Thursday, June 17

COVID-19 outbreak has done great damage to Raptors, coach Nick Nurse says

The Toronto Raptors have never really recovered from a COVID-19 outbreak in their ranks, according to head coach Nick Nurse.

The Raptors finished the season with a 27-45 record and finished 12th in the East.

They were left out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

“I like to think this team could have done a lot better,” Nurse said on video conference Monday.

He recalled that the 2019 champions were performing well before COVID-19 hit.

This outbreak, at the turn of February and March, sidelined several important players including Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, as well as several Nurse assistants.

Toronto has lost nine in a row and ended March with a 1-13 record.

One of the most painful setbacks was March 11 against the Hawks in Tampa. The Raptors led by seven points with one minute on the clock, but Tony Snell’s last-second shot helped Atlanta win 121-120.

“It’s the kind of season that gives you motivation for the future,” said Nurse.

Two key Raptors questions surround the future of veteran guard Kyle Lowry and team president Masai Ujiri.

Nurse wants Ujiri back because, in her mind, the two men are “a good team”.

Lowry will be speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning. In Ujiri’s case, it will be Wednesday morning.

Nurse will have a busy off-season, including at least a few weeks as head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Team.

The Maple Leaf must win a last-ditch tournament to earn a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

This tournament will take place from June 29 to July 4, in Victoria.

The NBA Draft will be presented on July 29. The lottery for it will take place on June 22. The Raptors have a 7.5 percent chance of getting the very first pick.

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