‘It’s not acceptable’: Raptors’ Boucher realizes error of breaking quarantine

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher wasn’t trying to be rebellious the day he got caught breaking his self-quarantine.

Rather, like the rest of us trying to keep our fridges stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was going on an emergency supply run.

“What really happened to me was just that for a minute I needed to get stuff for me to survive, really.” Boucher said in a conference call Wednesday. “Like, I didn’t have nothing and I didn’t want to trust Uber Eats or anything and all that, especially knowing the way the virus was spreading. So I got my test and they were saying that I was negative. So now I know that I can’t do nothing to people, so I just wanted to get my groceries done.”

Boucher was spotted at a downtown Toronto Loblaws a few days after a mandate went out from the Raptors that players must self-quarantine, and after they found out their tests results came back negative for COVID-19.

The Raptors’ final game prior to the suspension of the basketball season was against Rudy Gobert — the NBA’s patient zero — and the Utah Jazz.

With fears beginning to rise over the severity of the COVID-19 crisis, the photo of Boucher buying groceries prompted widespread shaming and caused the Toronto big man to issue an apology via his Instagram story.

Recalling the incident, Boucher said he realized the error of his ways.

“It’s not like I wanted to be seen,” said Boucher. “Somebody just took a picture, knew where I was. It’s unfortunate. I can’t do nothing, but that’s not something I was trying to do. Nobody wants to get that virus. I don’t want to give it to nobody if I had it.

“Definitely, I should have just stayed home and that’s why I felt like I had to apologize, because even if I knew that I didn’t have it, it’s not acceptable.”

It’s important to remember how different everything was when Boucher decided to make that grocery run.

At the time, the public had only just begun to take the novel coronavirus seriously, and the need for social distancing — as well as the consequences of failing to do so — hadn’t hit home as hard yet.

This is evident in how surprised Boucher was when the NBA suspended its season on March 11.

“It was kind of shocking,” said Boucher. “We weren’t expecting all this to go down that way. We heard all the talk about coronavirus and that, but, at the same time, we didn’t think (it would) go through that.”

Quite frankly, very few people in sports did until the NBA decided to become the first major North American sports league to hit the pause button.

So Boucher’s indiscretion — as potentially dangerous to others as it could’ve been — seems to be indicative of much of the population’s thinking only a month ago.

He now knows better and has been occupying his time playing a lot of video games — he’s popped up on fellow Raptor Malcolm Miller’s Twitch stream playing Call of Duty — and keeping sharp and in shape by watching film and video workout sessions via Zoom with the Raptors strength and conditioning coaches.

It’s a far cry from the usual routine Boucher was locked into during the season, but the 27-year-old seems to have settled in.

Given how things were going for him and the Raptors in 2019-20, it’s hard not to think about what-ifs.

Sporting the third-best record in the NBA before the season suspension, the Raptors were putting together a stirring title defence after much doubt coming into the season. The possibility of a cancelled season seems particularly heartbreaking for the Raptors, but given the circumstances around the world right now, Boucher doesn’t see that as much of a concern.

“We just want the world to go back the way it was,” said Boucher. “So it’s kinda hard to be thinking about, ‘Oh, we lost the championship,’ when there’s way bigger stuff at stake.”

Even though Boucher is taking a more worldly view of things, he did offer some time of personal introspection to how he thought his season was going.

An undrafted free agent in 2017, Boucher has built on a big campaign last season that saw him named the G League’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. In 2019-20, he’s averaged 6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and a block per game in just over 13 minutes a night. Boucher has been thrust into a much larger role than the Raptors likely intended because of their many injuries, most notably to Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, and has made the most of the opportunity.

“That I can play,” said Boucher of what he believes he has proved this season. “Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that I can get better at, but I think that with my technique I was able to show right out of the door and kind of find ways to help the team win. I think that’s what’s most important. That I could be effective in the game. I think I’ve learned that.”

The positive steps Boucher has taken this season could end up paying dividends for him in the not-so-distant future, too.

He’s set to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and given what he’s shown he can do as a backup, energy big, he could be in for a raise on the $1.98 million qualifying offer that the Raptors will be required to make in order to retain his services.

Could another team swoop in and make an offer the Raptors either can’t or would be unwilling to match? Anything’s possible in free agency, and is something to keep in mind with the off-season possibly creeping closer.

But Boucher’s not really thinking about his pending free agency, as his mind is focused solely on the task at hand.

“I mean, at the end of the day, we don’t know what’s gonna happen. You and me are both clueless right now, so at this point I’m just trying to focus on health and making sure my family’s good,” he said. “I knew this stuff was coming so, obviously, it’s gonna be a process, but for me right now that’s not what I’m thinking about.

“There’s way more important things to be thinking about right now.”

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