The Toronto Raptors have reduced everything. It is practice makes perfect.
Since the NBA season ended March 11, the Raptors have been pushed, pushed and kept apart from each other, even when they were together.
Saturday afternoon at the Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando, they were finally able to play basketball, as a team, together.
We are talking about practice. A real live basketball practice.
“It felt good, it felt good, it was a long time,” said guard Fred VanVleet after the Raptors finished their afternoon training. “I think you saw rust, some excitement and that sort of thing from the first day of school for everyone, the coaches and the players, it was good, it was good, we have to eliminate some things these next two weeks and get ready to play, but somehow for a marathon approach, we still have a long way to go. ”
Saturday was their first training to resume the regular season with their game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on August 1, the first of eight “classification” games they will play to conclude the regular season before the playoffs.
But they have come a long way just to get here. Their final obstacle was to be tested twice for the coronavirus about 24 hours from their arrival at Disney World in their team bus emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” from their two-week mini-camp in Naples, Florida.
A negative test for the COVID-19 virus would have been a setback not only for those involved but for the entire company back in the game because the NBA brought together 22 teams in what they hope in an antiseptic environment for conclude the 2019-2020 season and crown a champion in October.
Everything has become routine now.
“I would say it’s part of what you do [being tested]”Said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “I think the first two times we did it here, and certainly going back to March 11, when we left and we were tested, your level of anxiety was much higher than it is certain.” But I think it’s always crossing your fingers, hitting on the wood, good thoughts all this every time. ”
The Raptors learned mid-morning that everyone in their 37-member group had passed both tests. One more obstacle standing between them and the defense of their 2019 championship successfully crossed.
If the tests always come back negative, the Raptors can focus fully on the task at hand and perhaps even begin to taste the comfort that the NBA has made available to players in what stacks up like a long camp. Sumptuous summer, with everything from haircuts, manicures, fishing trips and golf outings as part of the non-basketball activities available.
But basketball is the main draw. They just had a final quarantine of 36 hours to make their way.
“I’m definitely used to quarantine. I have been in quarantine for months in my house. I haven’t been out for three or two months, so I’m used to it; two days is nothing, “said Raptor forward Pascal Siakam. “It happened quickly. I found things to do, like video games, everything I can do to let the time pass. And just be mentally ready and be delighted to be back together as a team. ”
« [But] we just want to play, “he added. “I miss playing basketball. It’s definitely [feels] like a basketball atmosphere, and that’s all that really matters to me. ”
It is up to the nurse to figure out how to let their team know on the fly in unusual circumstances.
Her team having been limited to individual training sessions only during the last six weeks, the nurse decided to make her first practice since the beginning of March a relatively discreet outing, emphasizing work on five against five and rising up and down against a semblance of competition rather than letting the first day get carried away by exercises and corrections.
“Nick kept it light enough,” said VanVleet. “The training camp is usually more intense and more serious, I guess, when we have more time to prepare for the rest of the season instead of preparing for an entire season, it’s just a little bit different .
“And I think there is a level of confidence with the team we have, the management of the guys’ bodies, the injuries and just looking to the future, I think it will be a softer approach rather than to try to go back and do everything right away. ”
It’s a new situation for everyone, including coaches.
“I’m really trying to make my way now, to be honest with you,” said the nurse. “I had a few thoughts on, you know, what the structure of the practice would look like and we made it totally different from what we would normally have. Again, just depending on the situation, I think it’s important for us to play… So I started heavier than normal and I just told the guys to please watch themselves and don’t get carried away, we have a long way to go here today.
“But you know once again that it was very good … I mean, a lot of guys do a lot of things that we normally do from the start, which was great.
“Obviously there has been rust and things that come out that you need to watch out for or that we are going to have to change, but from a starting point it seems to be a very good starting point today for us . ”
Jumping back has never been so pleasant.