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The NBA is coming, but where will the Raptors play?
With the NBA calendar all set for the upcoming season, the basketball news cycle promises to be nonstop right up until the first games on Dec. 22. Consider: just next week, the transaction moratorium is lifted Monday, the draft takes place Wednesday and free agency kicks off on Friday.
Already, some interesting tidbits have trickled out:
The Raptors want to play in Toronto. Obviously. But Masai Ujiri made the case for it to happen on CBC’s The Current today, saying that remaining in Toronto is the team’s No. 1 goal. Ujiri cited the NBA’s history of pandemic responsibility: it was the first major business to shut down in March and it recorded no positive cases over three months in the Disney bubble. Back in June, the Blue Jays trained in Toronto as a “cohort quarantine” — they stayed between their hotel and the stadium for three weeks and didn’t record a single case. But that experiment wasn’t enough for the federal government to grant the team an exception to its 14-day mandatory quarantine period for people entering the country.
Sportsnet’s Michael Grange reported today that the Raptors’ proposal to Ottawa was nearly identical to the Blue Jays’. One difference for the Raptors could be Ujiri’s close relationship with Justin Trudeau, but with Ontario reporting a record 1,575 daily new cases and numbers rising throughout the U.S., it seems unlikely the exception would be granted.
So where will the Raptors end up? Ujiri mentioned Tampa Bay, Nashville, Louisville, Kansas City, Buffalo, Newark and Fort Lauderdale as options for the team, while Sportsnet reported Tampa is the favourite. Fred VanVleet said on Pelicans guard JJ Redick’s podcast that if he re-signs with Toronto, Tampa is his preferred destination among the options presented to the team. Watch a clip from Ujiri’s radio appearance below, and listen to the full segment here.
VanVleet wants to get paid. Again, obviously. The 26-year-old guard is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career as he theoretically enters his prime. His career earnings, per Spotrac, are just over $19 million US — that number’s nothing to sneeze at, but also represents a decent estimate of what he should make per year on his next contract.
The four-year Raptor told Redick he changed his game to make the two-guard setup work with Kyle Lowry, but that he was a lead guard his entire career and wouldn’t mind proving that’s still true in the pros. He said winning and location are important factors too, and he doesn’t own a home in Toronto — in fact, he was renting and had his stuff moved out over the summer.
Most importantly, though, VanVleet said he’s looking to get paid. “I’m not shy about that,” he told Redick. “I won a championship and now it’s time to cash out.” You can listen to VanVleet on Redick’s ‘Old Man and the Three’ podcast here.
NBA players want to go to the Olympics. In a press conference Wednesday, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said the NBA’s Dec. 22 start would allow players to play in Tokyo, adding that this setup was what the players and Olympic movement both wanted. Canada, though, hasn’t yet qualified, leaving itself to a last-chance tournament in Victoria beginning June 29 — what could be the middle of the playoffs. Read more about Canada’s outlook here.
Russell Westbrook wants out of Houston. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the former OKC star is requesting a trade after just one year with the Rockets. The team recently lost its highly touted GM-coach duo in Daryl Morey, now running the 76ers, and Mike D’Antoni, now an assistant on Steve Nash’s bench in Brooklyn. A pair of other star guards also could be on the move: Indiana’s Victor Oladipo apparently wants out, while the Lakers are rumoured to be interested in trading for former Raptor DeMar DeRozan.
Starting Monday, we might start getting some real moves, real quick. Get ready.
Tiger’s Masters title defence is off to a good start. After a three-hour weather delay, players finally got off the tee to surprisingly easy conditions at Augusta National, where rain had the greens playing slower than usual. Woods took advantage with one of his best opening Masters rounds, a 4-under 68. Bryson DeChambeau, the betting favourite, endured a rough start to his day, including a double-bogey, but recovered for a 2-under 70. England’s Paul Casey was the leader as of our publish time at 7-under, with players still on the course as of our publish time. Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champ who’s seen some recent success on the Champions Tour, was the top Canadian at 2-under. Because of the late start, the first round may not be done before dark and would continue tomorrow. Read more about Thursday at the Masters here.
Felix Auger-Aliassime’s season came crashing down. How it started: Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov make history as the first Canadians to claim the top two seeds of an ATP tournament at the Sofia Open, each earning first-round byes in the process. How it’s going: Shapovalov lost his first match on Tuesday before Auger-Aliassime was upset in his first match on Wednesday. Neither won a single set during the season-ending Sofia Open. Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, on the other hand, beat sixth seed John Millman to reach the semifinals today. Watch highlights from Auger-Aliassime’s loss here.
The NHL’s all-Canadian division idea is gaining steam. Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated this week it’s on the table as the pandemic worsens and Canadian border restrictions remain intact. Instead of moving all seven teams south of the border like the Blue Jays and all three Canadian MLS teams, the NHL may opt to realign regionally, with every Canadian team in one division. Bettman also said the season may be shorter than 82 games and take place in temporary hubs. Players on Canadian teams, meanwhile, seem open to realignment. Read more about their reaction here.
Megan Rapinoe is available in the NWSL expansion draft, but likely won’t be selected. Racing Louisville FC will fill out its roster tonight, with Rapinoe and fellow American Tobin Heath the two biggest names left unprotected. However, they’re available for good reason: Rapinoe sat out the 2020 season, and likely wouldn’t be inclined to move away from her OL Reign home in Tacoma, Wa., near fiancee Sue Bird who plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Heath is currently on loan to Manchester United. Two Team Canada stalwarts — Stephanie Labbe and Desiree Scott — are also available for Louisville. Read more about tonight’s draft in this piece by CBC Sports’ Signa Butler.
Canadian artist The Weeknd was tabbed for the Super Bowl halftime show. The popular R&B singer will become just the second Canadian to appear on the stage, following Shania Twain in 2003. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 7, 2021 at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium. Maybe he’ll be able to catch a Raptors game while he’s there. Read more about the choice here.
Leta Powell Drake is a boss. The interviewer, now 82, was apparently never afraid to hold back. And for good reason: Drake is a licensed pilot, a city champion in golf, bowling and horseshoe and acted in over 100 plays. Tough resume to compete with. Anyway, take two minutes from your day to watch this montage of Drake questions. You won’t be disappointed.
Today on CBC Sports
World Curling Tour: Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic. Brad Gushue is the biggest name at the tournament where action began just before our publish time, with another set of matches coming at 7 p.m. ET tonight on CBCSports.ca. On Friday, there’s matches at 8:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Watch all the action here.
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