Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to Fred VanVleet during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Milwaukee. A greatly reduced Raptors team will host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in Toronto’s temporary home of Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Morry Gash

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to Fred VanVleet during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Milwaukee. A greatly reduced Raptors team will host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in Toronto’s temporary home of Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Morry Gash

After dodging COVID-19 for months, the Raptors are feeling full force of pandemic

Raptors have been playing in Florida, a COVID-19 hotspot

The Toronto Raptors had largely dodged COVID-19 for the first half of an NBA season reeling from the global pandemic.

But the Raptors are feeling the full force of it now, preparing to host the Detroit Pistons with a skeleton roster and coaching staff.

Starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, plus Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw have all been ruled out of Toronto’s rescheduled game Wednesday against visiting Detroit, along with head coach Nick Nurse and most of his coaching staff.

Asked what he’s learned from the team’s first major brush with the virus, GM Bobby Webster said: “That you don’t ever want to go through it again.

“It’s what you can imagine,” Webster said in a Zoom call with media on Tuesday night. “It’s the emotional stress of having colleagues that potentially, obviously, can be sick. The enormous amount of stress everyone feels, everyone’s walking a bit on eggshells here in the locker room and you can’t necessarily be as friendly …

“The basketball will go on, we’ll play the games, but just to maintain everybody’s belonging and familiarity is really important.”

Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who guided Toronto to a 122-111 win over Houston on Friday, will act as head coach again Wednesday.

Webster said players were cleared to do some individual work on the court Tuesday.

The big takeaway, he said, was that the team’s had “multiple days of no new cases.”

“It’s been a tough couple of days, to get to here and be able to practise, we had to clear a number of hurdles,” Webster said.

Webster believes the five players out Wednesday will still be unavailable for Thursday’s game in Boston. Jalen Harris and recently-signed big man Donta Hall joined the team from its G League affiliate, Raptors 905.

Scariolo said he’ll likely play De’Andre Bembry and Harris at point guard along with Kyle Lowry.

The Italian, who coached Spain to the 2019 World Cup title, said there was a definite mood of concern around the players who are cleared to play.

“Before practice we were always wondering how our buddies were doing — at home, and everybody is in touch with almost everybody,” he said. “(But) at this point the ones that are left have to focus on the basketball task and leave everything that happened out of our gym, at least for that hour, hour and a half, and (Wednesday) in those three hours.

“Even work harder to try to do our best for the guys who will not be able to be with us.”

The game was originally slated for Tuesday at Tampa’s Amalie Arena — the Raptors’ home this season due to Canada’s border restrictions and COVID-19 health protocols in Ontario — but was postponed due to what the league said was “positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization.” Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls was also postponed.

The Pistons plane was delayed more than two hours leaving Detroit as the Raptors awaited the green light from the NBA.

Toronto had been one of just four remaining teams in the league that hadn’t had a game postponed until Sunday’s game against visiting Chicago.

READ MORE: Toronto Raptors game against Chicago postponed due to COVID-19 cases

The league has now had 31 games scrapped due to too few healthy players. There was a sense of not if but when it would hit the Raptors, particularly making their homes in Florida, a COVID-19 hotspot.

Assistants Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie are all still sidelined under health and safety protocols, while Webster said one other assistant who coached Friday is now unavailable. He didn’t reveal who, but it would be either Jim Sann, Mark Tyndale, or Jamaal Magloire.

Webster said keeping the team’s spirits up has been a priority.

“It’s difficult, you can’t really see people, right? So a lot of it is done via Zoom, we held an all-staff Zoom (Tuesday) just to check in on people,” he said. “Some of it’s really as basic as just seeing everyone’s face and having some laughs and doing that.

“Nothing super complicated, nothing super psychological, just actually being there for people and having them know whether they’re in quarantine or they’re not in quarantine that they’re still part of the team.”

The Raptors at least have some time off coming up. Boston is their last game before the NBA all-star break.

Toronto tips off the second half of the season March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Shuswap. (Google Maps)
CSRD to ask school trustees to delay decision on Salmon Arm high school options

South Shuswap director advocating for Sorrento high school option

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Public input on the City of Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget is open until 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 19, 2021. (City of Enderby photo)
Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget open for public input

The proposed spending plan includes a 2.2 per cent tax increase; public input open until Monday

Glenn Moyer is seeking space on a public wharf in Sicamous in order to restart his water taxi business after a year-long shutdown due to COVID-19. (Glenn’s Water Taxi/Facebook)
Water taxi operator requests public dock moorage in Sicamous

Glenn Moyer, a long time water taxi operator, is brimming with stories of life on the lake

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Island woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

Becomes first person in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

Most Read