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Bobby Webster was a little more than 24 hours away from his fourth draft as general manager of the Raptors.
The start of free agency was on the horizon less than 48 hours after the draft.
Training camps are set to open two weeks in two weeks.
Each event entails months and months of preparation and planning. Never before have all three been so close on the calendar.
But looming over all of it like a black cloud that just won’t go away is the prospect unique to the Raptors of nailing down a place to play this year and somewhere to hold training camp.
No other team in the NBA has these issues. All 29 U.S.-based clubs are focussed solely on the construction of their respective rosters whether that’s draft related or in free agency.
Webster only wishes his schedule was that uncluttered.
The Raptors must keep pace on those issues with their 29 partners in the league while concurrently trying to convince the Canadian government they can remain in Toronto and host games safely while not endangering the Canadian public but also looking into which alternative site, should the Canadian government not be swayed by the Raptors arguments, to host games and training camp.
“Nothing is finalized,” Webster said Tuesday. “I think as you can probably imagine the number of collective work hours spent on this every single day, you can probably imagine all the different paths. Obviously we have to work with the NBA, we have to work with wherever we do training camp, where we would play at, so there’s just in some ways an infinite number of boxes to check in each location. So we’re doing that in a couple different ones and obviously we hope to have some resolution obviously in Toronto or the alternate location here as soon as possible.”
This isn’t just multi-tasking the Raptors are doing right now, it’s multi-tasking X ten.
Meanwhile reports surfaced yesterday that the league is telling teams they must be in their home market no later than Nov. 30 to begin coronavirus testing.
Again 29 other teams know where that is going to be, Toronto does not.
“We are working on … a kind of parallel path here which is we want to stay in Toronto but as we all know time is of the essence and we are also working on a path to play elsewhere,” Webster said. “We want to be in Toronto. We want to play here, but we are also realistic about the timing and respectful of the protocols Public Health has to go through so it’s a little bit of both. It doesn’t necessarily affect our operations. I think we all know we’ll run a basketball team and the 72 games will get played but just where that is probably more of a … drain on personal decisions and families which always looms large in this industry.”
There is no definitive timeline about nailing down where the team will play. Webster would only say he anticipated a final answer in the near future. He clearly would like to provide one sooner than later.
“At some point (assuming Toronto is not an option) we’re asking people here to uproot their lives and go to a place that, you know, they may potentially be away from their families for six to seven months,” Webster said. “So I think we want to be respectful of that, and we want people to feel like we’re going somewhere where we feel safe and they feel like they can settle in.”
AS FOR THE DRAFT
Webster made it clear that whatever challenges the pandemic posed to the Raptors’ draft preparations were overcome.
“I think the pandemic taught us all (about) adaptability and being flexible so while we missed out on a few of those typical draft experiences, I think what maybe we gained was we got to talk to — I don’t even know — probably upwards of 70 kids which we wouldn’t typically do,” Webster said. “It forced us to watch a lot more film so just a lot of different ways of evaluation and as has been stated elsewhere we won’t know how much it hurt or helped the league in the evaluation until a couple of years down the line. But as of right now, we don’t feel any less prepared than we had in the past.”
Besides the unique circumstances team’s went through in their draft run-up, Webster believes what makes this draft different from previous one’s is the lack of consensus on the talent available between the 10th and 40th picks.
“There’s just a ton of uncertainty in the middle of the draft, and I kind of feel that and sense that maybe different than in years past,” Webster said. “So, there might be some uncertainty about evaluating the players but I think, at the same time, there’s just a large chunk of guys in the middle here that it’s really hard to pick where are they going to go. Maybe we have a guy at 10 who goes 40 and maybe they have a guy who’s 40 who goes 10.”
With the Raptors picking 29th in the first round, that could create a scenario where they land a talent they had no business landing.
Of course that wouldn’t be the first time that has happened with this management team.
ODDS AND ENDS
Webster took the opportunity to reiterate that pending restricted free agent Fred VanVleet remains the team’s top priority this shortened off-season … Even if the Raptors end up starting the year playing their schedule out of Tampa or Nashville or somewhere other than Toronto, there remains a distinct possibility that they could be back in Toronto before the season finished. “There is going to be, as you all have seen, a natural break in the season, so there would be an opportunity to transition back,” Webster confirmed.
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