Well, it looks like The Raptors will play in Chicago tonight, but you might not recognize most of the roster.
Toronto has been the latest team in the NBA to experience a COVID-19 outbreak and currently have seven players in Health and Safety protocols as of Wednesday morning: Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Dalano Banton, Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, and Malachi Flynn.
Justin Champagnie (non-Covid illness), David Johnson (calf), and Goran Dragic (Personal), are also listed as OUT for the game. Khem Birch (knee) is questionable.
That leaves OG Anunoby, Yuta Watanabe, Chris Boucher, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Isaac Bonga as the only remaining players in the usual roster to be fully available for the game (as of Thursday morning).
On Chicago’s end, they still have five players in Health and Safety protocols after a team outbreak caused the NBA to postpone a number of their games: Matt Thomas, Ayo Dosunmo, Zach LaVine, Devon Doston, and Alize Johnson.
Also out for Chicago: Alex Caruso (foot), Troy Brown Jr. (conditioning), Derrick Jones Jr. (hamstring), and Patrick Williams (wrist).
The game starts at 8PM, EST and will be available to watch on Sportsnet.
UPDATE: Per Marc Stein, the game is in jeopardy of being postponed due to Toronto’s hardship signings needing to enter the healthy and safety protocols, potentially leaving the team with too few players anyway.
Calling in Backup
Per new NBA rules announced this week, teams are allowed to sign one additional player to a hardship contract per every player in Health and Safety Protocol. This means that although The Raptors only have five healthy members of their roster, they can still play — as opposed to the older rules that automatically postponed a game when a team had less than seven players available.
Adam Silver announced on a Tuesday interview that he does not anticipate the NBA pausing it’s season due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks among teams — so expect to see a lot of kids being called up to fill out rosters.
That means the Raptors can add up to seven new players on 10-day hardship contracts, and have to add at least six - per the rules (which you can read in more detail here).
The New Kids
So far, the Raptors have announced four players they are bringing up on hardship contracts.
Brandon Goodwin, most recently of the Westchester Knicks, but a point guard who has a long resume of NBA stints and G league experience.
Juwan Morgan, a forward currently in the G league with the Maine Celtics, who has promising stats and versatility.
Nik Stauskas, of the G league Grand Rapids Gold, who had a previous run with the Raptors 905 as a sharp-shooting guard.
Lastly (for now), Tremont Waters, a point guard for the Wisconsin Herd in the G league, who stands five-foot-ten... may we have the next coming of Fred VanVleet on our hands? I guess we will see.
Get used to seeing these guys (and probably more over the next few weeks) in the rotation for the Raptors as they await their usual players to exit Health and Safety Protocols.
One person we’re used to seeing, but still getting used to playing AGAINST? DeMar DeRozan. He is back in the Bulls lineup after being in Health and Safety Protocols himself, but seems to have picked up right where he left off.
DeRozan is currently averaging 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game this season and has been a HUGE part of the Chicago Bulls success early on. In my (probably biased) opinion, he should be a part of the MVP conversation this year. He has come in clutch on multiple occasions during late game situations and seems to have settled with ease onto the Bulls roster.
We miss you, DeMar — and given our current situation it may not be as painful to see you drop 30 on us tonight... go off, king.
And so, they play. As of right now. It’s hard to tell with the constant updates coming in. It feels very deja vu-y around here lately. Players in protocols, Raptors’ planes being tracked... all we can hope for is that the players stay healthy and safe in the coming weeks, and we can safely return to our full roster soon.