. It’ll be fun to see if Steph’s return can serve as a spoiler for that quest.

NBA Players of the Week are Kyle Lowry and Dennis Schroder

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Dec. 16-22. Lowry earns the honor for the sixth time in his career and fifth time with the Raptors.

Lowry averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 39.6 minutes while helping the Raptors to a perfect 4-0 record last week. He shot .448 (30-for-67) from the field, .424 (14-for-33) from three-point range and .774 (24-for-31) at the free throw line.

Lowry began the week by recording the first of three double-doubles (20 points, 11 assist) during a 133-113 victory Dec. 16 vs. Cleveland. He then earned his franchise-best 13th career triple-double Dec. 18 at Detroit (20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds). Lowry finished the week by leading the Raptors in a franchise-record 30-point comeback Dec. 22 vs. Dallas. He scored a game-high 32 points, including 20 points in the fourth quarter rally that resulted in a 110-107 victory.

And on the West side of things, Thunder guard Dennis Schroder has been named Western Conference Player of the Week.

From the Oklahoman, “He averaged 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and six assists, lifting the Thunder to a 4-0 record last week. Schroder, an early Sixth Man of the Year candidate, beat out a field of starters to claim the honor.”

More on the latest Raptors injuries

We posted about this earlier today, but here’s the Toronto Sun with more on the latest batch of Raptors injuries:

Losing three key rotation players including two starters hasn’t managed to sap Nick Nurse of his sense of humour.

Arriving for his pre-game news conference, Nurse looked down at the podium at some left-behind tools of the trade and remarked, “Just what we need: Some duct tape.”

Nurse lost Pascal Siakam to a groin stretch, Norm Powell to a left shoulder subluxation and Marc Gasol to a left hamstring strain in Wednesday’s win over Detroit.

He might have walked out after that duct tape line, but there was this little thing about a season which had to go on without the services of his leading scorer in Siakam, his lead defender in Gasol and the red-hot Powell, who is either his lead source of offence off the bench or a guy he was considering promoting to the starting five.

One thing we’ve learned this season, however, is to not underestimate the Raptors. Even in cases like this.