The Toronto Raptors are making their first NBA finals appearance in franchise history, and arguably, much of this is due to a key veteran member of the coaching team.
Meet Jon Lee – the Raptors’ Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. Lee has been with the Raptors for 10 years and has taken them from their Chris Bosh days, to their rebuilding stages, and now to the present day playing in the NBA finals. In February, Lee was given the NBA’s Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year Award and was recognized for his longtime commitment to the Raptors organization.
This isn’t to discredit the team’s success due to the amazing athletes that make up the roster (and their hard work), but we have to wonder, could there be a parallel between Lee’s consistency with the Raptors and their historic run in the current NBA playoffs?
Perhaps. After all, strength and conditioning can play a large role in ensuring athletes are moving efficiently and optimally. And while we can’t credit all of Lee’s behind-the-scenes work to just how good Pascal Siakam was last night scoring 32-points to lift the Raptors past the Warriors 118-109 in game one, it’s fair to say that Lee certainly has played an important role.
The media has covered Lee’s role with the Raptors before, and in 2017 a feature on Dat Winning quoted Lee saying,
“Every physical body is different, and every physical body that comes in here has different limitations. One workout for one guy may not work for another guy, so I have to constantly change and adapt to what their needs are. You’re almost like a chameleon adapting to all these different players, attitudes, motivations.”
That same year Lee also got a shoutout in the Players’ Tribune by former Raptors’ player Terrance Ross. Ross was with the Raptors from 2012 until 2017 and wrote,
“And I just wanted to give Jonny and The Game a special shout-out: First of all, because it’s been so much fun, and I’ve loved beating him at it. But mostly, because it’s such a good example of the bonds that I had on the Raptors. We took our mission as a franchise seriously. But we also knew that, the best way for us to have success in that mission, was to build these relationships across the board. To become a family.”
Ross’ reference of “The Game” was a three-part shooting series that he played with Lee. Obviously there was a lot at stake if you won, and if you are interested in what the ultimate prizes were for winning “The Game,” there’s more on that on the Players’ Tribune.
Lee’s impact was enough to be recognized by the league this year, and when it comes to his programs there’s some variation depending on at what point of the season it is, individual player needs, injuries, and more. In the most recent video, Lee talks about his role on game days specifically and how his main duty is to see the players either individually or in pairs and help them with their [muscle] activation ahead of tip off.
In the past we’ve looked at the essential qualities a strength coach must have, and at the top of the list we found charisma. That’s certainly in place for Lee who’s inspired and helped keep the Raptors healthy and on the top of their game this year.
While we don’t know the specific training regimen of the Raptors at the moment, whatever it is, Lee is doing what he can to make sure they are game ready and peaking at the right moment, and it’s working. The Raptors picked up game one, and Lee and the team (Drake, too) now have a couple days of rest to recover and prepare for game two.
Feature image from @raptors Instagram page.