The Toronto Raptors can’t catch a break when it comes to COVID.
They already have to play all of their home games in Florida, and now the Raptors will be without star forward Pascal Siakam for their last three games before the All-Star break as he is forced to stay away from the team while he remains in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Siakam had already been forced to sit out Toronto’s 122-111 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night because of the protocols, which means he will sit four games at the minimum. It remains unclear why exactly Siakam is in the protocol, whether it be contact tracing or a possible positive test.
The Raptors had also been without head coach Nick Nurse and six of his top assistants on Friday night, as they too had to enter the protocol on Friday. Thankfully for the Raptors, Raptors assistant coach Sergio Scariolo had just finished his quarantine after returning from Poland, where he had been coaching Spain in some FIBA games, and was able to take charge of the squad.
Scariolo, who’s been with the team since 2018, actually has a pretty impressive basketball resume, having led Spain to a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, a bronze at the 2016 Games, and a gold at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
With the immediate futures of Nurse and his staff unclear, the Brescia, Italy native might be in charge for a few more games yet. Toronto seems to be in good hands with Scariolo and his slicked back hair paired with the tenaciousness of veteran point guard and team leader Kyle Lowry, who had (maybe) jokingly offered up his services as player-coach before the game on Friday.
The Raptors’ next tilt comes on Sunday evening, when they head to Amalie Arena to take on the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are a tough team right now with Zach LaVine playing out of his mind of late, but we still like Toronto’s -5.5 point spread at -111 NBA odds as one of the best NBA picks for Sunday night’s action.
Toronto has been on a bit of a roll lately, winning five of their past seven games as they put their ugly 2-8 start to the season in the rearview mirror for good. Though the Raptors will miss the 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game on 45/37/87 shooting that Siakam was providing them with in February, Toronto has more than enough quality to make up for the 2020 All-Star’s absence.
The backcourt duo of Lowry and 2021 All-Star snub Fred VanVleet as well as a plethora of exciting emerging wing players should be able to keep the Raptors in solid shape through the All-Star break until Nurse, Siakam, and company can return to the team.