Toronto Raptors think outside the bubble to make the team feel at home


TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors were the first NBA team to arrive in Florida. They traveled to Naples on June 22 and trained at nearby Fort Myers for a few weeks before moving to Disney’s Disney bubble on July 9, and they hope to be there for some time.

Thirty-seven members of the organization – including their 17 players – are in Orlando for the restart and will spend at least 63 days away from home. If everything goes as planned for the defending champions and they have the chance to return to the final, they could be absent for 114 days, a little less than four months.

Ultimately, players should be able to accommodate a few guests on campus, but for at least half of their stay, the only contact they will have with their loved ones will be by phone or computer.

Living in such an unusual and emotionally demanding environment for a long period of time will not be easy, but the Raptors are doing their part to make their players, coaches and team staff feel a little bit more at home.

When they first checked into Disney’s Gran Destino Tower last week, each member of the Toronto travel team found two framed photos of them with family and friends in their rooms – a small gesture of the team, but that has come a long way.

“It’s cool, man,” said the goalkeeper. Kyle Lowry. “It’s just one thing that the Raptors’ organization has always sort of [emphasized] it’s family, your family. So it’s cool. Nice gesture. ”

“I noticed him walking into my room,” said rookie keeper Terence Davis. “They had put up photos, one of me and my son, then one of all of my family members at a college game. It meant a lot, man. It really felt like they really care. Just seeing the photos was comforting. . ”

“It was huge,” said the guard. Patrick McCaw. “Coming into my room knowing that this is where I have to be for the next few months, walking around seeing my mom, my father, my sisters, my daughter, my daughter, it made me feel comfortable. It made everything a lot easier. Coming here was a huge commitment, but having their photo there was nice, it was a nice gesture. ”

The idea was born from the team’s “first family wall” in Toronto. When you enter the Raptors’ locker room at the Scotiabank Arena, one of the first things you will notice is the giant collage of family photos on the wall immediately to the left. Almost everyone in the organization – from top to bottom – is represented. They’ve had a variant of it for years.

The original plan was to recreate the wall in one of the hotel team spaces in Orlando. The idea of ​​dividing the photos, framing them and placing them in each individual room came from Karen Goodwillie – wife of Raptors assistant coach Jon Goodwillie. She made the suggestion to her husband and he took it to Teresa Resch, vice president of basketball operations and player development, who oversaw the project.

“Family plays such an important role in our organization and that only reflected that,” Resch told TSN. “It just shows that we know the people around you are important and they won’t be there, so if they can be there virtually [that’s big]. So I think it’s about recognizing that family is important during this time, recognizing that and not pretending that it’s easy to be away from the people that mean a lot to you for a long time. ”

It quickly happened. He had to. The NBA granted teams advanced access to install all their rooms in the bubble a week before arrivals, but each organization had a 24-hour window and could only send two representatives. If the Raptors were to execute their plan, they had to do it in just a few days.

Fortunately, they did not have to go get photos. Rae-Marie Rostant – a team services assistant – is the key person for the family’s first wall. Over the years, players and staff have sent her photos to use for pasting the locker room, so she already has them on file. She sent the images to Chad Sanders, general manager of the Raptors League branch, who had them printed in Naples. They also shipped approximately 75 frames to Florida. Bill Bevan and Will Crews, who work in team security, made the two-hour trip from Naples to Orlando on July 2 and installed the framed photos in each of the Raptors’ 37 hotel rooms.

“It was an organization-wide thing,” said Resch. “If we didn’t already have all these photos for this wall, we could never have done it.” The family has always been at the center of the team’s concerns, so it is only because of this that we were able to get there. . I think it was very well received by a lot of people because they didn’t know [we were doing it]. It was a surprise. ”

Having a few pictures on their dresser will not exactly make up for all the things they will miss, or have already missed being away from their families. Lowry must have wished his son a happy fifth birthday for FaceTime on Wednesday. For Oshae Brissett, holding her two-month-old daughter again will have to wait for her return. Fred VanVleet has two children under the age of three at home. Nick Nurse has two less than four. However, the gesture reinforces that they are all in the same boat.

” I think that [being away from family is] really another part of the puzzle, and it’s a big one, “said the nurse earlier this month. For me, I would say it starts with the conversation, when you meet Fred or Kyle, and you ask them how the wife and kids are, and what are they doing, and when was the last time you talked to them . There is a lot more going on than I would normally say. It’s not like we don’t do it normally, but there are a lot more now because we all show pictures and the like.

“I just think from my point of view, it’s another of those things that you would be more forgiving of. As, [for] example, [if] we are getting ready to start a meeting and at that point someone says oh, man, my child’s FaceTiming, and you say: take it, go out into the hall and take it and we’ll be waiting for you. ”

It’s the little details that make the difference. Under the direction of Jennifer Quinn, director of communications, the team “delighted” the entire floor of the hotel, decorating the hallway with team accessories, including “We The North” banners and a giant mural of the Toronto skyline.

“We will be very open to what the environment needs,” said Resch. “So we live there every day there and we react and find out how to get a little slice of house, and what it looks like there, to make everyone feel comfortable.” ”

With most of the league living in such close quarters, other teams and players will surely notice what the Raptors’ organization is doing to make their players and staff feel at home in the bubble. While positive word of mouth is not the main goal of treating people the right way, it is also not a bad reputation to have won. And what happens when other clubs inevitably try to imitate these little gestures?

“You know what they say – the NBA is a copy league,” said Resch. “And it goes beyond what is happening on the ground. So what do they say? Is copying the best form of flattery? So let’s [gladly] to be flattered. “


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