Raptors still with unanswered questions as NBA’s return creeps closer

Bobby Webster breaks down the emotions going through the Toronto Raptors organization as they were about to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, as the June 13th anniversary approaches, and looks at the return to NBA.

Friday afternoon saw yet another step toward to an NBA return to play as a slew of dates tied to the league’s timeline were reported by multiple outlets.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, training camp in Disney World will go from July 9–29.

More interesting than the actual reported training camp dates, however, are the dates that precede them.

As Wojnarowski reported, there’s a June 15 deadline for players outside of the U.S. to report to their team markets, and a June 22 cut-off date for players in the U.S. but away from their team market to report.

The ESPN reporter added that on June 23, head coaches would be allowed to be one of the two coaches involved in voluntary workouts with players. Finally, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA’s COVID-19 testing window would begin on the same day and conclude on June 30.

Got all that?

Better yet: Got all that and still find yourself asking what it all means?

Well, there are two ways of looking at it: If you’re one of the 29 NBA teams based in the U.S., it’s pretty simple. But if you’re the lone Canadian club, things start to get more complicated.

For example, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who went back home to Slovenia at the start of the NBA’s season suspension, would have to report back to Dallas by June 15. But if Seth Curry went home to Charlotte, he’d have until June 22 to get back with the Mavericks.

As of June 23, with the entire team assembled in Dallas, COVID-19 testing would begin before the team heads off to Orlando — hopefully virus-free — for the start of the training camp.

Outside of the likely possibility of Doncic needing to quarantine before he can do any individual workouts with team staff, there won’t be much fuss for the Mavericks with these rules, or any other NBA team in an American city.

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For the Toronto Raptors, however, there are still questions that need to be cleared up.

These reported rules around when players can report and when testing happens become a lot more muddled with a team that isn’t based in the U.S.

A good way of looking at this is to take a player like Norman Powell as an example, who after the season suspension went to his home in Las Vegas.

Considering that, which deadline applies to him? June 15 or June 22? If it’s June 22 — he’s currently in the U.S., after all — and Powell were to return on June 17 or later, his mandatory 14-day quarantine upon crossing the border into Canada would take him unto July and after the NBA’s timeline for coronavirus testing.

If it’s June 15, then his quarantine would end on June 29, meaning it would fall within the timeline of testing, but would be cutting it close.

Not to mention, the aforementioned mandatory quarantine would cost Powell two weeks of voluntary work, including some likely time with head coach Nick Nurse himself.

Over in the NHL, with Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto all still standing as possible NHL hub cities, there’s been talk of a potential easing up on the federal government’s 14-day quarantine policy for anyone entering the country from outside.

It’s unclear if this exception would also apply to Canada’s lone NBA basketball team. But without any announcement from the government on the topic, it’s understandable that the Raptors aren’t banking on it.

“We’re going to follow the rules,” said Raptors GM Bobby Webster on Tim & Sid Thursday. “If it makes sense to have limited exceptions I get it, but we’re definitely not pushing it in the sense that we need it.”

Another problem, and perhaps the real crux of the issue, is if the entire Raptors team convenes in Toronto first and then heads off to Orlando. Would they then have to quarantine for 14 days again, as per the CDC’s COVID-19 policy for anyone entering the U.S.?

This could mean, potentially, two quarantine periods for some Raptors players and would certainly cut into training-camp time.

As such, with the deadline for NBA teams to come back together in their markets set at June 22, it seems the Raptors need to make a quick decision on whether they convene in Toronto or somewhere in the U.S.

The best place to meet before training camp would be the NBA’s Disney campus itself, but it’s not certain yet if the Raptors would be allowed to do so, particularly because it seems as if the NBA wants to be as sure as possible that everyone entering the bubble is virus free first.

As Nurse alluded to in a conference call earlier this week, the Raptors are looking at all options in regards to this dilemma — on both sides of the border.

Additionally, the legitimate concerns in regards to health and safety within the bubble can’t be overstated.

As Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes reported, a “significant” number of players have expressed disappointment in not getting equal say in matters of the NBA’s return-to-play plan.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

Some of the concerns brought up in Haynes’ report are safety-related, which seem all the more legitimate considering cases of the novel coronavirus are increasing again in central Florida and because Walt Disney World staffers reportedly won’t be subjected to the same stringent bubble rules as NBA personnel will be.

Still, this is an obstacle the Raptors appear willing to navigate.

“I think everyone’s unified in the sense that we want to play, we want to win another championship, but I think even personally, when you leave the house, there’s hesitation. ‘Do I have my mask on?’ ‘Do I trust the store I’m going to?’ I think these are just normal,” said Webster. “There really hasn’t been consensus throughout the whole process. So I think now that the time is upon us, people start to think a lot more deeply and critically about it and are like, ‘OK, I’ve been living like this, but what happens when I need [something] two months into the bubble? How is that gonna work?’ And I think that these are all the kinds of things that are coming to light as we see and we all have different opinions on those. But I think the overriding emotion here is that we want to play, we want to get back, and we think we can wade through these issues.”

And of course, there’s the the fact that the NBA is attempting to return to play during a heavily-supported civil rights movement for racial justice — another reportedly major factor in some players’ unease in possibly returning.

Given the social conscience displayed by the team in recent days, it’s not hard to believe some members of the team would have second thoughts about returning to the court at the moment, no matter how badly they may want to play.

This, too, is a hurdle Toronto needs to navigate. But unlike the challenges of reporting to training camp, this isn’t something unique to Canada’s lone NBA club.

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