- Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines the recovery of Raptors big man Dewan Hernandez, who battled a major right ankle sprain this season. “It was one of the worst sprains ever. That takes time,” Hernandez said. “But I’ve been through worse, so I’m good mentally.” Hernandez, the No. 59 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, originally suffered the ankle injury in late December.
Lost revenue from the NBA’s hiatus has the Raptors in a position of financial uncertainty as they look ahead to the offseason, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Toronto has just nine players signed beyond this season, and only four of them are part of the rotation. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are all headed for free agency, and the Raptors aren’t sure how much cap room they’ll have available.
The league may lose hundreds of millions in projected earnings if it can’t salvage a significant portion of its remaining season. That’s on top of lost money resulting from the dispute with China. Smith points out that Pascal Siakam‘s new extension, which begins next season, is based on a percentage of the salary cap. While that might give the Raptors more money to work with than they were expecting, it adds to the muddled financial picture.
There’s more from Toronto:
- The Raptors should prioritize re-signing Gasol over Ibaka if they decide not to keep both, argues Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Even though Ibaka is five years younger and a better scorer, Murphy sees Gasol as a superior passer, defender and floor spacer. He also suggests that Gasol may be more willing to accept a large one-year contract, which allows the team to remain competitive in a talented 2021 free agent class.
- Murphy had expected VanVleet to get an offer beyond what Toronto is willing to pay, but he cautions that a lower salary cap might change the equation. He projected that the Raptors would offer the fourth-year guard a new deal in the range of $17MM to $20MM annually. Only five or six teams will have the money to top that, and several of them already have young point guards in place. Murphy states that VanVleet’s best strategy may be to accept a long-term deal in Toronto that takes advantage of his Bird rights.
- Norman Powell‘s improvement this season may tempt the Raptors to hold onto his contract rather than trade it for cap relief, Murphy adds. Powell is owed nearly $10.9MM next season and has an $11.6MM player option for 2021/22.
- The Raptors would probably be willing to pay unrestricted free agent guard Fred VanVleet $17-20MM annually to retain his services, Blake Murphy of The Athletic opines. The market for VanVleet could drop significantly if the salary cap is lowered, with only a handful of teams having the ability to sign him using their space. VanVleet’s best option may be to secure long-term money from the Raptors since they hold his Bird rights, Murphy adds.
- A team of ESPN writers, including Eric Woodyard, Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, and Malika Andrews, takes a closer look at what the extended layoff will mean for every team in the Eastern Conference. As ESPN details, top teams like the Bucks and Raptors had been dealing with injuries prior to the suspension and should be a whole lot healthier if and when the season resumes.
Raptors forward Chris Boucher has apologized on social media for violating the team’s self-quarantine mandate, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Boucher was spotted grocery shopping in Toronto. The Raptors were asked to isolate themselves after playing the Jazz last Monday, two nights before Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player known to contract the coronavirus.
- The Bulls‘ ownership group, along with United Center ownership, announced that it will pay day-of-game employees through the remained of the originally scheduled season. The Nets issued a press release indicating they’ll do the same for hourly employees who worked games and events at Barclays Center. A team official said the Sixers are doing so too, tweets John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
- The Spurs announced the formation of a fund totaling $500K+ that will be used to pay its part-time employees through the rest of the season. The Hornets also established a fund to assist the organization’s part-time employees who had been scheduled to work Hornets and Greensboro Swarm games through the end of their respective seasons.
- The Nuggets‘ ownership group pledged to pay its part-time and hourly employees for the next 30 days, per a press release.
- Madison Square Garden has committed to paying event-driven employees, including those who work at Knicks games, through March 22 and is working to come up with a longer-term plan, per a memo obtained by Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The Suns, meanwhile, are paying their employees who were scheduled to work their two home games in March, noting that the staffing for their four home games in April hadn’t yet been finalized.
- The Raptors said in a press release that they have joined forces with Toronto’s other sports franchises to create a fund for arena and stadium workers. “Being a good teammate means looking out for our neighbours, friends and the people we work with,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “Through this fund, we all pledge to be good teammates to our arena, stadium and support staff. We want to be here for them, the way they are always here for us.”
- Following the lead of stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the rest of the Bucks‘ roster has also committed to making donations to impacted Fiserv Forum workers, per the team (Twitter link). Magic center Mohamed Bamba vowed to do the same for Amway Center employees (Twitter link).
- Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is making a $100K donation as well, but his money will be going to the Mayo Clinic, which is rolling out a test to detect the virus that causes COVID-19. “My hope is that we can fight this virus quicker and more efficiently by increasing the testing capabilities and availability and Mayo Clinic’s overall COVID-19 response,” Towns tweeted.
MARCH 14: The Raptors have updated their announcement, indicating that the final test of their travel party has also come back negative for COVID-19, per The Athletic’s Blake Murphy (Twitter link).
MARCH 13: The Raptors announced that all members of their travel party have tested negative for the coronavirus with one test still pending, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets.
There was extra concern regarding Toronto’s players and staff since the Raptors faced the Jazz on Monday. Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive two nights later prior to the team’s game at Oklahoma City, prompting the league to suspend its season.
The Celtics, who played the Jazz in Boston last Friday, announced in a press release today that they’re having players and staffers who were in close contact with Utah players or who traveled to Milwaukee this week self-quarantine at least through the weekend.
All of the Celtics’ players – as well as staff members who came into close contact with Jazz players or exhibit COVID-19 symptoms – will be tested over the weekend, the team said in its release. After consulting with health experts, the Celtics believe it’s unlikely that any of their players came into contact with Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell while they were contagious, but they want to take precautions nonetheless.
Meanwhile, the Pistons – who played Utah on Saturday in Detroit – announced today that there’s no indication the coronavirus was passed along to any of their players or staffers. However, they’re asking their players, coaches, basketball staff, and traveling party to self-isolate “until further notice” out of an abundance of caution.
A league source tells Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) that coronavirus tests are available for Pistons players, but if they’re not exhibiting any symptoms, those tests are optional.
The Cavaliers, whose game with Utah took place back on March 2, believe based on conversations with the Jazz and health experts that Gobert and Mitchell did not have coronavirus when the Jazz visited Cleveland last week, league sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. No players or staff members have shown symptoms, so there are no plans for testing at this time, Fedor adds. If symptoms surface, that would change.
In an official statement, the Cavs confirmed that none of their players have experienced symptoms and indicated that the club isn’t currently under a mandatory quarantine.
The Knicks, whose game against Utah happened on March 4, are under the impression they’ll be self-quarantined, per Ian Begley and Alex Smith of SNY.tv. Marc Berman of The New York Post tweets that the Knicks remain at their hotel in Atlanta as of 1:00pm CT, with no concrete departure time set yet.
Earlier today, we passed along word that the Raptors, who played the Jazz on Monday, are being tested for coronavirus and have been advised to self-isolate for two weeks, while the Wizards – Utah’s opponent on February 28 – are also self-isolating for the next few days, just to be safe.
Jazz players and team personnel were quarantined in their locker room on Wednesday night following Rudy Gobert‘s positive coronavirus test and the postponement of their game with the Thunder. Coronavirus tests were conducted on the club’s staff and players, including Mitchell, at that time before they were permitted to leave the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
According to Wojnarowski, Jazz players have privately said that Gobert had been “careless in the locker room” this week, “touching other players and their belongings.” We don’t know that Gobert contracted the virus before Mitchell, but it’s still not a good look for the Jazz center, who also made light of the coronavirus crisis on Monday by going out of his way to touch every microphone and recorder in front of home following a session with the media.
Fortunately though, the coronavirus wasn’t spread widely across the Jazz locker room. Mitchell was the only one of 58 Jazz players and personnel who were tested on Wednesday night to be diagnosed with the virus, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The remaining tests came back negative. The Jazz confirmed as much this morning in a press release.
While the Jazz are the first team known to have affected players, they may not be the only club impacted by the outbreak, since they’ve played several other clubs within the last two weeks. Reports on Wednesday night indicated that players from teams that have played the Jazz in the last 10 days were advised to self-quarantine. That list of clubs includes the Cavaliers, Knicks, Celtics, Pistons, and Raptors.
The Raptors, who played the Jazz most recently (Monday), had members of their traveling party, including players, tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday night and announced today that they’re awaiting results. All of Toronto’s players, coaches, and traveling staff have been instructed to go into self-isolation for 14 days, according to the team.
The Wizards, who faced Utah on February 29 and the Knicks on March 10, have advised players and staff members to self-quarantine for the next three or four days out of “an abundance of caution,” the team announced today.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
While it remains to be seen exactly how long that suspension will last, one person who spoke to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press said the NBA expects the league to be shut down for at least two weeks. That source cautioned that the situation is very fluid.
As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports passes along, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in a TV appearance tonight that there’s a feeling around the NBA that the season will eventually be resumed. It’s “clearly going to be a truncated schedule” though, according to Woj.
No games will take place while the suspension is ongoing, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said tonight that the NBA has told teams they can continue to practice, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Players have been told they shouldn’t have any visitors from out of town, MacMahon adds.
Here’s more on how the coronavirus situation has shaken up the NBA:
- After Gobert was tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Jazz and Thunder officials worked together to make sure no Oklahoma City players had any contact or exposure to Utah players, tweets Wojnarowski. According to ESPN’s Royce Young (Twitter links), Thunder players were tested tonight for fever, but not for the coronavirus. Jazz players are still expected to be tested tonight, however — the team is currently quarantined in OKC, per Woj (Twitter link).
- According to reports from Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald (Twitter link) and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, players from teams that have played the Jazz in the last 10 days have been advised to self-quarantine. That list of clubs includes the Cavaliers, Knicks, Celtics, Pistons, and Raptors.
- Knicks players aren’t being tested yet, according to Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link). Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets that Raptors players are getting tested. Cavaliers coaches and players haven’t yet heard about potential testing, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.