As we get closer and closer to real basketball, we continue to hear from our defending champion Toronto Raptors in Orlando. Now that actual media members are in the Bubble, the players and coaches are wearing masks during their media spots, which, hopefully, is a little more positive reinforcement of the message that mask wearing in indoor spaces is important!
Let’s see what everyone had to say:
1. Terence Davis: “We’re united right now, and we want to keep the focus on Breonna Taylor”
Davis is the latest NBA player to keep his media availability 100% focused on Breonna Taylor and the lack of justice in her death, and the lack of accountability for the police officers who killed her.
I respect any NBA player, or any athlete, or anyone with any sort of platform using their voice to continue to speak on this issue. Every day this continues without justice being served is shameful. But I feel a little bit of extra respect for Davis, an undrafted rookie, doing it. I feel like a lot of guys in Davis’ position might feel that it’s not their place to speak on something like this; as a rookie, with only a small two-year contract, it would surely feel safer for a player in that position to keep his head down, “toe the company line,” and not rock any boats. That Davis feels empowered to speak, to feel that he doesn’t have to do the traditional media dance and that he’s not worried about repercussions or getting a bad rep, is awesome. I’m certain that the veterans around him, and I hope the entire Raptors organization too, support his stance.
2. Serge Ibaka: “We need everybody, especially at this point... at the beginning.”
Ibaka was asked about the importance of having a group of young guys on the team, like Dewan Hernandez and Oshae Brissett, and what it might mean for the Raptors to have such a deep team. Serge praised those guys as you’d expect, saying they’re working hard and willing to sacrifice and stay ready for whatever minutes and opportunities come — and that those opportunities should come, especially in the scrimmages as the core group gets back into shape.
I am very curious to see just how deep Nick Nurse goes during the scrimmages and seeding games. Although Serge obviously makes a good point about everyone still ramping up, and there being opportunities for the guys on the end of the bench, on the flip side, it’s such a short runway from here to the playoffs, I wonder if Nick might actually keep the rotation short (assuming everyone is healthy) throughout the bubble. That way the team can focus on getting the core seven guys plus Patrick McCaw, Terence Davis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and maybe Matt Thomas into playoff shape. Outside of garbage time I don’t see Hernandez or Brissett or even Chris Boucher cracking that group; as much as I do want to see them, as much as a “summer league” feel that these scrimmages might have, does it really make sense to give them any run?
We’ll find out soon enough!
3. Ibaka: “Basketball, I think, is something beautiful”
Serge, I agree, my man. Now, I’m not sure these scrimmages are what I’d call beautiful, and I’m definitely more looking forward to next week’s game against the Lakers than I am any of these scrimmages... but it’s gonna be pretty great to see the Raptors take the floor on Friday.
4. Nick Nurse: “I go in there with a real loose conceived notion of what I’m gonna do”
I tell you, I really enjoy listening to Nick Nurse talk about basketball and coaching. In this case, Nurse was asked about monitoring the minutes of the players during the scrimmages, and he talked about how things change not just from game to game, but from play to play, so he doesn’t go into a game looking to hit specific minutes targets or to sub guys after a set number of minutes; if a guy is in a stretch where it’s a slow half court game, that’s different then if it’s an up-and-down game where there’s more exertion. I think we kind of have these mindset of coaches having all this stuff on lock in their brains, it’s refreshing to hear a coach say he doesn’t have every single thing planned out — and that he has the confidence in himself, his players and his staff to be able to adjust on the fly.
5. Masai Ujiri: “We’re going to increase the spirit, and maybe raise happiness for people”
Ujiri spoke on his latest Bubble Life (hey!) video while taking a tour of the new main court the NBA is setting up in Orlando — future home of the NBA Finals! I appreciate Ujiri saying that, and I don’t discount the role sports can play in bringing people together — even if not physically — and giving people something to root for and look forward to.
I will say I was a little confused because twice in the video Ujiri points up to the “stands,” or rather what appear to be barricades surrounding the court, and says, “that’s where the fans will be.” At first I was like, what fans? Did I mis-hear, or does Masai know something we don’t know??
But then, after seeing this, I assume this is what Masai meant:
These crowd chants during games are incredible pic.twitter.com/i3pqg3vMpd— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2020
This looks suuuuuuper weird to me. I didn’t get a chance to watch any of yesterday’s scrimmages live so I didn’t see it in action, so I’ll have to see for myself over the next couple of days... but first impression: that’s gonna take some getting used to for sure.
One more day before the champs return to (exhibition-like) action! As noted, my expectations for the scrimmages are pretty low, but I can definitely feel the excitement growing a little bit more every day.