Raptors’ VanVleet talks COVID-19 experience: ‘I wouldn’t wish it on anybody’

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Fred VanVleet has been giving out a lot of hugs lately, for the simple fact that he’s thrilled to know the worst of his COVID-19 experience is now over.

For the Toronto Raptors, that news couldn’t come quickly enough.

VanVleet and three other Raptors – Pascal Siakam, Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw – were back with the team for practice Tuesday, after missing more than two weeks for virus-related reasons. Siakam, Flynn and McCaw are questionable to play Wednesday in Detroit; VanVleet and OG Anunoby are likely to remain out until at least Friday’s home game in Tampa, Florida against Utah.

VanVleet revealed that he tested positive for the virus, adding that the symptoms gave him some problems.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” VanVleet said. “But I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing and I know there’s a lot of people that didn’t make it through COVID. So, my thoughts and my heart are with the families and people that’s been affected by this thing that weren’t as fortunate as I was – as I am.”

Siakam has missed six games, while VanVleet and the other Raptors have missed five. Toronto was also without coach Nick Nurse and some assistants for some of that time; the Raptors won the first game without Nurse, but one game was postponed and the other five all become losses since.

“It’s been a rough stretch for everybody, not just the guys that were locked up,” VanVleet said. “The rest of the guys that were trying to put the pieces together, I feel for them.”

But the Raptors have had some mini-celebrations in recent days, as players and coaches return to the mix.

“Actually almost had a whole roster out there tonight,” Nurse said after practice Tuesday. “I was running some 5-on-0 and had to run three teams, believe it or not. Big jump forward.”

VanVleet said he was dealing with body aches, a fever and other issues. He also had to separate himself from his family and teammates immediately after testing positive.

“At that point, it was just a matter of trying to get somewhere and get isolated and get away from my kids and my girl and my family,” VanVleet said. “I hunkered down. I had it. I had symptoms, a few days of symptoms. It was pretty rough, a few of those days.”

The league has had about 100 players test positive this season – 48 of those in the week before the start of training camp – and has had to reschedule 31 games for virus-related reasons, such as positive tests and contact tracing keeping teams from having enough players to take the floor. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid could not play in the All-Star Game for a contact tracing issue, and the New Orleans Pelicans had some players and staff get their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine this past weekend.

VanVleet learned on Sunday that he would be allowed back in the gym to start conditioning again Monday. He said he couldn’t even sleep Sunday night, in anticipation of finally getting back to work.

“I forgot how much I love this (stuff),” VanVleet said. “I really love the game. I really love basketball. I love being in the gym. I don’t always love everything that comes with it, but I really love the game. It’s just a blessing to be able to be back.”

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.