On a conference call with the daily beat media, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made it clear that while he’d love to resume his duties sometime soon, there are far bigger things on his mind. Read More
On a conference call with the daily beat media, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made it clear that while he’d love to resume his duties sometime soon, there are far bigger things on his mind.
Nurse’s priority, for weeks now and continuing for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, is encouraging his players, staff and fans to focus on safety and best practices during all of this.
“I’ve been really adamant on our safety and health, and doing the right thing,” Nurse said. “I was trying to make those messages clear that we needed to make sure … You know, people were concerned about working out and going to the OVO (training facility in downtown Toronto) and all this stuff, and I was really, really strong in my messaging to everybody that we’re gonna close this and stay shut,” he said.
“(The focus was) lead by example. Let’s make sure we get out and if we can provide any messages, washing hands and those kind of things.”
It took eight weeks of hard slogging in the gym and on the ice before Morgan Rielly finally made it back from a broken foot — to play just one game.
Now it could be much longer down time than that before putting on his Maple Leafs sweater again.
But holed up in his North Vancouver house, Rielly does not consider the recovery period or the unplanned hiatus that’s followed as wasted energy.
“Yes, it was terribly long trying to heal, to keep yourself in shape,” he said Thursday on a conference call with Toronto media. “Eight weeks goes by and to come back and play one (game) is certainly not ideal. When you’re training at the gym and trying to get back to play, you’re picturing 12, 13 games and playoffs, not taking a pause again.
“But in that same breath, if I hadn’t came back and still hadn’t played since Jan. 12, I think it would’ve made things worse.
“You have to take the positives. I came back, played and we won (2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, just before COVID-19 put the NHL on hold). Look at the big picture, you have to be happy you got one game in. I’d be going crazy if I hadn’t played since early January.”
The 26-year-old defenceman, the rest of the players and team management have slowly de-escalated, respecting that what’s going on around them is far more serious than sports, yet totally out of their element at home this time of year.
You can bet Pascal Siakam didn’t spend his 26th birthday the way he wanted to or has in the past. Siakam, a noted gym rat who likes nothing better than working on his game, would, in normal times, have been getting a few shots up at the Raptors practice facility on the bridge day between…
ou can bet Pascal Siakam didn’t spend his 26th birthday the way he wanted to or has in the past. Siakam, a noted gym rat who likes nothing better than working on his game, would, in normal times, have been getting a few shots up at the Raptors practice facility on the bridge day between games against NBA-leading Milwaukee, Toronto’s opponent in last year’s Eastern Conference final.
Instead, he was cooped inside like the rest of us. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire world and also put a pause on Siakam’s second straight breakout season. The league’s reigning most improved player took several more steps forward in 2019-20, emerging as Toronto’s top scoring option, as well as an ultra-elite defender.
The good news for Raptors fans is that there is no reason to think he is done improving and he’ll do it in Canada. Siakam signed a long-term, max-deal before the season, which should keep him in Toronto for at least four more years.
“(He’s) somebody we’re definitely going to keep for a long time here,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri had said before the deal was even signed. “And we see what the potential of that could be.” In a recent Instagram Live chat, DeMar DeRozan said Siakam had “the blueprint” to become the greatest Raptor ever in time.