Tag Archives: Raptors

NBA’s 1st all-female broadcast at helm as Raptors finally win amid trade rumours

Midway through Kyle Lowry’s marathon 23-minute post-game Zoom session with the media, he took a FaceTime call from Drake.

If Wednesday was indeed Lowry’s last appearance as a Toronto Raptor, it’ll go down as a game with a little bit of everything.

Toronto’s six-time all-star had nine assists, eight points and five rebounds, and was a career-high plus-42 on the night, and the Raptors finally snapped their ugly nine-game losing skid with an emphatic 135-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

“It was kinda weird tonight not knowing what the next step would be, just with understanding there are things that could possibly be done [Thursday] … but it was great to get a win,” said Lowry.

WATCH | Raptors rout Nuggets to snap skid:

Toronto ends their 9-game losing streak with a 135-111 win over Denver, sets franchise record with 24 3-pointers. 1:18

On the eve of the NBA trade deadline, the six-time all-star plus Norman Powell have been front and centre of numerous trade rumours. In Lowry, the Raptors would lose the player coach Nick Nurse said “plays harder than anybody I’ve seen. He’ll go down as the greatest Raptor ever, to date.”

Asked why he’s made hard work the trademark of his game, Lowry said: “You never know when the opportunity is gonna be your last time to play, right? You go on that floor, you never know when’s the last time you’ll play the game that you love and you’ve given your all to, right?

“I’m not the tallest, I’m not the most athletic and I’m not the fanciest but I play hard and it’s got me a long way, by playing hard,” said Lowry, wearing a white T-shirt with a red heart.

Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 27 points, while OG Anunoby had 23, Powell added 22, and Fred VanVleet chipped in with 19 for Toronto (18-26).

Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., and Nikola Jokic had 20 points apiece for the Nuggets (26-18).

The Raptors built a 24-point first-half lead on sizzling shooting and better defensive hustle than they’d shown in awhile. They led 98-81 with one quarter to play.

A Lowry deep three-pointer, and three baskets from distance from Paul Watson, highlighted a 21-6 Raptors run in the fourth that had Toronto up by 29 points. Denver coach Michael Malone went deep into his bench soon after.

Lowry headed to the bench with 5:43 to play, and was greeted with hugs from teammates.

“We have been through a lot of things together and you want to keep that, you want to have that,” Siakam said. “But I think that goes beyond basketball. Again, a lot of memories.”

His plus-42 was second in franchise history to Mark Jackson’s plus-46 in 2000.


One thing missing was a Toronto crowd, since the Raptors are playing home games this season at Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

“It’d be nice but he wouldn’t know anyway, right, it’s not like they can give a final standing ovation to anybody because nobody knows what’s going on [at the trade deadline],” Nurse said. “One thing is pretty much sure, these guys have a place in Raptors fans’ hearts or whatever.

“So if they do move and they come back some time there’ll be a time to give him that round of applause, hopefully. Jeez, I hope so. I want to get back home and play a home game in a full sold-out arena in Toronto, sounds pretty good right now.”

Lowry opened his post-game media session by heaping praise on the all-female broadcast. All five broadcast positions were filled by women for the first time in NBA history.

“I heard it was unbelievable,” Lowry said. “Kayla, Kate, Amy, Meghan and Kia, I heard you did a great job. So shoutout to those beautiful ladies. It’s a huge step in our league and in our organization”

WATCH | NBA’s 1st all-women broadcast team on call for Raptors vs. Nuggets:

Play-by-play announcer Meghan McPeak and WNBA player Kia Nurse working as a colour analyst make the call as Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., scores an impressive basket for Denver in a game against Toronto. 0:31

Meghan McPeak did the play-by-play, while Kia Nurse of the Canada’s national team and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, provided analysis. Kayla Grey was the sideline reporter while Kate Beirness and Raptors 905 analyst Amy Audibert were the in-studio hosts.

The Raptors began the night mired in their longest losing streak in a decade and dogged by mishaps, including a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined Siakam, Anunoby and VanVleet for nearly three weeks.

‘Losing ain’t fun’

Siakam’s frustration boiled over after Nurse sat him for the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. The Raptors disputed a report Siakam was fined $ 50,000 US for his angry outburst, but Nurse said the Raptors’ front office is dealing with his discipline.

“I just felt like losing ain’t fun,” Siakam said. “You lose nine games in a row I guarantee you that, if you are a team that is serious about winning, it’s not going to be fun, there’s not going to be a lot of joking around. It’s going to be tough. … That’s what I have say. We want to win and losing ain’t fun.”

They looked intent on ending that streak from the opening whistle Wednesday, connecting on their first five three-pointers of the game. They had seven in the opening quarter to lead 38-30 heading into the second.

Anunoby led the way with 13 points in the second as the Raptors built a 24-point lead. Toronto took a 72-54 lead into the halftime break.

The night also provided Nurse a close-up look at Nuggets guard Murray, who he hopes to coach as part of the Canadian team this summer. Canada must win a last-chance qualifying tournament to earn an Olympic berth.

“[Murray] has been really positive and proactive even about saying how badly he wants to play for Canada,” Nurse said. “He’s really smart. He’s found a couple things he’s doing when teams are doing some certain things to him that he’ll shift into another gear. Again, he’s smart, he’s intelligent. I’ve been impressed with the kind of quick learning-curve growth that he’s made to keep giving himself opportunities.”

The game was the first of a three-game homestand. The Raptors, who’ve played more road games than any other team in the league, play just five games on the road in their next 18.

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CBC | Sports News

Kia Nurse hopes Raptors’ all-women broadcast could mirror WNBA, inspire next generation

If they see it, they can be it.

That’s the notion Canadian WNBA player and TSN commentator Kia Nurse hopes will inspire young women as the NBA’s first all-women broadcast team prepares to call the Raptors’ game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. 

Nurse hopes the influence of the first-of-its kind broadcast is similar to what she’s experienced recently as a player for the Women’s National Basketball Association, a league that’s had a huge impact with its social activism.

Some examples include their efforts to help the Democrats win a Senate seat in Georgia and the league’s #SayHerName campaign that created awareness about the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Maya Moore, one the WNBA’s most famous players, took a sabbatical from her basketball career to help free a wrongfully convicted man who is now her husband.

“I think people are starting to see how much of an impact we’re having. I mean, we helped flip the Senate,” Nurse told CBC Sports, referring to the work players did to encourage Georgians to vote specifically for Democrat Raphael Warnock and against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the former owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream who spoke out against Black Lives Matter.

The all-women’s broadcast could have the same kind of impact, said Nurse, the 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., who played last season with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and was recently traded to the Phoenix Mercury. 

“You have women who are doing an incredible job across different industries and different nations … coming together to show you guys what we’ve been working on, even though it hasn’t been in the spotlight.”


Nurse will work as a colour analyst for the game alongside play-by-play woman Meghan McPeak, who works for CBC Sports as well as in the booth for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.

TSN’s Kayla Grey will handle sideline reporting duties, while SportsCentre host Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert, an analyst for Raptors 905, will pair up for the in-game studio show.

Paving the way for the next generation

Nurse, who works as a TSN analyst during the WNBA off-season, says the broadcast will provide a template for young women to see what’s possible in a male-dominated sport and media industry.

“It wasn’t until I went to the U.S. one day and saw Maya Moore on television, I thought, ‘Oh, this would be cool to play in like a national championship and to play at UConn and whatnot,’ ” Nurse said.


CBC Sports contributor Meghan McPeak will call the March 24 Raptors game against the Nuggets as part of TSN’s all-female broadcast crew. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

McPeak echoed the sentiment on a recent episode of North Courts, a CBC Sports basketball show.

“That’s something that I never had growing up, so the fact that myself, Kia and Kayla can give that to little Black girls that look like us, that’s a fantastic feeling,” McPeak said. 

“Representation matters and little girls will be able to see us doing what we do and might think that they can do it as well.”

As the women call an important Raptors game against a top-tier team the night before the NBA trade deadline, Nurse hopes it will provide a platform to continue speaking out in the name of change — just as she did last summer in the WNBA.

WATCH | McPeak discusses historic broadcast on North Courts:

It’s March Madness time and with a record number of Canadians in the NCAA tournament, we’re dedicating this episode to the stars from north of the border, including Jevohn catching up with Gonzaga’s own sixth man of the year Andrew Nembhard. 17:17

“We took to the court with the understanding that no matter what anybody was going to say about us … some people were going to like what we had to say and some people weren’t,” Nurse said. 

“There’s a fine line between right and wrong. And we knew what was right.”

Providing inspiration for NCAA women’s athletes

To that end, after players in the NCAA women’s March Madness tournament used social media to expose how inferior their weight room setup was compared to the men’s teams, NCAA staff revamped the underwhelming setup with more equipment and machines.  

Other inequities, such as unequal COVID-19 testing and a lack of camera exposure, are also coming to light.

Nurse was part of four Final Four teams with the University of Connecticut, and though she says she never had an issue with weight rooms specifically, she also never played the tournament in a bubble due to a pandemic. She said she’s confused as to how the unequal set-up happened, but isn’t surprised that it did.

“I’m proud of the young women who are at the tournament who took to social media and stood up for themselves,” Nurse said.

“I’m proud of everybody who rallied around them and continued to make it loud enough that the NCAA listened right away. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”



Nurse hopes that she and her fellow WNBA players can provide inspiration for today’s college athletes to continue to find their own voices and feel empowered to speak out. 

“Because they know that if they’re working toward a league like the WNBA, then they’ll still have a voice when they get there.”

Meanwhile, Canadian national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis said television broadcasts like Wednesday’s should become the norm.

“All these steps along the way, they’re massive, right? They shouldn’t be, but they are,” she said. “The fact that we’re going to have an all-female broadcast crew just speaks to how far we’ve come.” 

A role model on the court and in the booth

Nurse spoke to CBC Sports as part of her partnership with Tangerine Bank, which committed $ 15,000 to support Kia Nurse Elite, her Nike-backed youth basketball program.

When she was younger, Nurse said scheduling didn’t allow her to play provincially, nationally, and with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in the U.S. all at once. With the Elite program, she’s aiming to change that while providing young Canadian female basketball players the support they need.

“Every door that I’ve had opened up in my life has been a direct result of being able to play basketball and to playing at a high level in the community that I was a part of growing up.” 

As a player, Nurse is used to serving as a role model for young Canadian basketball fans. On Wednesday, she’ll continue to influence the next generation — but this time, from the booth.

“Hopefully, if there are young women who are watching the game with their families, which I’m sure they are, seeing more people that look like them, maybe one of us resonates with them. And that’s all that matters in this case.”

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5 Raptors ruled out for rescheduled game vs. Pistons due to COVID-19 protocols

A greatly reduced Raptors team will host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in Toronto’s temporary home of Tampa, Fla.

The team announced Tuesday that starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are out as part of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, as are Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn.

Jalen Harris and recently signed big man Donta Hall join the team from its G League affiliate, Raptors 905.

The game was originally slated for Tuesday at Amalie Arena but was postponed due to what the league said was “positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization.” Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls was also postponed.

The Pistons’ plane was delayed more than two hours leaving Detroit as the Raptors awaited the green light from the NBA.

The Raptors’ postponements bring to 31 the league’s total number of games moved because at least one team would not have enough players eligible to play this season. 

“It’s the emotional stress of having colleagues that potentially, obviously, can be sick,” general manager Bobby Webster said of the current feeling on the team.

“Everyone’s walking a bit on eggshells here in the locker room, and you can’t necessarily be as friendly. … The basketball will go on. We’ll play the games, but just to maintain everybody’s belonging and familiarity is really important.”

Toronto had managed to largely avoid disruptions from the global pandemic until now, despite playing their home games in Florida — a COVID-19 hotbed — due to Canada’s border restrictions and health and safety protocols in Ontario.

The Raptors were able to do some on-court work Tuesday but have had “multiple days of no new cases,” Webster said.

“It’s been a tough couple of days,” Webster said. “To get to here and be able to practice, we had to clear a number of hurdles.”


Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and Siakam were all sidelined for Friday’s game against Houston. Assistant Sergio Scariolo stepped in to guide the Raptors to a 122-111 win and will take on the same role Wednesday with Nurse forced to sit out again.

“We will try to do our best for the guys who won’t be able to be with us tomorrow,” said Scariolo, who has been in contact with Nurse regularly throughout this process.

Assistants Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie are all still sidelined under health and safety protocols, while Webster said one other assistant who coached Friday is now unavailable. He didn’t reveal who, but it would be either Jim Sann, Mark Tyndale or Jamaal Magloire.

The Raptors at least have some time off coming up. Their last scheduled game before the NBA all-star break is Thursday at Boston.

Toronto tips off the second half of the season March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

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Raptors’ COVID-19 issues worsen, forcing postponement of Sunday game against Bulls

After dodging COVID-19 for almost half of the NBA season, the Toronto Raptors have been dealt a big blow.

The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

In a shortened NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases and game cancellations, it’s the first game cancellation for the Raptors.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available Sunday.

Toronto was missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s 122-111 victory over Houston.

The Raptors-Bulls game is the 30th to be postponed so far this season because of COVID-19 testing or contact tracing but the first time Toronto has had to reschedule.

It was the first postponement this season for Toronto, which is playing its home games in Tampa, Fla., because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto. Chicago has now had four of its games pushed back, all because its opponent for each of those contests was going through a virus-related problem.

The only teams that have not had a game postponed by virus issues so far this season are Brooklyn, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Players, staff tested twice daily

Toronto used 12 players on Friday and had 14 listed as available to play. For Sunday’s game, Siakam was the only player who had been listed on Saturday’s injury report as out because of health and safety protocols, which indicates results returned Saturday either showed more problems, or the contact tracing investigations showed players had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and may have to quarantine.

The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.

WATCH | Lowry leads Nurse, Siakam-less Raps past Rockets:

Toronto defeats Houston 122-111, Nick Nurse and 5 other members of the coaching staff along with Pascal Siakam were not at the game because of health and safety protocols. 1:23

Players and staff are tested twice daily.

The Raptors announced Nurse and most of his staff would miss Friday’s game a few hours before tip-off.

At the time, Toronto general manager Bobby Webster said it wasn’t clear Siakam’s situation was linked to the coaches.

“The NBA is being extremely careful here,” Webster said. “It’s early in what’s going on here, so I think we’re all being conscientious and not taking any risks … We’ll see what tomorrow brings us.”

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob discusses Fred VanVleet’s all-star snub:

Vivek Jacob is joined by Raptors reporter William Lou, to discuss Fred VanVleet not being selected to the 2021 All-Star Game and the Raptors getting back to the .500 mark after a slow 2-8 start to the season. 4:40

The Raptors’ staff was already shorthanded, given Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse’s coaching staff.

About half the league’s teams are allowing a small number of fans into arenas for games, but testing protocols and other rules have been stiffened as the season has gone on in the interest of safety. The league has been able to play about 94 per cent of its scheduled games so far this season, which NBA commissioner Adam Silver and some players have touted as some measure of success to this point.

Scheduled to host Pistons on Tuesday

“Hopefully, going forward, we can continue it,” Miami forward Kelly Olynyk said Sunday. “Obviously, we’d love to see fans back in the arenas, travel, all that kind of stuff be permitted and allowed when it’s safe to do so. But right now, we’re still trying to get the games in as safely as we can.”

The Raptors are scheduled to host Detroit on Tuesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., before wrapping up their first-half schedule on Thursday in Boston.

The NBA released its schedule for the second half of the season last week, and those jam-packed lists — some teams are slotted to play 40 times in a span of 68 days — includes games postponed in the first half because of the virus and the February ice storm that caused a handful of postponements in Texas.

The Raptors were already scheduled to play 35 games in 66 days in the season’s second half, including a gruelling four-game western road trip that sees Toronto play four games in six days at Denver, Utah and Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers.

Rescheduling more games will get even tougher from here, and the notion of not every team playing its full 72-game allotment this season seems like a distinct possibility.

During the season’s second half, which runs from March 10 through May 16, the Raptors and Bulls share 19 days without a game on their schedules. But without moving several other games around, the only possible date they could play without creating a back-to-back-to-back — or even a back-to-back-to-back-to-back — for either team is April 8.

Toronto opens the second half of the season on March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Florida added 5,539 coronavirus cases and 118 deaths on Sunday. The state has had more than 1.9 million cases since the pandemic’s arrival last March.

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Raptors’ Nurse, Siakam to miss Friday’s game due to COVID-19 protocols

Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo took charge of the Toronto Raptors on Friday night with head coach Nick Nurse and five other members of his staff sidelined because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Star forward Pascal Siakam also sat out the game against the visiting Houston Rockets due to the same protocols, according to the league’s injury report. Toronto GM Bobby Webster said it wasn’t clear at this stage if Siakam’s situation was linked to the coaches.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings us,” he said before the game. “We’re all diligently getting tested and awaiting the results every day.”

Chris Boucher started in place of Siakam.

Assistant coach Jim Sann was on the Toronto bench along with Mark Tyndale, assistant video co-ordinator/player development, and Jamaal Magloire, basketball development consultant.

Scariolo came out of quarantine earlier Friday after a trip overseas to coach in Spain. He had been in a FIBA bubble there and then passed the NBA protocols upon his return.

The 59-year-old Italian, who joined the Raptors in July 2018, has more than 30 years of coaching experience.

Webster, citing privacy issues, declined to identify the people affected or say whether they tested positive for COVID-19 or whether the tests were inconclusive.

He said all the players in action and those on the sidelines for the game had tested negative Friday. The team is tested twice each morning, with those with negative tests allowed to proceed.

“Once the negative tests came back this afternoon, I think that gave the NBA the comfort that at least for today we’re clear,” he said when asked if the league had considered postponing the game.

Unavailable coaches to work remotely

The team said the coaches will not be on the bench beginning with Friday night’s game against the visiting Houston Rockets but “will continue to work remotely, and details on their return will be communicated when appropriate.”

Webster said contact between Nurse and the bench during the game was not allowed under NBA rules.

The Toronto coaching staff was already shorthanded given Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela, Jim Sann and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse’s coaching staff.

It’s uncertain how many games the coaching staff will miss. The Raptors host Chicago on Sunday.

Raptors assessed all options

Webster said one option, if needed, would be to bring back some of the Raptors 905 coaching staff, led by head coach Patrick Mutombo, who are in Orlando with the G-League team.

Asked half-jokingly if there had been any consideration to make star guard Kyle Lowry player-coach for the night, Webster joked he didn’t know if the team had the budget to make that happen. More seriously, he said you can’t pay a player to do anything outside of his contract.

Webster said he spoke to Lowry in the morning, noting he and Fred VanVeleet are the Raptors field generals — “just trying to get it in their head as soon as possible so they could think about it [being without the coaches].”

Thursday was an off-day for the Raptors so nothing was scheduled. That prompted the team to go back and try to determine what happened to cause this situation.

“It’s tough,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said prior to the game. “With the contact tracing and all of that, it’s a hard deal to kind of keep everybody safe and have some sort of normal life experience.

“You know, for us, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. It’s Nick Nurse’s team. They run Nick Nurse’s stuff. He’s a great coach. I respect the heck out of him. So not having him over on the side doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better because it’s his team that’s [being] coached. And it’s the players that they have that make them really good.

Silas says the Raptors are lucky to have replacement coaches to choose from.

“If that happened to me, we’d be down to our trainer or Keith Jones [Houston’s senior vice-president of basketball operation/head athletic trainer] or somebody would be coaching,” he said with a laugh.

“But for them, they have a bunch more good guys. So they’ll be fine.”

The Raptors have been lucky amid the global pandemic with no games postponed or rescheduled. Because of Canada’s border restrictions, they’re playing the season at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

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Timberwolves officially hire former Raptors assistant Chris Finch as head coach

Chris Finch is the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team announced Monday after dismissing Ryan Saunders the previous night.

Saunders was fired Sunday after the team with the NBA’s worst record this season lost for the eighth time in the last nine games. The team quickly hired Finch, who was in his first season as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors.

“Chris brings a wealth of basketball experience from his time in the NBA, G League and Internationally,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “He is one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA, has success maximizing players, and I am excited to see him bring our team to the next level and beyond.”

At 7-24, Minnesota has the league’s worst record this season and already is 7 1/2 games out of what would be the final play-in spot for the Western Conference post-season. The Timberwolves next play on Tuesday, visiting Milwaukee.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Rosas said. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”

Key players sidelined

It had been a wildly disappointing season for the Timberwolves, who started 2-0 and haven’t had much to savour since. Karl-Anthony Towns, the team’s best player, dislocated his left wrist in the season’s second game and missed six games, returned and missed 13 more after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

D’Angelo Russell, the other key piece for the Timberwolves, had surgery last week on his left knee and may be out until April.

There was no sign the Timberwolves had stopped playing for Saunders; they were down by 21 points in the third quarter at New York earlier Sunday, then took the lead in the final minutes before falling 103-99.

“Unfortunately we ran out of time,” Saunders said after that loss.

He was talking about the game.

Before long, that sentence had a very different meaning.

Connection to Rosas

Finch has history with Rosas, working together with the Houston Rockets. He coached the team’s affiliate in what is now called the G League, winning a championship with Rio Grande Valley, then became a Rockets assistant. He went on to have assistant jobs in Denver and New Orleans and was hired by the Raptors in November.

“I look forward to working hand and hand with Gersson to build and lead a team Timberwolves fans will be proud of,” Rosas said. “We have excellent pieces in place and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Saunders, the 34-year-old son of longtime Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was with the Timberwolves for parts of three seasons, going 43-94. Flip Saunders died in 2015.

Dismissing Saunders was the first coaching change in the league since this season began. There were nine coaches in new jobs entering this season.

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Toronto FC set to join Raptors, Jays down south to open season

Toronto FC will open the 2021 regular season in Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Tampa has been mentioned as a possible home. The MLS club also has ties to Orlando, having held training camp there in the past.

“We are preparing to open the MLS regular season in Florida, just finalizing our location,” team president Bill Manning said in a text to The Canadian Press.

“Reality is we are preparing to open in Florida as it seems unrealistic we’ll be able to host at home in April. If the government opens things up for us we would immediately pivot back to BMO [Field] but for now we’re preparing to start down south.”

The regular season is scheduled to kick off April 17.

TFC won’t be the only Toronto team in Florida. The Raptors are set to play the entire NBA season in Tampa while the Blue Jays announced this week they will play their first two homestands of the season in their spring-training home of Dunedin, just west of Tampa.

The Jays will review the situation after that, with a return to Buffalo, N.Y. (where they played most of their home games in 2020) a possible next step if coming back to Toronto remains out of the question.

TFC opened camp under the bubble Wednesday at its north Toronto training centre. The league granted TFC permission to start early to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Hamilton’s Forge FC, a matchup whose date has yet to be announced.

The winner will advance to play Mexico’s Club Leon on April 7 in the first leg of a round-of-16 series in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF’s flagship club competition.

TFC played just four games at BMO Field last year, finishing out the season in East Hartford, Conn. Pandemic-related border restrictions also forced Vancouver and Montreal to move, to Portland and Harrison, N.J, respectively.

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri says fight for equality to continue outside of courts

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says he will continue to fight for equality outside the courts now that a lawsuit against him has been dropped.

Ujiri issued a statement Monday in which he thanked Raptors players, staff, ownership and fans for standing with him throughout the timeline of the lawsuit, which stemmed from an altercation with a California law enforcement officer at the 2019 NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif.


The lawsuit, filed by Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Alan Strickland and his wife, Kelly, was dropped on Wednesday, as was a countersuit filed by Ujiri.

“I have decided my fight isn’t a legal one,” Ujiri said in the statement.

“Now the challenge is this: What can we do to stop another man or woman from finding themselves in front of a judge or behind bars because they committed no crime other than being Black? That is the work that each one of us must commit to, every day.”

Video of the 2019 incident had started to circulate online last August. Footage of Ujiri speaking about the incident that month was posted to the Raptors’ Twitter feed Monday.

“When I look at this I ask: Who are we as people?” Ujiri said in the video. “Who are we as human beings?

“It comes down to human decency.”

Countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force

Strickland was seeking $ 75,000 US in general damages as well as other compensation.

He alleged he suffered injuries in an altercation when Ujiri tried to make his way onto the court following the Raptors’ championship-clinching victory over the Golden State Warriors on June 13, 2019, at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

Ujiri’s countersuit alleged unauthorized use of force by Strickland.

The altercation between the men was captured in a widely circulated fan video, which appeared to show Strickland shove Ujiri twice before the Raptors president responded.

Strickland, who alleged Ujiri did not have the necessary credentials to access the court, filed his civil suit after prosecutors decided in October not to press criminal charges against Ujiri.

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Raptors to keep calling Tampa home for rest of season

The Toronto Raptors will play all their home games in Tampa, Fla., this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA team said Thursday the team will complete its home schedule at Amalie Arena after initially announcing in November it would play half its home games in Tampa before making a decision on the second half of the season.

The Raptors say the decision was made because of border restrictions and public safety measures in Canada.

The lone NBA team from outside the U.S., the Raptors have joined several Canadian counterparts in having to play south of the border during the pandemic.

Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC (East Hartford, Conn.), CF Montreal (Harrison, N.J.) and Vancouver Whitecaps (Portland) relocated for partial or full seasons in 2020. Major League Rugby’s Toronto Arrows will start their 2021 season in Marietta, Ga.

A schedule release for the second half of the season is expected in the coming days.

City of champions

“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie — we’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement.

“But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”

The Raptors are 6-5 in their “home” building this season, which they’re sharing with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa also has the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and the Rays played in the World Series last season.

There have been reports the Blue Jays are considering playing home games in nearby Dunedin, Fla., site of their spring-training complex, this season.

Logistical issue

The Raptors’ decision is hardly unexpected given the state of the pandemic in the U.S. and Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that starting next week any nonessential travellers arriving in Canada by land will need to show a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test or face a fine if they don’t have one.

That wouldn’t be an issue for NBA teams; travelling parties are tested daily, players multiple times a day.

The bigger issue is logistics. The land border already remains closed to nonessential travellers who are not Canadian citizens; Canada requires those entering the country to isolate for 14 days, which wouldn’t be feasible for NBA teams, and the Canadian government has also strongly discouraged nonessential travel for any reason.

Toronto made the move south last fall, knowing Thursday’s decision was a real possibility.

The Raptors tried to simulate the comforts the team has at home in Toronto, at least as much as possible. “We The North” — the team motto — signage is everywhere in the hotel that the Raptors are using as a practice facility in Tampa, from the elevator doors to the ballroom wall behind one of the baskets. The court that the Raptors use for games was shipped down from Toronto. And there’s a 2019 world championship banner swaying from the rafters, alongside the Lightning’s retired jerseys for Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, at the same end of the court as the Raptors’ bench.

“They did a great job,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said earlier this season.

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Lee’s clutch free throws propel Warriors past Raptors

Damion Lee converted the tying and go-ahead free throws with 3.3 seconds left and the Golden State Warriors withstood a rough fourth quarter to hold off the Toronto Raptors 106-105 on Sunday night despite uncharacteristic struggles by Stephen Curry.

Curry shot 2 of 16 and missed nine of his 10 3s for 11 points after scoring 143 over his previous four games, including a career-high 62 one week earlier against Portland.

“My offence, I expect it to be there every night,” Curry said. “With how teams are defending night to night, being able to figure that out, in terms of us just having confidence across the board no matter who’s out there on the floor, I like where we’re at right now.”

Pascal Siakam missed a jumper as the buzzer sounded but finished with 25 points, and Fred VanVleet scored 21 for Toronto in a rematch of the 2019 NBA Finals won in six games by the Raptors.

WATCH | Siakam’s misses buzzer-beater as Warriors beat Raptors:

Pascal Siakam had a chance to win the game for Toronto at the buzzer but missed and Golden State won 106-105. 0:51

“It went in and out, pretty clean look,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam’s last look.

The Raptors challenged a foul call on Kyle Lowry beyond the right side of the arc that originally would have given Lee three shots. It was determined on review the foul was before the shot — the third play that went to replay in the final 34.4 seconds. All three calls were confirmed.

Andrew Wiggins had 17 points and matched his career high with four blocked shots as Golden State nearly squandered away a game it led by 17 against an opponent that had scored a franchise-record 144 points Friday at Sacramento.

Kent Bazemore made a go-ahead lay-in with 1:06 to play for Golden State before VanVleet knocked down a jumper on the other end.

Curry turned the ball over with 34.4 seconds remaining and that went to review. Lowry missed a 3-point try and Golden State got one more chance with 7.6 ticks on the clock — another review that stood determining it was Warriors ball.

Lowry missed Friday’s game for personal reasons but returned and contributed 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists. His layup with 7:13 remaining pulled the Raptors within 94-90. VanVleet’s basket at 4:05 made it a one-point game before Kelly Oubre Jr. hit his first 3-pointer of the night moments later.

Eric Paschall scored 15 points off the bench on a night the Warriors reserves produced 46 points. Lee had 13 with three 3s.

Late in the third, Golden State’s defence showed just how much it is doing for the Warriors: drawing a 24-second violation by Toronto one possession, and then Yuta Watanabe stepped out of bounds the next. Toronto committed another shot-clock turnover in the fourth.

“We have enough talent, enough weapons to overcome a bad shooting performance,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

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