‘Sense of adventure’ for bubble-bound Leafs — Toronto Sun

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‘Sense of adventure’ for bubble-bound Leafs — Toronto Sun

They’re only going a few steps from their Bay St. home, but the Bubble Buds are about to take a trip that’s unprecedented in their 103-year history.

“There’s a sense of adventure to it for sure,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie on Saturday before he and 51 other Maple Leafs, coaches and staffers had one last sleep in their own beds before reporting to the NHL’s COVID-19  safe house.

“We don’t totally know what the set-up will be like. It’s excitement, a bit of nerves, but we’re ready to get it going. The whole thing’s a bit bizarre. It’s the end of July and we’re at the rink. It’s a weird climate, but I’m glad we were able to sort something out and finish these playoffs. We’re lucky to be able to play.”

As the Leafs held one last practice at the Ford Performance Centre, directional dressing room signs and rival team banners were going up all around them. Toronto is the Eastern Conference hub for 12 of the 24 clubs in the Stanley Cup tournament. Like the other 11, the Leafs will be confined to a hotel — practice rink — Scotiabank Arena bubble, in their case quartered at the Royal York with a dedicated walkway there and back to maintain quarantine.

When they play the Montreal Canadiens in an exhibition Tuesday, ahead of Game 1 of the best-of-five opening series against Columbus next Sunday, it’ll be the Leafs’ first action since the NHL shuttered on March 12 in Covid’s shadow.

“This felt like a long time coming,” said winger Zach Hyman. “We didn’t know if it would happen (through weeks of small-group practices, then a two-week training camp). Everyone is healthy and the unique thing is now we’ll be with each other 24/7.”

Each member of the Leaf pod will get a final Covid test Sunday morning, spend  a final few hours with family, then board a bus for the bubble. Seven teams are at the Royal York, five at Hotel X on the CNE grounds, handy to Coca-Cola Coliseum and BMO Field for outdoor activities.

Dining, team lounges and recreational activities are planned for both sites, with an eye to isolated excursions for clubs that make it to the next round. Edmonton, the Western hub, will also host the four conference finalists and the Cup championship.

Like Columbus counterpart John Tortorella, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is anxious to get settled in the bubble environment.

“I’m curious how it’s all going to flow,” Keefe said. “You’ve got so many teams occupying the same hotel, the same space. We’re just going through some of the logistics, the simple facts; how many people allowed in the elevators at a particular time, the nature of the practices. There’s going to be overlap; teams trying to leave at the same time. We’re trying to remain very flexible.”

ROSTER REGISTERED

The Leafs’ final playoff roster was established at 30 as of Saturday night, though  Keefe’s starters have been determined based on practice lines in the main group. He’s settled on Auston Matthews between Hyman and William Nylander, with Ilya Mikheyev, voted MVP of the scrimmage tournament by the media and back from wrist surgery, on the left with centre John Tavares and Mitch Marner.

While coy about where rookie Nick Robertson fits, the kid did more penalty kill drills, ending the day on left with centre Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen. With Kyle Clifford, Pierre Engvall and Jason Spezza strung across the fourth line, Frederik Gauthier was not attached, but Keefe insisted the exhibition game would determine a lot.

Defence pairings didn’t change through camp, so Rasmus Sandin and Martin Marincin are the extras who’ve been with the starters’ with Calle Rosen and the “unfit to play” Timothy Liljegren added from the taxi squad for insurance, making 10 defencemen. Kasimir Kaskisuo and Joseph Woll join Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell as third and fourth goalies, respectively.

That left a couple of reserve spots on the roster for forwards Nic Petan, Denis Malgin and the injured Andreas Johnsson, whose knee surgery likely sidelines him until later rounds if Toronto gets that far.  Forwards Tyler Gaudet, Egor Korshkov, Adam Brooks, Kenny Agostino and defencemen Teemu Kivihalme and Mac Hollowell were not posted Saturday.

LET’S GET PHYSICAL

The Blue Jackets held an off-ice workout Saturday and flew to Toronto, coach John Tortorella as anxious as Keefe to get an exhibition game in after inter-squad matches became a drudge. Both coaches want to see their teams turn it up physically, after weeks of laying off heavy hits because of injury risk.   

The Jackets play the Bruins in a friendly on Thursday and all 24 clubs want to see the newly installed ice in both hub sites and how it handles the heat. They also want to check out the backdrop art around the lower bowl that will replace fans, the piped in crowd noise, music and dressing room set up.

“Momentum wise, a crowd can make you uncomfortable,” reminded Hyman. “When you’re in a game, really playing and doing well, you don’t really notice it as much. But when you’re the home team and you score, and the fans go crazy, it puts more pressure on the away team to handle that. Obviously there’s not home ice advantage here.”

All clubs will be moved around three different dressing rooms at SBA depending on home teams as each series unfolds and as rooms are sanitized between games. The Leafs will eventually be out of their room and on the visiting bench.

PAPA HYMAN

Hyman and wife Alannah found out early during the NHL hiatus they’ll be expecting their first child in December. So it’ll be a little harder for him to be separated if the Leafs go two or three rounds. Alannah will stay with Hyman’s family during the tournament, though Hyman was quick to say those Leafs with kids or whose partners are further along with pregnancies will have it harder in the coming days.

Asked which Leaf would likely have the best parental advice for him, Hyman knew whom to put on speed dial.

“Jason Spezza, he has four (daughters),” laughed Hyman.

For bedtime stories, Spezza sometimes uses one of the children’s books Hyman has authored the past few years. Hyman had to stop work on his latest project to attend camp, but might pick it up while in the bubble.

LOOSE LEAFS

Pickleball, a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton, is on the games’ list for Leafs with off-ice down time … Matthews knows a little Russian and is using it to better communicate with newcomer Mikheyev: “He’s trying. Not bad,” Mikheyev said … There will be radio of Leaf games starting with Tuesday’s exhibition. Joe Bowen and Jim Ralph will call them in studio, depending on whether Sportsnet or TSN has the rights.

lhornby@postmedia.com0 

NBA Rumors: League Probes Lou Williams About Recent Trip Outside Bubble — NESN.com

Lou Williams may have landed himself in a bit of hot water. The Los Angeles Clippers guard was permitted to leave the NBA’s campus at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. under and excused absence for a family emergency. But the league now is probing Williams to determine whether it should re-assess his…

NBA Rumors: League Probes Lou Williams About Recent Trip Outside Bubble — NESN.com

But the league now is probing Williams to determine whether it should re-assess his quarantine procedure after some questionable images of him surfaced on social media while he remained outside the bubble, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne and Bobby Marks. Rapper Jack Harlow snapped a picture of Williams at an Atlanta gentlemen’s club Thursday night and posted it to his Instagram story, but took it down a short time later. In the image, Williams appears to be wearing an NBA-provided mask while holding a drink in one hand. Harlow took to Twitter on Friday in an attempt to clarify the incident: “That was an old pic of me and Lou. I was just reminiscing cuz I miss him.” Since NBA security began questioning him about his trip outside the bubble, Williams reportedly admitted to being at Magic City gentlemen’s club in Atlanta for dinner but claimed entertainers were not present while he was there. According to the report, Williams stated he was at a viewing for Paul G. Williams, a close family friend, beforehand. Williams was tested for COVID-19 every day while outside the bubble and will be subject to at least four days of self-quarantine, per league policy. Whether he’ll face an extended quarantine period remains to be seen.

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2020/07/nba-rumors-league-probes-lou-williams-about-recent-trip-outside-bubble/

RAYS 4, BLUE JAYS 1: Postgame notes.

TAMPA BAY RAYS 4, TORONTO BLUE JAYS 1

Saturday, July 25, 2020  Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Win: Anderson (1-0) Loss: Gaviglio (0-1) Save: Drake (1)

First Pitch: 3:10 p.m.Temps: 72-in, 90-out Attendance: — Time of Game: 2:47

TAMPA BAY RAYS NOTES

THE WIN—The Rays scored 3 runs in the 8th inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and recording their first win of the season…through the first 2 games this series, the Rays have scored 4 runs in 6.1 innings against the Blue Jays bullpen…last season the Rays won 20 games in their last at-bat, and went 11-8 in games when they were tied through 7 innings. The Rays are batting .125 (2-for-16) with RISP this season and were 0-for-4 with RISP tonight before Brandon Lowe’s go-ahead triple. Over the last two seasons, the Rays are 14-7 against the Blue Jays (9-3 at home, 5-4 on the road)…the Rays are 212-180 (.541) all-time against the Blue Jays, their most win against any opponent.

RYAN YARBROUGH—Made the fourth scoreless start of his career, following Aug 17, 2019 vs. DET (6.1 IP), Aug 11, 2019 at SEA (8.2 IP) and July 20, 2019 vs. CWS…it was the third time he made a scoreless start and took no decision, leaving after 5.1 IP in a scoreless tie…got out of his bases-load-ed jam in a 21-pitch 4th inning; also had a 7-pitch 2nd and 9-pitch 5th. Has a 2.14 ERA (42-IP, 10-ER) in 10 career apps (3 starts) against the Blue Jays, including a 1.95 ERA (27.2-IP, 6-ER) in 6 apps (2 starts) against them at Tropicana Field…remains 4-0 vs. TOR at home. Despite the scoreless outing, remains winless (0-3) in his last 9 apps (all starts) since Aug 17, 2019, the longest streak of his career. Has yielded 2 BB (or fewer) in 18 consecutive starts since June 11, 2018, the 3rd-longest streak in club history (excluding openers). Made his third straight Opening Day roster, all with the Rays, and his first as a regular member of the starting rotation.

BRANDON LOWE—Delivered a go-ahead, 2-run triple in the 8th inning, the fifth triple of his career and first since June 25, 2019 at MIN…marked the third time in his career he recorded a go-ahead hit in the 8th inning or later, following May 2, 2019 at KC (9th-inning homer) and May 17, 2019 at NYY (8th-inning double)…was the first time the Rays hit a go-ahead triple that late in a game since Denard Span on Opening Day 2018 vs. BOS. Entering tonight’s game, he was 0-for-9 lifetime against Sam Gavi-glio…came around to score on a 8th-inning balk by Gaviglio.

NICK ANDERSON—Improved to 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA (22.2-IP, 5-ER) since the trade to the Rays, after going 2-4 with a 3.92 ERA with Miami…did not record a strikeout for the third time in 24 outings with the Rays.

OLIVER DRAKE—Recorded the fourth save of his career, following Sep 7, 2019 vs. TOR, July 15, 2019 at NYY and June 15, 2017 at STL (with MIL)…pitched 2 games for the Blue Jays in 2018 and was traded by them to the Rays in exchange for cash considerations on Jan 4, 2019.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS NOTES

THE LOSS—The Blue Jays dropped the second game of their season-opening 3-game series, setting up a rubber match for 1:10 p.m. tomorrow…the Blue Jays allowed 3 runs in the 8th inning and fell to 7-11 since the start of the 2019 season when they were tied through 7 innings…were held to 1 run (or fewer) for the first time since being shut out on Sep 7, 2019 at TB, with their only run coming on a 7th-inning solo homer. Fell to 7-14 (.333) over the last two seasons against the Rays and 13-27 (.325) against them since the beginning of the 2018 season, the 4th-lowest winning pct. vs. TB in the majors over that stretch. ÊFell to 3-9 in their last 12 games at Tropicana Field and are 77-117 (.397) all-time in St. Petersburg, worst in baseball (min. 50 games).

CAVAN BIGGIO—Collected a pair of singles to extend his on-base streak to 31 games dating back to Aug 23, 2019, the longest active streak in base-ball…marks the longest streak by a Toronto hitter since José Bautista reached base safely in 33 consecutive games from Aug 7–Sep 26, 2016.

Over his 31 game on-base streak, is batting .318 (35-for-110) with 7 HR and 20 RBI…has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games, batting .352 (19-for-54) with 4 HR, 13 RBI and 13 runs over that stretch.

MATT SHOEMAKER—Did not factor in the decision in his first start since April 20, 2019 at OAK, when he suffered a left ACL and medial miniscus injury…allowed back-to-back singles with 1 out in the 1st in-ning but not another hit until Ji-Man Choi doubled in the 6th…marked his 10th consecutive start allowing 5 hits (or fewer)…was in line for the loss until Reese McGuire hit a game-tying homer in the 7th inning. Has a 1.82 ERA (26.2-IP, 6-ER) in his career against the Rays…min. 5 starts, this is the 4th-best mark all-time against the Rays behind Chuck Finley (1.12), Yu Darvish (1.54) and James Shields (1.67).ÊHas allowed 5 hits (or fewer) in four of his 5 starts against the Rays, while he has never allowed more than 3 runs against them.ÊHas a 1.90 ERA (23.2-IP, 5-ER) in 4 starts at Tropicana Field.ÊEach of his last 4 starts have come on the road, since April 9, 2019 at BOS, going 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA (20.2-IP, 6-ER) over that stretch.

REESE McGUIRE—Hit a game-tying solo homer off Pete Fairbanks in the 7th inning, his eighth career homer…three of those have been game-tying homers in the 7th inning (or later), following Aug 17, 2019 vs. SEA (off Anthony Bass) and Aug 3, 2019 at BAL (off Richard Bleier).

TEOSCAR HERNANDEZ—Went 0-for-4 to snap a 10-game hit streak.

LINE SCORE

123456789 RHELOB

Toronto (1-1)000000100-1809

Tampa Bay (1-1)00000103x-4504

HOME RUNSTm.Batter#DistanceTypeFieldCountPitcherInn.Score

TORReese McGuire1379 ft.soloright1-1Pete Fairbanks7th1-1

TOMORROW’S PROBABLE PITCHERS & GAME INFOLH Blake Snell (6-8, 4.29 in 2019) vs. TBD

Broadcast: FOX Sports Sun, WDAE 95.3 FM, WMGG 96.1 FMFirst Pitch: 1:10 p.m. Game 4 Opens: 10:10 a.m.

One scrimmage in, Raps still have some work to do — Toronto Sun

Having finally played someone other than themselves, the Raptors sound content with their progress in this NBA re-start but still focussed on cleaning off some rust that has set in over the long break. Read More

One scrimmage in, Raps still have some work to do — Toronto Sun

Having finally played someone other than themselves, the Raptors sound content with their progress in this NBA re-start but still focussed on cleaning off some rust that has set in over the long break.

Here is what head coach Nick Nurse took from it:

“Well, I think it told me that we looked OK,” Nurse began. “I think there’s, again, a lot of the stuff we talked about already. We expected different levels individually of conditioning, we saw that. We expected some inconsistent, out of rhythm play. We saw that. And we saw a lot of really good stuff. The ball moved, we got stops, our defence was pretty darn good. Especially when you look at the numbers after the game. It was .89 points per possession. That’s going to win you damn near every game. A lot of good things.”

But for Nurse it was also served to change the way he will approach the final two scrimmage games.

His initial intent was to ramp up the minutes of his starters and key rotation players but that changed for Nurse after the win over Houston.

“I thought we would ramp this way (upward hand motion) through the scrimmages, minutes-wise, and my thought today is maybe it will stay the same or even go the other way. I think the scrimmages are going to provide just an opportunity similar to last night, and we still have the eight regular season games to maybe ramp up.”

Pascal Siakam who looked in fine form throughout the game, said it pretty much came as advertised.

“ I think just that it was expected, it wasn’t gonna be pretty, it wasn’t gonna be the best performance or whatever but that’s the reason we have these scrimmage games to come in and get the rust off or whatever, get out there and get shots up, focus on defence, kinda get used to the environment and all those things so that’s what we’re working on,” Siakam said. “I think it was a good day, good game for our team, obviously we got the win, but also just getting out there and playing against somebody else, I mean, we’ve been playing against each other for a little while here.”

A GENTLE REMINDER

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sat through about a seven minute interview with various members of the media (mostly Toronto based) and didn’t have one question asked of him about the issue or social inequality or police reform or accountability that the NBA has been focussed on since its return.

Full disclosure, having been on most of these calls with players and coaches and management these past few weeks, that is a rarity but in this instance it happened and Hollis-Jefferson called us all out for it.

“One final thing I just wanted to say,” he began. “I didn’t say anything. I just wanted to see how the questions were set up and what you guys wanted to ask. Now some of you guys have the biggest platforms in the media and talking points and lots of people follow you guys so I want to challenge you all, man, to kind of … we know what it going on in the world and where our focus should be. I know basketball has been missed and it’s loved but there are a lot of crazy things going on in this universe and we need you guys along with a lot of other people to put this word out, to put this message out, that we need unity. We need love. We need positivity and that starts with us and then it starts with you guys because you guys get our message out. So please, please take this a little bit more seriously. I appreciate you guys.”

GETTING USED TO THE QUIET

The lack of any noise over what they actually create themselves has members of the Raptors a little unsure as they got their first taste of a game – or in this case a scrimmage – without actual fans.

Nick Nurse said he stopped short when he began to call out a defensive alignment when he realized all five of his own players and all five Rockets were hearing what he was saying.

“I caught myself stopping about halfway through because all 10 players were listening to me instead of just my five,” Nurse said. “I think when there’s crowd, music, your guys are used to kind of hearing you. That was noticeable, that you maybe are not gonna be able to just bark out whatever you wanna do, and if you do, they’re gonna know, they’re gonna hear it.”

Siakam said it was just going to take some getting used to.

“Obviously it’s an atmosphere we haven’t been in (before),” he said. “I made a joke that it looks like some of the arenas we wouldn’t play at but, nah, there’s nobody there, I think we just gotta figure out a way to give each other energy and I think the bench is gonna be important or whenever you’re on the bench, having that energy to kinda like boost your teammates, I think that’s what it’s gonna take.”

QUICK HITS

ESPN was reporting last night that the league is investigating Clippers guard Lou Williams who, while on an excused absence from the NBA campus, was photographed at an Atlanta Gentleman’s club on Thursday night. He could be looking at a 10-14 day quarantine before he can re-join his Clippers teammates … Nurse was asked by a reporter Saturday evening what his expectations were for the Raptors in the bubble. “We’re coming here to win the thing,” Nurse said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We like our team, we think we have incredible chemistry, and some toughness and great competitors, man. There’s some really special players on this team that play to win each and every night, and we just are going to see how far we can take it. And, for us, we set our goals high.”