Raptors reward sports science guru McKechnie with VP role, contract extension

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TORONTO — From DeMar DeRozan’s shoelace to Kawhi Leonard’s load management, Toronto Raptors sports science guru Alex McKechnie has earned a reputation for coming up with innovative solutions for rehabilitating the injuries of NBA players.

The Raptors are rewarding his efforts with a promotion and a contract extension.

The defending NBA champions announced Tuesday that McKechnie has been promoted to vice president, player health and performance.

The native of Glasgow, Scotland, was the architect of the now famous load-management system to ease Leonard back into competition after the star forward missed most of the 2017-18 season with a quad injury.

Leonard missed 22 regular-season games, and every back-to-back, to ensure he remained healthy throughout the gruelling 2018-19 campaign. It paid off, as Leonard suited up for all of the Raptors’ playoff games, leading the team to its first championship and earning Finals MVP honours in the process.

McKechnie already had made a name for himself as a top trainer before the load management scheme. In the second round of the 2016 playoffs, McKechnie developed an oddball treatment involving red shoelaces to help DeRozan deal with a sprained thumb.

During timeouts, McKechnie wrapped DeRozan’s thumb tightly from top to bottom to reduce swelling. DeRozan credited the treatment for helping score 34 points in a Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat. The contribution was huge, as the Raptors went on to win the second-round series in seven games.

“It hurts like hell, but I like that it helps,” DeRozan said at the time. “I’m pretty sure he’s walking around with his shoelace in his pocket right now.”

McKechnie joined the Raptors in 2011 to oversee athletic training, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning.

He previously worked for 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, including eight as the athletic performance co-ordinator.

McKechnie graduated from the Leeds School of Physiotherapy and came to Canada in 1974 to be the head physiotherapist of the varsity athletic program at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

He also served as physiotherapist for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League (1974-82) and the 1976 Canadian Olympic soccer team.

McKechnie was a consultant for the Vancouver Canucks (1980-2000) and the Canadian senior men’s soccer team in 2000 that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

He was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.