Raptors game vs. Bulls tonight postponed with Toronto’s roster ravaged by COVID – Toronto Star

OG Anunoby became the eighth Toronto player to be put under the league’s health and safety protocols.

By Doug SmithSports Reporter

Wed., Dec. 22, 20214 min. read

Article was updated 54 mins ago

Oh, what might have been.

The NBA postponed the Raptors game in Chicago because Toronto couldn’t meet minimum roster requirements, a prudent and by-the-book decision that could only have been made Wednesday morning.

But it took away, for now at least, the possibility of another strange night for a franchise that has lurched its way through a variety of weird, mismatched and thrown-together groups in the last quarter-century.

Some examples:

  • In 2003, an eight-man Raptors team with a group of 10-day signees — Rafer Alston, Damone Brown and Art Long represented the entire backup unit — beat a Washington Wizards team that include Michael Jordan, Bryon Russell, Brendan Haywood and Charles Oakley. The win gave the roster-ravaged Raptors a 10-28 record in a season that would ultimately end 24-58 and mark the departure of coach Lenny Wilkens.
  • In the ridiculously bad 1997-98 season that began with the departure of president Isiah Thomas, saw the departure of franchise face Damon Stoudamire mid-season and ended with then-GM Glen Grunwald apologizing to booing fans at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Raptors used an astonishing 23 different players and put teams on the court that might not have won G League games, had the G League existed.
  • Last season, when the team suffered through a stretch when 37 players, coaches and staffers eventually tested positive for COVID-19, the Raptors once played a game using only six players. Not surprisingly, starters Malachi Flynn, Stanley Johnson, DeAndre’ Bembry, Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie with the lone backup being Aron Baynes were humbled 125-113 by the Indiana Pacers in what could have been the low point of a 27-45 season.

If the Raptors had been forced to play Wednesday and ran out an all-emergency group, including Nik Stauskas, Brandon Goodwin, Juwan Morgan and Tremont Waters it would have been quite something but, in the grand scheme of things, not unprecedented.

Hang on, though.

Chaos may have been averted when the league postponed Wednesday’s game but the crisis has not passed and a “no-guard, all-emergency” team pretending to be Raptors remains a possibility.

OG Anunoby (3) is reportedly the latest Raptors starter in COVID-19 protocols prior to tonight’s now-postponed game vs. the Bulls.

The Raptors currently have eight players — Pascal Siakam, Dalano Banton, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Malachi Flynn, Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby — in the league’s health and safety protocols and the only way for any of them to be cleared is to sit for a minimum of 10 days or return two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart.

The testing process will be constant between now and the team’s next scheduled game, Sunday in Cleveland, and there is a chance some players will come trickling back next week.

It may mitigate the need to sign emergency call-ups but the Raptors have protected themselves in that regard. They have not signed anyone officially and the 10-day clock on their emergency stint won’t begin until they do.

That wouldn’t be before Boxing Day, since the Raptors are not scheduled to gather as group until Christmas night in Cleveland. They will face mandatory testing when they arrive in Ohio and likely won’t be on the court together until Sunday morning.

The layers to this situation — the postponement, the ongoing COVID crisis in the NBA, the fate of the much-ballyhooed and promoted Christmas Day games — are many and always changing.

The Raptors could have played Wednesday if they had five members of the regular roster available but, with Khem Birch ruled out with knee swelling and Anunoby placed in the protocols, they fell below that number. They can get to five — and whichever 10-day players they can add — if Birch can play or if either Justin Champagnie (non-COVID illness) or David Johnson (strained calf) are ruled in.

And there remains the possibility that some of the protocol players will return two negative tests a day apart and be cleared.

It is all unclear, though, and sends the Raptors into the Christmas break shrouded in uncertainty.

The team was being extra cautious this week, sending only half the coaching staff to Chicago to keep numbers down and mitigate risk. Nick Nurse, Adrian Griffin, Nate Bjorkgren, Trevor Gleeson and Earl Watson made the trip; the others remained in Toronto.

One holiday season celebration for the Raptors is off, however, regardless of how the next few days play out.

Danny Green, the last member of Toronto’s 2019 NBA championship team without his ring, was to receive it in a ceremony Tuesday when he and the Philadelphia 76ers are scheduled to play in Toronto. But with the COVID uncertainties and local rules that limit crowds at the Scotiabank Arena to half capacity, Green said on his podcast he would wait until an April game for the honour.

“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Green said on his social media feed. “My family and the fans deserve another moment to celebrate and I have no issue waiting.”

Green was simply making a pre-emptive move, though. He was placed under the league protocols and is likely to miss Tuesday’s game.

These are odd and rapidly changing times and to even speculate what might happen between now and the next Raptors game would be futile. But not everything is unprecedented, not where rosters are concerned.


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