The Raptors practiced late last night, but thankfully, still made time to speak to the media afterward. Let’s get into what they had to say:
1. Fred VanVleet: “Breonna Taylor’s killers are still walking around and living a very free life”
Breonna Taylor’s name has been heard often in the NBA Bubble, and VanVleet is the first Raptor to directly address the situation in his press availability. Her death, and the lack of accountability for the police officers who killed her, are at the core of why it’s so important for NBA players to continue to amplify the Black Lives Matter message during the Orlando Bubble. (If you’re not familiar with the case, the New York Times has a good account here.)
No one should have the power to enter a person’s home without identifying themselves, to fire their weapons, to leave someone for dead, to not provide medical assistance... and then not have to answer for their actions in any way. As a society, we should not accept that, and NBA players like Fred and Tobias Harris and others are doing their best to get that message across.
2. VanVleet: “It’s reassuring to hear that things are working the way they’re supposed to work”
That’s Fred talking about the testing numbers revealed yesterday; the NBA conducted 346 coronavirus tests in the past week, and all 346 came back negative.
That means that so far, the Bubble is working; players that were negative and have entered the Bubble have (so far) not been exposed to the virus. And that’s great news. That doesn’t mean everyone is safe, despite what Dwight Howard thinks; in fact, it simply means everyone in the Bubble should be working as hard as possible to keep it safe.
3. Oshae Brissett: “If you’re with the Raptors and you don’t get where you need to be, that’s kinda on you”
Rookie Oshae Brissett talked at length about being a young guy on this veteran Raptors team, learning from the players around him (especially now that the whole team is healthy and practicing together, something they didn’t get the chance to do during the season), and how valuable it is to be able to lean on a guy like Fred VanVleet, who came in undrafted but is now respected throughout the league. But he also talked about the importance of the Raptors’ development program, how hard the coaches work and how willing they are to put in the time with young players. And I do think that’s under appreciated. We’ve heard a lot lately about the Raptors and how they develop young guys, and yes, they have good scouts and good coaches and a good system with the 905 — but the players still have to be willing to put the time in, to work, to listen, to be coached.
It sounds like that’s the type of guy Brissett is, and that gives me confidence he’ll make it in the NBA.
4. Brissett: “Everyday, FaceTime, I get to call her, see how she’s growing”
Brissett has a newborn daughter back home, and he talked about how hard it is to be away, and about the things he’s going to miss over the next couple months. He said that he’s fortunate to be able to see her everyday, and that he has family and a support system at home, but it is a reminder just how much of a burden the players are facing. I know it’s easy to dismiss it and say “well if someone wanted to pay me millions to play basketball and not see my family for four months, sign me up” but at the end of the day, we’re all human, we all want to be with our loved ones, and the players deserve our empathy for the situation they’re in.
Besides, this isn’t what NBA players sign up for. Yes, they’re all very fortunate to get to do what they do, but you go into that life thinking there’s a structure in place for when and how you work, and when you get time off, and that’s all been thrown out the window. And for a guy like Oshae, a rookie on a one-year deal, he doesn’t have the money in the bank to opt out, and he needs to use every opportunity to play and get better for his next contract. I feel for him, and all the young guys, especially.
5. Drake: [Have a candle]
It’s very easy to goof on Drake and his personalized gifts, like these candles, or the championship jackets from last year. But you know what, I dig it. If I were in Drake’s shoes, if I had the same means, I’d do the same; I’d want to show the players some love! Whatever you wanna say about Drake, the guy clearly cares about being a Raptors fan.
That said: I have questions! Obviously, I am very curious what these candles smell like, and the hand-written names don’t give much away: “Sweeter Tings”, “Muskoka”, “Carby Musk”!? Perhaps more importantly: Did Drake make these himself? Does he have a candle-making operation set up in his basement? I’d also really like to know the thought process that went in to who got what scent. Like, Kyle Lowry received “Good Thoughts,” which, hey, I always want to send Kyle good thoughts as well. But Lowry and Stanley Johnson both received “Carby Musk”; I can’t think of anything that Lowry and Johnson have in common, so I would love to know how they both received the same scent!
Maybe when Drake starts selling these publicly we’ll do an in-depth investigation into what each scent really means.
The Raptors are taking today off to rest their bodies as they get ready to face the Houston Rockets in their first scrimmage on Friday. Be sure to check out the broadcast schedule to see where you can catch the action!