The Toronto Raptors are back, as tonight we hit the ground running on what could be the strangest season in franchise history.
COVID-19 continues to cloud everything within the NBA and, even more granularly, with the Raptors, who had three confirmed cases in the organization last week. It’ll loom as a constant threat on basketball, probably for the duration of the season. For now, though, we march forward.
The Raptors get their three-game preseason schedule going against the Hornets shortly. A back-to-back in North Carolina with the second game on Monday night, Toronto will play without Kyle Lowry in tow. Based on reports from the team earlier today, Lowry was granted a personal leave and permitted to stay in Tampa during this short road trip. In pre-game availability, Nick Nurse indicated that the absence wasn’t virus-related — just regular management for his 34-year-old point guard.
Nick Nurse says Kyle Lowry is in "fantastic shape" and has no conditioning worries about him. Sounds like he wants to preserve him because of his age.— Steven Loung (@loung_s) December 12, 2020
Nurse adds that there are "no concerns about him at all."
Nurse wouldn’t be focusing much on Lowry anyway, who can safely be referred to as a “known quantity”. There will also be limited play for other veterans, including Aron Baynes and Fred VanVleet.
Instead, these games against Charlotte and Miami will be a testing ground for the back half of Nurse’s 10-man rotation. Norman Powell bumps up to the starting lineup tonight, but he and Terence Davis are the sure members of that rotation heading into the season. What Nurse hopes to see is who can play heavy minutes from spots eight through ten.
Nick Nurse says he's going to try to stick to lineups that approximate first and second unit. He thinks certain guys have earned a longer look tonight based on training camp.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) December 12, 2020
One such player getting a long look tonight is first-round pick Malachi Flynn, who will be the backup point guard for Toronto against the Hornets. Nurse also indicated there would be significant run for Oshae Brissett and Henry Ellenson — fringe players in any other season, but good bets to make the expanded 15-man travelling roster in 2020-21.
For more on the actual matchup between Toronto and Charlotte, get into Zakaria Abdulle’s preview from this morning.
Now, the game details... and the comments. Let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7 PM ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Charlotte – Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Cody Zeller
Toronto – Kyle Lowry (out - personal)
Charlotte – none