Media Day Gets Upstaged By All-Star Announcement and Drake

There is no question Monday’s Media Day might have been upstaged by a couple of announcements prior to it. First it was confirmed that Toronto will indeed host the 2016 All-Star Game as part of their 20th season in the NBA. The news that NBA will takes its mid-season showcase outside of the United States for the first time ever is big. That almost seemed to be upstaged by another announcement that Toronto’s own Drake will serve as a global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors.

What exactly does that mean? It really wasn’t exactly spelled out. It does include Drake being a big part of the organization of the All-Star Weekend in 2016. It also includes his involvement in the re-branding of the Raptors. Which will not include a name change as many had been thinking could happen. In 2016 the Raptors will still have the same name but a brand new look and perhaps colour scheme.

These seem like normal things that an outsider from the entertainment world would make sense to be a part of as it was done with the Nets with their move to Brooklyn in which Jay-Z played a major role.  He was a minority owner of the franchise though at the time. Drake is not becoming a partner in MLSE anytime soon.

The elephant in the room is what if anything Drake brings to the table in terms of recruiting NBA superstars to come play ball in his city of Toronto. It has been a constant storyline in the history of this franchise of having trouble not only recruiting free-agents to come to Toronto but keeping their own stars.

I am not exactly on the pulse of pop culture but I am not blind to the fact Drake obviously is someone who is cool or whatever the kids call cool today. He is friends with some pretty elite NBA Superstars at the top of that list Lebron James. In fact Drake has been seen around the Heat just as much as the Raptors at times. What exactly Drake can do that people have failed to do for 18 years remains unclear.

After all despite what some have been led to believe NBA Players love Toronto as a place to come party. It is clearly one of the best road stops in the NBA. Liking a city and living in a city is where the problem lies. Can Drake bridge that gap and help players understand that Toronto is a great place to call home? He can’t change Canadian Tax Laws…He can’t make crossing the border any easier.

What he can do is make Toronto seem cool and a place to be. Another even younger Toronto native has expressed his desire to play in Toronto named Andrew Wiggins who most likely will be at the 2016 All-Star Weekend wearing a NBA Jersey for some team.

That said Raptor after Raptor that came to the media scrums were asked about both Drake being a part of the Raptors and the fact there is a large faction that may want to see them fail to get a shot at Wiggins. The answers on both were far from surprising. They all gave their endorsement to the idea of Drake being involved and were more concerned about winning than Wiggins.

Masai Ujiri does not have Drake as his assistant general manager although at times you wondered with all this talk of Drake. He ultimately is the man that will have to decide the future and if he wants to take his lottery ticket or allow this group to stay together. He is not really committed to anything at this point. He has positive things to say about the current group he has but is not exactly willing to wait forever. The Raptors started last season at 4-13 prior to the Rudy Gay trade and even after were only a borderline .500 team. Safe to say that will not be good enough this year.

Dwane Casey’s position seems fairly clear given his contract status he has to win. Kyle Lowry in a contract year regardless of the Raptors’ future and his with the team has to perform for his own personal career. Rudy Gay sits with an option to become a free agent in a market place that could be starving for a top star talent to enter it. He however must play to level he did to earn his monstrous current contract to even consider it.

What it comes down to is there are a lot of people looking for the same goal to make the Raptors a winner but the road to get there is different from depending on where you sit in all of this. The wild-card to the whole equation might be the positive left from the Colangelo era in Jonas Valanciunas. He even knows who Drake is but more importantly the NBA all knows who he is thanks to a breakout performance in Las Vegas this summer.

It wouldn’t be the Raptors without more questions than answers at the end of the day. They have been at the bottom for years and now can the climb to the top of the world like Drake? It is hard to make a hit record but 18 years in Toronto have proven it much harder to build a winner on the basketball court.

Will Drake have a real impact or is he just latest celebrity to adopt a team and become part of the narrative? Like Jack Nicholson has done for years with the Lakers and Spike Lee for a long time with the Knicks. Better it be Drake than Justin Bieber I suppose.

At the end of the day if you love it or hate it Drake is here. But really there is not a downside to this move by MLSE that I can think of. If Drake ends up doing very little it was a well intentioned attempt to use someone that wants to help. This isn’t like giving Master P a tryout to play for the team in exhibition games. As long as Drake isn’t caught keeping Amir Johnson up late in the Raptors practice gym all should be ok.

This Week In Raptorland Is Back For Another Season

We are back for another season of This Week in Raptorland. I am down covering media day on Monday and will have stuff from that in the next episode. In this first episode myself and our new co-host John Chick talk about the outlook for the Toronto Raptors as this season is about to get underway.

John rights for CBC on the NBA and the Raptors and is as I stated an old friend of mine. I want to thank Josh Lewenberg for all his work last season on the podcast. I wish Josh all the best as his career grows with TSN. It is good to be back for another season. This year we are going try and keep the podcast down to 30-45 minute look at the Raptors and NBA each week. Will nail down a day that you can expect once the official season is underway.


Amir Johnson Is The Toronto Raptors Unconventional Face Of The Franchise

When you think of someone as the “Face of a Franchise” that person is often the best player on the team. If your talking about the Toronto Raptors that would be Rudy Gay currently. However his future with the Raptors seems to be up in the air. He also almost seems like he is not really a Raptor at this point.

DeMar DeRozan was hoped to be this face for the franchise but it is becoming clearer that he is not to that level. He is a good player and can be a part of success but as we have seen at times when he is the focus of attention on the floor as the number one option it doesn’t seem to click.

Jonas Valanciunas seems like a candidate to be the future face of this franchise. He has exciting upside and a lot of talent currently. He does have an outgoing and dynamic personality but is still adjusting to the language and culture. Some day he may well be the man but that day isn’t today.

Why does the “Face of Franchise” have to be the best player on the floor? Well it really doesn’t have to be. In the real definition of what a face of franchise should be is who is the player that most represents a franchise to you.

If we use that simple definition of what the term means the answer for the Toronto Raptors is very simple.

Amir Johnson is that guy that you think of first when you think of the Toronto Raptors as a hardcore fan. After all who is more active in the community and with the fan base than this guy? I am not talking in the stuff the Raptors do in terms of PR where the players are asked to do this or that by the organization to do this or that.

I am confident in saying no one told Amir Johnson to start taking out 50 fans to dinner and game ever year with his Roll with Amir Event. No one told Amir Johnson to go buy out stores with Drake’s new album and give them away to people for free. No one said go hire a make-up artist to dress you up like a zombie and go be part of some zombie walk. Go to the UFC and mug for the cameras. Go to Leafs games and go to Blue Jay games. Oh and while your at it if you could wear some of the teams gear that would be great too.

The simple fact of it all is Amir Johnson is the most visible figure in Toronto on the Raptors. He has worked hard to make fans happy with contest after contest and engaging the fan base as much as any player could be expected too and going far beyond that.

This effort has been consistent regardless of his personal performance or the team’s performance as a whole.  I have attempted on many occasions to try and understand what is behind these effort by this man. He always responds with a similar answer of that is just who he is.

In a world that is full of a lot of fake people Amir Johnson is a genuine gem in a sea of phoney folks. He has an ability to just connect with people from stars like Drake, to his team, to his fans. He treats everyone like they are important and that even includes some blogger who isn’t always around covering the team.

If you have a conversation with Amir Johnson and don’t feel a little better about him or yourself it is next to impossible. He may not produce the numbers or have the role that you would consider him that natural “Face of the Franchise” but to me when I think Toronto Raptors he is the face that pops in my head.

He embraced this city when yet another superstar turned its back on Toronto. He will always have a special place in Raptors history. I have told him personally that I feel he will be loved in this city long after his days on a basketball court are done. He is a modern version of what Jerome Williams was for this franchise. Even at the height of Vince Carter’s popularity the fans loved the JYD.

Amir Johnson to me is the best example of a pro athlete that truly gets what it is all suppose to be about. Not just how much you make, how much you can do to further your personal career but about the fans that pay the bills at the end of the day.

I look forward to seeing no player more on Media Day on Monday than Amir Johnson.


Week That Was In The NBA

All-Star George signs five-year extension with Pacers
NBA news reports, Pacers Paul George has signed a deal valued between $80 million and $90 million that could ultimately be worth more than $100 million if George hits an escalator clause.

DeMarcus Cousins nears extension
Marc Stein ESPN reports, Two sources told ESPN.com that Cousins could actually have a deal wrapped up before the Kings open training camp next week in Santa Barbara, Calif.

New York City to host NBA All-Star 2015
NBA news reports, New York City has been selected to host NBA All-Star 2015. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played at Madison Square Garden. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will be held at Barclays Center.

Finally..The NBA's Best Will Be Coming To Toronto in 2016
DNB reports, The NBA All-Star Game is finally coming to Canada and Toronto in 2016. Tim Leiweke when he came in to take over MLSE had one of his priorities for the organization was to land this All-Star game for their twenty year in the league anniversary.

Lakers Kobe Bryant Weeks Away From Training
Pro Bball reports, Lakers fans are slowly coming to accept the fact that Kobe Bryant is not going to start the season on time and his injury really is serious.  Bryant remains a “few weeks away” before advancing to full-weight bearing running and then basketball-related activities.

Heat to open training camp in the Bahamas
NBA news reports, the Miami HEAT are holding training camp at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

Shaq joining Kings ownership group
NBA news reports, the Kings announced Monday that Shaquille O'Neal has acquired a minority stake in the team.

James Johnson Signs With The Atlanta Hawks
Pro Bball reports, Small forward James Johnson, formerly with the Bulls, Raptors and most recently the Kings, has signed what is believed to be a non-guaranteed training camp invite with the Atlanta Hawks.

Canadian Kelly Olynyk Still Slowed By Plantar Fasciitis
Pro Bball reports, Canadian Kelly Olynyk has been slowed down by a plantar fasciitis injury this summer that caused him to miss playing for Team Canada at the FIBA Americas tournament, but the young center says it is getting better.  Olynyk was drafted 13th overall by the Boston Celtics in June.

Prosecutors to press forward with Sullinger's assault case
NBA news reports, Prosecutors say they intend to pursue domestic assault charges against Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger even though his accuser wants to drop the case.

Lou Williams hopes to be back from injury before All-Star Break
Kris Willis SB Nation reports, Williams hasn't been cleared for full contact yet.  Williams indicated with almost a sly grin that he was supposed to say that he is on schedule to return sometime before the All-Star break.

France Wins Gold At Eurobasket
Pro Bball reports, France defeated Lithuania 80-66 to win their first ever European Championship and the Spurs Tony Parker won the 2013 Eurobasket MVP.

Raptors' Amir Johnson bought 2 stores' full stock of Drake's new album to give away to fans
Dan Devine Ball Don’t Lie reports, The willingness to shell out shekels to both support a hometown boy made good and give back to Raptors fans will only further entrench Johnson as one of the Raptors' most popular players.

Al Iannazzone on twitter reported, Cole Aldrich makes 17 players signed for camp. It will be 19 when the #Knicks ink Ike Diogu and Josh Powell.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Finally..The NBA's Best Will Be Coming To Toronto in 2016

Yesterday, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun broke some pretty exciting news for basketball fans in this country. The NBA All-Star Game is finally coming to Canada and Toronto in 2016. Tim Leiweke when he came in to take over MLSE had one of his priorities for the organization was to land this All-Star game for their twenty year in the league anniversary. It has been something that has been a long time coming as many NBA cities in expansion prior to the Raptors and Grizzlies were given an All-Star Game fairly early in their existence.

People might focus on what this means for the Raptors but it is bigger than just the Raptors. The NBA has been having an influx of Canadian talent in recent years and the fact the NBA’s showcase event will be on Canadian soil will be a big deal for all of these Canadian kids.

At the top on that list is likely a player not even in the NBA yet with Andrew Wiggins. Is it safe to just book him in the Slam Dunk Contest for 2016 now? I mean he is already considered the consensus number one overall pick for next season’s NBA Draft. The thought of him in the Air Canada Centre competing for a slam dunk crown is pretty storybook like in nature.

It is nothing to what it could be if he was doing it sporting Raptors colours. It seems less and less likely that will be a reality. What people have also brought up and it is a solid point this is a chance to sell the city of Toronto to NBA players. However it has never been about players not liking the city of Toronto. I am confident that Toronto as a host to the NBA will be a big hit with players. They love the city and it has always been a favourite stop for teams in the NBA for years.

A great place to party and a great place to live are not always the same thing at the end of the day. I love Toronto personally but for me it is the place I visit not the place I live. I think the NBA players have a very similar view of the city. Changing that mentality will be hard to accomplish with a great weekend bash of partying and fun in Toronto in 2016.

The Raptors two years from now could look completely different so to speculate on who might be an all-star for the Raptors in this game would be fairly silly at this point. What will be interesting is how Toronto reacts to Vince Carter on this weekend.

No I am not expecting Vince to be an All-Star in 2016, in fact who knows if he is even still playing at that point? What I can almost guarantee though is the NBA will make him part of the show that weekend as he is the most recognizable Raptor in the history of this franchise. Will Toronto finally forgive this guy? Who knows but it will be interesting to see.

Bottom line is the best in the NBA and the world are coming to Toronto in 2016 and that is something exciting. While the All-Star Weekend itself has lost its lustre in the last decade it still is a huge event. If you’re hoping to get tickets your best plan is to become famous in the next 2 years. The average person doesn’t really get in the building at All-Star Weekend anywhere close to the action. Still the NBA will be in town like it never has been before.


Point Guard as Always Is A Point of Interest In Raptorland

When we take a first glance at this Raptors roster for the upcoming season it seems fairly obvious who the starting five will be with this squad. Jonas Valanciunas will be the starting center, Amir Johnson likely is your starting power forward, and Rudy Gay in at small forward, DeMar DeRozan is your shooting guard and Kyle Lowry at the point. I would think it is safe to say that all five of these guys can be fairly confident entering training camp that they will have there names called for the Raptors first game of the NBA season.

Kyle Lowry seems to be the one with a lot of people behind him that could steal his minutes away. It was a disappointing season for Lowry who was not able to establish himself as the clear starter over Jose Calderon last season. This was what the plan was when the Raptors spent a first round pick to acquire him from Houston.

The Raptors made little if any effort to re-sign Lowry to a contract extension as he enters that last year of it this season. The Raptors did however bring in D.J Augustin and Dwight Buycks and after failing a medical initially have extended a camp invite to Julyan Stone. Combining these factors you could logically assume the Raptors have sent a message to Kyle Lowry.

While there is no question that Lowry should be the started on opening night as long as he is healthy and active on the roster. It will be very interesting to see how these other 3 players perform behind him. The Raptors if they were to gain confidence in two of the three are left with some options when it comes to Lowry.

Obviously it is Lowry’s best personal interest to have a great season in a contract year. If he is able to that the question will be come to the Raptors risk keeping him and hoping to re-sign him in the off-season. Point guards considered to be starters do not come cheap on the free-agent market. So would the Raptors consider moving Lowry at the deadline?

One factor will be the confidence they have in the guys playing behind him. Another might be Rudy Gay as the two are close friends and Gay has an option at the end of the season which he too could become a free agent. Given the amount his contract is for that would be highly unlikely, Taking that into account what happens with Lowry may in fact be a positive or negative in Rudy Gay and his desire to remain in Toronto.

Gay himself is coming off a rather down season in his career in terms of numbers. Depending on what the Raptors record ends up looking like it is not out of the question that you could see him move as well as a Lowry.

At the end of the day, Lowry is the without question best player the Raptors have at the position but if he is not the long term answer it would seem wise to try and get something for him. What will make the choice easier or harder will be the performance of the three men that enter camp behind him on the depth chart. They also will be no doubt battling with each other as well as it seems highly unlikely the Raptors would enter the season with four point guards on the roster.

As camp is set to begin as it has been for many seasons in the past the point guard position should have a lot of focus and attention.


What exactly are we rooting for this season with the Raptors?

A week from today the Raptors will have Media Day and another season will be underway. Aside from that I am not sure what to expect or more importantly what to root for in terms of this franchises future. Even the most optimistic but logical Raptors fan can only at best hope for this team to finish in sixth. In a season where other NBA Franchises have all but started a marketing campaign to land the number one pick and Andrew Wiggins.

It has been a significant off-season in terms of change for the Raptors in the front office. In terms of the on court product the major change is Andrea Bargnani is finally gone. The Raptors have added a lot of depth pieces for the most part this off-season. Tyler Hansbrough, D.J Augustin, Steve Novak and others. This team is dependant on the pieces that made up this roster last season.

Dwane Casey did survive the shake-up in the front office but you have to wonder what he would have to do to keep his job after this season?  Make the playoff would seem to be obvious answer. Which leads to the confusion I have this season and the future. If the Raptors do make the playoffs is that really a good thing?  It would be if you can envision this group developing and getting better over time.  What I see as the best outlook for this current group is to be the Atlanta Hawks had been in the last decade or so.

A team that makes the playoffs but really have very little expectations beyond the occasional chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs. If you go back and remember what we have heard from Masai Ujiri and more importantly Tim Leiweke have painted a much different vision for this franchises future.

Aside from Jonas Valanciunas I fail to see the Raptors player that has this huge amount of potential let to achieve. Raptors have a lot of guys that are at best a step below all-star level talents. You could say that about Rudy Gay, Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry at there very best are borderline all-star talents.

I find myself entering a season wondering what exactly I am rooting for and what is best for the long term future of this franchise?

At least the steps have been made to eliminate the failure of the past as move forward by eliminating the last connections to the Chris Bosh era with Bargnani and Calderon being in the past. It took far too long to do that and the Raptors now are truly in a phase of rebuilding. This current group has a two year window to prove if they belong in the future of this franchise going forward.

It is just unfortunate the Raptors are not in a true position to bottom out with Andrew Wiggins being available in the upcoming draft. He really could be a difference maker for this franchise in the long term. This is a case of unfortunate timing.  A Canadian superstar that wants to be a Raptor and the Raptors may end up with a ticket to a first round playoff exit instead of the NBA lottery.

It doesn’t exactly inspire you for this upcoming season does it?


Week That Was In The NBA

Pro Bball Report Ranks Every NBA Team

Ranking The Top Five NBA Eastern Conference Teams
Bulls, HEAT, Nets, Pacers and Knicks

Ranking The NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Hopefuls

Pistons, Raptors, Hawks, Wizards, Bucks and Cavaliers

Ranking The Top Five NBA Western Conference Teams

Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Rockets and Warriors.

Ranking The NBA Western Conference Playoff Hopefuls

Grizzlies, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Pelicans

Ranking The Worst Teams In The NBA

Celtics, Kings, Lakers, Bobcats, Jazz, Magic, Suns and 76ers

NBA News

Wizards Chris Singleton And Emeka Okafor Injured

Pro Bball Report says, The Washington Wizards reported today that they lost two players to injury heading into training camp in less than two weeks from now.  Chris Singleton will have surgery to repair a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal of his left foot and will be out of action for 6 to 8 weeks.  Emeka Okafor was diagnosed with herniated C4 cervical disc in his neck.  The herniated disc was discovered by an MRI after Okafor complained about discomfort in his neck.  He is out indefinitely.

Grizzlies ranked No. 1 sports franchise by ESPN The Magazine

Memphis Commercial Appeal reports, ESPN The Magazine has proclaimed the Grizzlies "the best franchise in sports" on the cover of the issue hitting newsstands on Friday.  The magazine each year ranks franchises in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball using such categories as affordability, ownership, stadium experience, fan relations and "bang for the buck," which factors in wins and revenue directly from fans.

Lakers sign Marcus Landry

NBA news reports, The Los Angeles Lakers have signed forward Marcus Landry.  He is the younger brother of Sacramento forward Carl Landry.

Suns sign Dionte Christmas

NBA news reports, The Phoenix Suns have signed 6-foot-5 guard Dionte Christmas to a multiyear contract.  He played the last four seasons internationally for teams in Israel, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Greece, Russia and Italy.

Warriors' Andrew Bogut says he's 100 percent healthy

NBA news reports, "Last season, I put the ball in the post and it was lumber, lumber, lumber, bounce, bounce, bounce, shoot," Bogut said. "Because I got to be honest, I couldn't make quick moves on my ankle or it'd give out or I'd fall over. So I tried not to do too much. Now I'm back to a point where I can make quick moves and go off the dribble."

"It was hell for me the last 12 months, to be honest," Bogut said. "I'm just happy that that light is getting brighter and brighter for me in the tunnel and it's at the stage now where I feel like I'm driving out of that tunnel."

LeBron James weds girlfriend in San Diego

NBA news reports, LeBron James wanted his wedding day to be perfect and private. It appears he got both.  The Miami Heat star married his longtime partner Savannah Brinson on Saturday night at a posh resort in San Diego. Guests had their phones taken away for the ceremony and reception in an effort to ensure that no photos or details leaked out.

Kobe Bryant is progressing well but likely to miss preseason

Mike Bresnahan Fox Sports reports, Kobe Bryant continues to move forward in his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles tendon, though the Los Angeles Lakers are unwilling to put an updated timetable on his exact return.

"He's progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones of his rehab, and we expect him to make a full recovery," Lakers spokesman John Black told The Times on Monday. "One of the key issues is to make sure he builds up strength and endurance, not only in his Achilles but also in his legs, knees, back and core."

"We're going to avoid giving a target return date until he's doing full weight-bearing running and on-court basketball activities, at the earliest," Black said.

Jared Jeffries reportedly takes front office job with Denver Nuggets

Joel Odom Oregon Live reports, Former Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries is trading in his sneakers for an NBA front-office job, accepting a position with the Denver Nuggets

Cavaliers Injury Updates

Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer on Cleveland.com reports, I hear that Anderson Varejao was been cleared for all basketball activities when the Cavs open training camp in a few weeks.  It's still too early to know [Andrew Bynum] will be ready for the opening of camp.  [Anthony Bennett] appears fully recovered from his shoulder surgery and is expected to be ready for the opening of camp.

Contract Extension Time For The Class Of 2010

Steve Kyler, Hoopsworld reports, The 2010 NBA Draft class has been eligible to sign rookie-scale contract extensions for most of the summer. So far we’ve seen two deals get done: John Wall and the Washington Wizards and Larry Sanders and the Milwaukee Bucks.  Teams have until October 31 to reach an extension.

Eligible players include: 76ers Evan Turner, Jazz Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, Kings DeMarcus Cousins and Greivis Vasquez, Bucks Ekpe Udoh, Pistons Greg Monroe, Pacers Paul George, Grizzlies Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter, Wizards Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker, Suns Eric Bledsoe, and the Celtics Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford.

Brooklyn Nets probed, cleared by NBA in Andrei Kirilenko signing

Fred Kerber NY Post reports, nothing shady was the finding of a “thorough” NBA investigation into the Nets’ summer signing of free-agent forward Andrei Kirilenko.

2013 Afrobasket MVP Carlos Morais To Raptors

Pro Bball Report says, The 2013 Afrobasket MVP Carlos Morais has received a non-guaranteed deal to try out for the Toronto Raptors at training camp.  Morais is a 6’4” 27-year-old shooting guard who plays professionally in Angola and has been the star of the Angolan National team for several years.  He is primarily a three-point shooter and in his 7 games at the 2013 Afrobasket, he averaged 7.3 three-point attempts per game.

Miami Heat Welcome Back Michael Beasley

Pro Bball Report says, Heat President Pat Riley, who had trouble giving Beasley away three years ago, believes the 24-year-old could still help his team.

“Michael had the best years of his career with us,” Riley said. “We feel that he can help us.”

2013 Eurobasket in Slovenia

Croatia Prevails In Greek Double OT Drama

FIBA Europe reports, Croatia edged out Greece 92-88 after double overtime in a clash that featured 18 lead changes and saw the scores tied on 19 occasions, to clinch top spot in Group F and terminate the Hellenic side's EuroBasket 2013 campaign in the process.

Italy Fights Back, Stuns Spain in OT

FIBA Europe reports,  Italy, the smallest team in the tournament in terms of size, out-rebounded Spain 48-38 and made up for their 17 turnovers by shooting 58.5% from two-point range.  They overshadowed Marc Gasol, who picked up an international career-high and tournament-high 32 points and added 10 rebounds.

Belgium Eliminates Latvia At Eurobasket

FIBA Europe reports, Already-eliminated Belgium picked up their first victory in the Second Round of Group E by beating Latvia 60-56 and spoiling Latvia's chances of advancing to the quarter-finals.

EuroBasket 2013 Quarterfinals Preview

Matt Petersen, Suns.com provides a look at the best of each team's talent, and how they used that talent to get this far at the 2013 Eurobasket.

Has Jonas Valanciunas Become Unstoppable This Summer?

Pro Bball Report says, Jonas Valanciunas has played well for Lithuania this summer and he has been virtually unstoppable when Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas has directed the offense to run through him.  Valanciunas averaged 13.2 points, 8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.5 minutes in the friendlies.  In the 5 games at Eurobasket where Kazlauskas has run at least some of his half court offense through Valanciunas, his center is averaging 11.8 points on 75 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 21.6 minutes.  In the three games Valanciunas has been made mostly a spectator, he has 1.3 points on 1.7 shots, 1.7 rebounds and 0.3 blocks in 10.3 minutes and Lithuania’s record is 1 win and 2 losses.

It has appeared that the only thing stopping Valanciunas this summer has been his National Team's head coach.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Week That Was In The NBA

FIBA Americas Tournament

Luis Scola Eliminates Canada At FIBA Americas

Pro Bball reported, Canada wanted this game badly and they played like it, but they had no answer for the three-time FIBA Americas MVP Luis Scola as the 33-year old FIBA and NBA veteran poured in 28 points to eliminate Canada from the medal rounds at the FIBA Americas in Caracas, Venezuela on Sunday.

2013 FIBA Americas: Gustavo Ayon leads Mexico into finals

Kris Willis, SB Nation reports,  Gustavo Ayon and Mexico continued their strong play at the 2013 FIBA Americas defeating Argentina 76-70 to advance to the tournament finals.

Every Team Canada Game From Toronto To Caracas
Pro Bball Report

The Canadian Senior Men’s National basketball Team had a busy summer starting with a pair of exhibition games in Toronto against Jamaica followed by a four game warm-up tournament in Puerto Rico and ending at the FIBA Americas in Caracas, Vanazuela.

Despite fielding a very young roster, Canada had a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Spain and they almost pulled it off. This is a quick rundown of every game Canada played from the two wins against Jamaica in Toronto to the three loses in a row in the second round of the FIBA Americas that ended their hopes for an automatic spot at the World Cup with links to each game story.

Dino Nation Blog: Canada's Present Falls Short: But The Future Remains Bright

Canada is an emerging basketball power and you only need look at the NCAA and the NBA as evidence of that. Soon that will translate to FIBA international competitions as it has already on lower levels.  You saw the growth of guys like Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Tristan Thompson. There were some surprises with a guy like Brady Heslip showing is deadly skill as a shooter. We all wanted more for this group and to see them progress to next summer and the World Cup. It wasn’t meant to be on this occasion.

NBA News

Mavericks Plan To Offer Camp Invite To Fab Melo

RealGM Wiretap reportsThe Dallas Mavericks are planning to bring Fab Melo into training camp.  Melo was recently released by the Memphis Grizzlies and went unclaimed on waivers.

Bulls' contract negotiations with Deng stall

CSN Chicago’s Aggrey Sam reports, Negotiations between the Bulls and Luol Deng’s camp surrounding a long-term contract extension have stalled, CSNChicago.com has learned.  The Bulls opted to put those plans on hold for the time being and risk the team’s longest-tenured player becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

NBA to install motion cameras for every arena

NBA News reports, The NBA has partnered with STATS on the SportVU cameras.  The technology can monitor every move a player makes on the court, gauge how tired he is and can even keep an eye on the job referees are doing.

Kevin Durant Expects Russell Westbrook to Play on Opening Night

Slam Online reports,  Kevin Durant confirmed that he’s counting on star running mate Russell Westbrook to be ready and healthy when the season begins.

Thunder waive guard Liggins

NBA news reports, The Oklahoma City Thunder waived guard DeAndre Liggins on Friday after he was charged with seven felony counts in a domestic-violence case.

Knicks' Smith suspended five games for drug violation

NBA news reports, New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith was suspended without pay for five regular-season games by the NBA on Friday for violating the anti-drug program.  Smith, coming off offseason surgery on his left knee, will sit out the first five games for which he is eligible and physically able to play.

Pelicans Darius Miller has surgery on left foot

Jennifer Hale Fox sports reports, New Orleans Pelicans forward Darius Miller is not beginning his second year as a pro the way he intended.  Miller suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and is now expected to miss eight to 12 weeks.

Nets to retire Jason Kidd's jersey

NBA news reports, The Brooklyn Nets will retire the No. 5 jersey of Jason Kidd, who led the franchise to its greatest NBA success as a player and is now its coach.  The Nets said Monday the ceremony will take place Oct. 17 before their preseason game against the Miami Heat.

No minutes restriction for Nene for now, says Wizards Head coach Randy Wittman

Mike Prada SB Nation reports,

"He got in town Aug. 30," Wittman said.  "He's been on the floor. He feels good. He's had a whole summer where he didn't have to worry about the pounding and the stuff he did last summer having the injuries he did and having to play on the (Brazil) national team and never gave his body a chance to recover. He's feeling good. He looks good. I'm pretty pleased with that. I anticipate him being ready to go. When did we play our last game? Five months ago? He's done a lot of good work this summer, not only from a rest standpoint but from physical therapy. He's built his strength back up. I anticipate we'll head into the season with no restrictions."

Lakers Sign Xavier Henry

Lakers announced, The Los Angeles Lakers have signed free agent guard Xavier Henry, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak

Billionaire fined for trying to undo Kings arena

NBA News reported, Billionaire Chris Hansen must pay $50,000 for his role in a secretive effort to funnel money to a group trying to thwart Sacramento's efforts to build a new downtown arena, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said Monday.

2013 Eurobasket in Slovenia

Italy is the only unbeaten team at Euro champs

NBA News says, Advancing through the first round as the only undefeated team, Italy has provided the unexpected at the European basketball championships.  Italy beat both Russia and Turkey to finish atop the group, ahead of Finland and Greece.

Gortat, Kravtsov Dominate the Paint in Respective Wins

Matt Petersen, Suns.com reports,  Marcin Gortat and the Poland national team made sure to leave EuroBasket 2013 on a high note. The only negative was handing Phoenix Suns teammate Goran Dragic and host country Slovenia a 71-61 loss in the process.  Gortat punched in with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds for Poland.  Viacheslov Kravtsov rejected three shots while adding eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

Lithuania Wins on Valanciunas Double-Double

Pro Bball reports, Lithuania defeated Latvia 67-59 on Friday on the back of a Jonas Valanciunas 11 point 10 rebound double-double and some stingy defense in the painted area. Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas started his young star center for the first time at the 2013 Eurobasket and Valanciunas got Latvia in foul trouble early and often in the first half.

Lavrinovic, Valanciunas Lead Lithuania To Win

Pro Bball reports, Lithuania defeated Montenegro 77-70 in an overtime thriller on Sunday. Seldom used veteran forward Ksistof Lavrinovic scored 24 points on 9-11 shooting and it was Lithuania’s young star Jonas Valanciunas that looked like the forgotten man in Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas’ rotation initially.

The second half started out the way Lithuania usually enjoys success. Three trips through the paint for Valanciunas resulting in 2 free throws and 2 dunks.  Valanciunas ended up with his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Nets Mirza Teletovic scored 31 For Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pro Bball reports, Brooklyn Nets power forward Mirza Teletovic scored 31 points against Lithuania in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 78-72 win on Monday, but it wasn’t enough as they needed to win by 10 points to advance to the second round.

The Lithuanian big men that have been key to the team’s victories this summer were nailed to the bench against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jonas Valanciunas only played 7 first half minutes. Ksistof Lavrinovic and Darjus Lavrinovic played 5 minutes and 12 minutes respectively and Donatas Motiejunas played just 8 minutes.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of  Pro Bball Report.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors 


Raptors Have Far More Questions Than Answers As Camp Approaches

It has been hard for me to realize that the NBA Season is just around the corner. Training camp is set to open at the beginning of next month. In my reason conversation with Jack Armstrong he mentioned that he has no idea what to expect from the Raptors this season. He is not alone in that thought. I really can’t figure out where the Raptors will end up. I more importantly can’t figure out where it is best for them to end up for the future of this franchise.

If you look at the Raptors in the context of the Eastern Conference they seem to fall in somewhere between 6-10 in the conference, which is the worst possible place to be for the growth of a franchise. This is a team that does have talent but not enough talent to be considered a real contender. This is not to say they need to be at this point.

What is the problem and what you need to determine is what is the growth and upside of these players as individuals and as a collective group.  If you can’t see a large upside to the players or the collective group you have some real problems.

That is where I have some issues with where the Raptors sit currently. Let’s examine that a little bit on who truly has upside on this roster. Jonas Valanciunas is the one player that we all can agree has the most upside at this point. It is believable that he could develop into an NBA All-Star talent at this point looking forward. After that things get pretty cloudy. Terrence Ross the other notable rookie on the Raptors has almost regressed and not improved. He looks much more like he will be one of these guys that wins a slam dunk title and never really develops as a player. He would end up on a list with guys like Gerald Green, Fred Jones and others.

Amir Johnson is a guy that has almost maxed out in what he is capable of at this point. While his age would suggest he still might have some room left to improve his number of years in the league says not so much. DeMar DeRozan has had a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of development. He is still for the most part heading in the right direction but is a long way from the comparisons to Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter that people talked about when he was drafted. Heading into year four can we realistically ever expect him to reach that level of All-Star level talent? I want to say yes to that but if we are being blunt and honest about it that is less likely to happen than you would hope.

Raptors acquired both Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry in the last year. Both have been touted as plays on the verge of being All-Star talents but they have never really got to that level. After a few years of being considered on verge of something you need to get there. Gay is likely much closer than Lowry to reaching that level. He did have off-season eye surgery to improve his vision.  This should make an improvement in his shooting you would have to figure. What it doesn’t fix is what ultimately could be his problem which is durability. When you hear back problems at such a young age that is a huge red flag for both durability and longevity. The Raptors will soon have to make a call on Rudy Gay’s future with this team. He will have to make that same call on if he wants to remain a Raptor. I don’t think either side is or should be certain at this point.

In terms of Lowry the writing seems already on the wall to a point. He was not offered an extension to his contract and will enter this season motivated to earn a contract as a free agent.  This in the short term is great but in long term is problematic. Let’s say Lowry lives up to the hype that came with him when Bryan Colangelo traded for him. He comes out and as a season worthy of All-Star consideration. That is great for this year but causes a problem on if you can keep this guy here in Toronto. If he has a season that does not meet those standards and we still have questions about what he will be that is a problem as well. What are you going to have to pay to keep a point guard that you are not 100% convinced can be your foundation at the position for years to come? This will likely lead to Lowry getting paid too much at the end of the day.

We could go on and talk about everyone on this roster but in reality the Raptors as individual pieces and as collective group have more questions than answers.

This all in a year where there is a without question game changing talent at the top of the draft from Canada that wants to be a Raptor. You can see why the Raptors paid Masai Ujiri a lot of money to come here. The decisions he has a head of him will be difficult and will shape the future for this franchise both in the short and long term. I don’t envy him in the slightest; I have never been someone who dreams about being the guy calling the shots for a NBA Franchise. I realize how difficult that is to do. What I do know is that the first couple months of the Raptors season should define the final four months and the direction this team takes. What direction that will be is perhaps the most interesting question about this team of all.


Canada's Present Falls Short: But The Future Remains Bright.

Canada entered the weekend with a great chance to advance to Spain for the World Cup next year. By the time the weekend was over they were eliminated and searching for answers. Canada’s first stumble on the road to Spain was a loss to the host nation Venezuela. This was really the first bit of adversity Team Canada had faced. They had a crowd watching them and cheering against them as well as some calls that were not going in their favour.

Andrew Nicholson would have two fouls and tech (which counts as a personal foul) before Canada could blink. Nicholson individually and Canada collectively could never really recover. What would become a theme for this Canadian group was to really feel pressure when falling behind. Canada became dependent on the three point shot as the weapon of choice to try to rally. It was a less than sound strategy for the most part.

Despite that loss Canada still had it’s destiny in their hands and a win over the Dominican Republic would have had them in prime position to advance. They came out and played a strong first quarter led in part by a motivated Andrew Nicholson who was eager to make up for his poor play the day before. Raptor fans could relate to what happened next as the ten point lead would be erased in less than three minutes and Canada would fall behind and be battling from behind the rest of the day.

Canada was in trouble now after this loss with a final game against Argentina being a must win situation and even with that win it might not have been enough. In fact as it played out it would not have been enough but at the time of the game Canada still had everything to play for. Similar to the game the day before Canada would come out strong and take control of the game. It would slip away as Argentina would rely on Luis Scola a three time MVP of this tournament who would take over. Canada had no answer for him. Canada frustration could be summed up in Andrew Nicholson who had a near meltdown when he was fouled tried to get position battling with an Argentina forward for position. Nicholson would explode and get a tech and needed his team to keep him for getting tossed altogether.

In the end the story on the surface ends like many have for Canada Basketball in the last dozen years or so. A closer look and you see the differences in this effort. Canada lost 4 games in this tournament and none of them you could say they were not in the games had their chances to win them. It was also a very young group many of which getting their first major experience with international basketball. It was a team that actually had choices to make about its roster. It was a team that has more talent yet to come in the future. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk are just three names you will expect to see next time for Canada that you did not see this time around.

You saw the growth of guys like Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Tristan Thompson. There were some surprises with a guy like Brady Heslip showing is deadly skill as a shooter. We all wanted more for this group and to see them progress to next summer and the World Cup. It wasn’t meant to be on this occasion but it was a major learning experience to getting to Rio in 2016 and perhaps being a real contender in 2020 for the Olympics that was announced over the weekend that will be in Tokyo.

Canada is an emerging basketball power and you only need look at the NCAA and the NBA as evidence of that. Soon that will translate to FIBA international competitions as it has already on lower levels. It just would have been nice if we could have had another summer to see this group gain experience and grow prior to attempting to qualify for Rio in 2015.

Steve Nash who put this group together took to twitter to motivate and inspire his troops make no mistake his presence at the core of this program is a huge factor in keeping this group together and bringing them together in the first place. Cory Joseph was showing the development a Nash did with Team Canada. Nash gives a lot of the credit to his rise in the NBA to his time with Team Canada. As this wave of Canadian Stars hit the league they look to follow that path of the NBA two-time MVP. Nash’s success in the NBA and the fact he credits his time with Canada Basketball as a factor in that is the biggest selling point for this program.


Canada's Future Brighter Than The Raptors

It was just a tweet but as it stared back at me it made more and more sense to me. I really do have much more hope for Canada Basketball than I do for the Toronto Raptors. It isn’t really a hard argument to make when you consider the talent this program has. Unlike the Raptors Canada Basketball will have two number one overall picks when all is said and done. The Raptors fail to capture the imagination like these young Canadians have done and are doing.

The irony in all of this is without the Raptors existence, who is to say we have all these talented athletes picking up a basketball and loving the sport. At the core of that love for many of these young men goes back to the Vince Carter era in Raptors Basketball. Vince captured the imaginations of these young men and thousands of others across this country. Even in the U.S Kevin Durant recalls growing up watching Vince and wanting to play for the Raptors.

The reality is none of these Canadian kids have come home to play for the hometown team. Andrew Wiggins who will be the centerpiece of this Canadian Basketball program has said he would like to be a Raptor if it was up to him. It will not be up to him and it will be up to the results of perhaps the most hyped draft lottery since Lebron James entered the NBA. Wiggins unlike James will have to show his talents in the NCAA for a season with Kansas much like the aforementioned Durant did at Texas.

The depth of the talent on Team Canada is growing and growing. The Raptors depth is filled with question marks and what if scenarios. Someone asked me if this Team Canada group lined up with Toronto Raptors for a seven game series who would win? This current edition of Team Canada likely would fall a little short. If you add Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk the answer might change.

Take Canada’s game against Mexico on Thursday and compare it to the Raptors. Like we have seen with the Raptors at times Canada would get off to a tremendous start. This would not last and Canada was on the brink only up 2 points heading into the fourth quarter. The Raptors in that situation have lost more times than they have been successful. This group of Canadians came out and crushed Mexico in the fourth quarter outscoring the Mexicans 29-9. It maybe comparing apples to oranges to some degree but there is something exciting about watching this Canadian Team that is missing when watching the Raptors.

It could be as simple as national pride. I may like Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and others but they are not from where I am from at the end of the day. I honestly can’t get that excited watching Jonas Valanciunas play for a country that I have no real connection to other than the fact one of their best players is a Raptor. All I hope for is that Jonas is not hurt and hopefully develops.

I have the pride for Canada basketball that most in this nation have for hockey. I am not sure I have the pride in the Raptors in the same way as I do for team Canada. MLSE is a corporation that owns them which rooting for Rogers and Bell is not all that an appealing concept. 

The thing that the Raptors and Canada Basketball share is a long history of disappointing the people who support them by failing to deliver with success.   Steve Nash didn’t choose the Raptors but he did choose Canada Basketball. His influence on this team is evident. It is with no disrespect that I say this but to get a call from Steve Nash to play for your country and a call from Leo Rautins or even Jay Triano is not the same thing.

Speaking of Triano someone who I was highly critical of in his time with the Raptors as head coach in this role he works well. The biggest reason why is the support he has behind him. Steve Nash made it quite public that he would not have taken the roll running the Canadian Basketball program without Triano as the head coach. While on the Raptors it could be said that Jay Triano as a former assistant never really had the respect of his team with Canada Basketball he does because the guy running the show is 100% behind him.

While Canada chances of winning a Gold Medal some day remain a slim one as long as the United States is still sending a team to compete. I still give them a better chance in the years to come than the Raptors overcoming power house teams like Miami and Oklahoma City and others to win an NBA Title.

It goes back to one of things I always talk about in this blog the concept of hope. Canada Basketball in my view has it and the Raptors are still wandering around trying to find it.


Week That Was In The NBA

The Good News

Jason Kidd is buying a portion of Jay-Z's minority share of the Brooklyn Nets.  ESPN reports that Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd is buying a very small stake in the team from Jay-Z subject to approval from the NBA.

Pacers to sign Rasual Butler in non-guaranteed deal.  Nathan S., SB Nation reported the Indiana Pacers have signed veteran forward Rasual Butler to a non-guaranteed contract according to Butler's agent.  Butler last played for the Raptors in 2011-2012.

The Bad News

Michael Beasley Bought Out

Richard Parker, SB Nation reported the Suns have bought out Micheal Beasley after a marijuana-related run-in with the law.

"The Suns were devoted to Michael Beasley’s success in Phoenix," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "However, it is essential that we demand the highest standards of personal and professional conduct as we develop a championship culture. Today’s action reflects our commitment to those standards. The timing and nature of this, and all of our transactions, are based on the judgment of our Basketball leadership as to how best to achieve our singular goal of rebuilding an elite team."

Jared Sullinger Apologizes

The Celtics Jared Sullinger had a run in with the law as reported by Slamonline:

“I voluntarily reported to the Waltham police this morning to respond to charges against me,” Sullinger said in the statement. “The experience was humbling and embarrassing for me. Yet I know that this situation has brought both sorrow and embarrassment to my girlfriend, my family, the Boston Celtics organization, my teammates, and my fans. To all of you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. My lawyers have advised me not to discuss the case at this time. But I wanted to immediately and publicly apologize to everyone affected by this situation.”

Lamar Odom Can’t Play Anymore?

Ben Bolch and Richard Winton, LA Times reported that free agent forward Lamar Odom was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and refused to submit to chemical testing after his arrest.

"Lamar can't play anymore," said one senior executive with an NBA team who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly discuss a free agent.

Just News

Raptors Confirm Quentin Richardson Waived

The Toronto Raptors officially confirmed on Tuesday that they have waived Quentin Richardson. Toronto acquired Richardson by way of sign and trade from New York on July 10 as part of the Knicks trade for Andrea Bargnani. Richardson was never expected to report to Toronto.

Why Did The Raptors Open A Roster Spot?

With another month to go before the start of training camp, there wasn’t any obvious reason for the Raptors to rush Richardson out the door. The Raptors now have 14 players under contract and sit $1.7 million below the luxury tax line and $5.7 million below the NBA hard cap. That is a lot of room for Ujiri to use if he is thinking about bringing another young prospect on board for this season.

The Raptors biggest need at the moment is at center. If Jonas Valanciunas is injured or even just gets in foul trouble, the Raptors get small in a hurry. Another center to develop behind Aaron Gray would seem prudent.  At the same time the Raptors were in the process of dumping Richardson, the Grizzlies were waiving center Fab Melo.

Does Caron Butler Make The Bucks A Playoff Contender?

After three 30-something win seasons in a row, the Bucks have made some dramatic moves this off season, but does acquiring veteran small forward Caron Butler make Milwaukee a playoff contender this year?

Missing from the Bucks roster this year are four of the team’s top five scorers in the previous regular season. Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick are gone as is their best defensive forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In-bound are Brandon Knight at point guard, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal at shooting guard and small forward Carlos Delfino returns after a season in Houston. Free agent Zaza Pachulia from the Hawks is a proven defensive center that can effectively backup the recently extended Larry Sanders. This rotation isn’t proven as a unit, but the talent is there.

Will The Raptors Signal If They Are Going For The Playoffs or Tanking?

“If I were the coach of the team and I was in the last year of my contract, I would want to know from ownership and management, what do you want from me?” Jack Armstrong said.  “So are we going for the playoffs? If (the Raptors) are doing that, I am playing Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas 38-40 minutes every single night.

“If (winning) is not the way you are going to be judged, rather try to be competitive but try to develop at the same time, then obviously you loosen the reins a little bit on your substation pattern and you go that way. You give guys like a Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin and people like that more minutes.”

2013 Eurobasket Starts In Slovenia
2013 Eurobasket or European Championships started on Wednesday with Great Britain, Latvia, Georgia, Finland, Ukraine, Montenegro, Spain, Greece, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia and Italy winning their opening games.  The surprise losers were Lithuania, France and Turkey.

Serbia Shocks Lithuania 63-56

Serbia shocked Lithuania 63-56 in the two teams’ opening game at the 2013 Eurobasket tournament in Slovenia on Wednesday. Serbia had a game plan that they ran to perfection against the heavily favored Lithuanians and Lithuania’s Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas couldn’t find an adjustment to get his side back on top.

Kazlauskas started the veteran Robertas Javtokas instead of his young star center Jonas Valanciunas and Serbia fed the ball to center Nenad Krstic on their very first offensive possession.  Jonas Valanciunas finished with just 2 points on 1-1 shooting, 2 rebounds and 4 personal fouls in 11 minutes. Krstic led Serbia with 20 points and 9 rebounds.

FIBA Americas

Canada Wraps up Second Place In Group A At FIBA Americas

In a game that was never in doubt, Canada crushed Uruguay 93-67 after having wait over 8 hours to play because of a blackout earlier in the day.  Cory Joseph was still hot after his big game against Brazil, putting up 12 points on 4-6 shooting that included a pair of three-pointers in the first half.  Joseph finished with an impressive 17 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in limited minutes.

With the victory, Canada finishes second in group A and carries 2 wins over to the second round where they will play the top 4 teams from group B over 4 days starting on Thursday. The top 4 teams in the second round move on to the medal round and automatically qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

Canada plays Mexico on Thursday September 5 at 2pm.

Mexico Shocks Experts At The FIBA Americas

Mexico didn’t even qualify for the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, getting invited only after Panama was banned from international play this summer. However, the 32nd FIBA world ranked team from Mexico has shocked the experts by starting the tournament 3-0.

Mexico finished in second place in group B and carries 2 wins over to the second round.

Opportunity Knocks For Canada At FIBA Americas

While Canada hasn’t exactly been awash in success nationally at international men’s basketball, this summer, opportunity is knocking loudly for a return to some measure of prominence. 

With their relatively inexperienced roster, Canada probably should not have been considered a favorite to make the medal round this summer. However, not everyone at this tournament is putting their best possible team on the court. Just like Canada is missing players they would really like to have, other countries are missing some of their star players as well.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the ACC.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.  You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors


Canada Basketball Is Starting To Shine

There has never been a moment in time where you could have so much hope for Canada Basketball and its future. While hope is one thing to get results and deliver on that hope is another. Canada has made it through the first round with only one loss on their ledger. Even in that game versus Puerto Rico Canada at one point held a lead briefly. In the games they have won they have been dominate with wins over Jamaica, Brazil and last night over Uruguay.

The win over Uruguay was done under less than ideal conditions for both teams thanks to a blackout that impacted on 75 percent of Venezuela. The game originally scheduled for early afternoon would be re-scheduled to 10:30 pm. Canada stormed out of the gates and never looked back. This group has perhaps the best overall talent Canada has but on a basketball court to compete for Canada. Keep in mind, that this team still will likely add Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett the first pick in the most recent NBA draft and Kelly Olynyk who was also a lottery pick in the most recent draft.

Cory Joseph is having a similar experience to what Steve Nash had with national team. Joseph has really stood out in this tournament and been a consistent performer for this group. The other player that has really stood out is Andrew Nicholson who was drafted in the first round by the Orlando Magic. He has been on fire in this tournament producing at a high level. Tristan Thompson meanwhile has changed his shooting hand which has been a pretty incredible in and of its self. It is also showing some dramatic results in his free throw shooting. Thompson has struggled at the line through his career at Texas and with the Cavs. In this tournament he has been shooting at level far beyond anything we have seen from him.

Canada now moves on to the next round facing Mexico, Argentina, Dominican Republic and the hosts Venezuela. This should be much more challenging but Canada does carry two of their three wins to the next round. They also only need to finish in to the top four to qualify for the World Cup in Spain next year.

As they enter this second round they have a real shot at doing just that. When you consider the roster could be better and in reality the real target for this program is Rio 2016 and the following Olympics in 2020. This has been a good start to what many are considering the start of golden age for Canada basketball.


Lights Out..Q-Rich Out...Raptors Have Some Options.

So the plan for today was to be to talk about Canada Basketball as they were set to wrap-up the preliminary round at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament. Like the Super Bowl this past year the lights went out and chaos would follow for the afternoon. Canada will play at 10:30PM tonight at last word. This is some of the problems that happen with FIBA and there way of doing things. They take a check for 5 million dollars or so to play in a country in South America where a game not involving the host country draw flies. It is an important game for Canada as they will eventually play Uruguay for second place in their pool as they attempt to qualify for the World Championships now re-branded as the world cup.

Will leave the Canada Basketball stuff for tomorrow and talk a little about the Raptors who will be opening camp next month. They will do that with a roster of 14 players as the Raptors announced they have waived Quinton Richardson. This was expected and now the Raptors will enter camp with potentially a spot on the roster to play for.  Expect the Raptors like they did last year to invite a few players to compete for that open roster spot. A competitive camp is a good camp and this is a change that is good for the Raptors since Dwane Casey has arrived.

There is no guarantee the Raptors will keep a player and start the season with 15 players. It actually makes some sense to have 14 and leave some flexibility to make some trades down the line. If things don’t go well for the Raptors and they look to do some moves to rebuild and take their lottery ticket for the draft this year.

While some will look on the surface and say what the heck are the Raptors doing in getting rid of two players from the Andrea Bargnani trade. Understand that the fact the Raptors have the money to do it is part of the advantage they have compared to small market teams. Bargnani had to go as well and the draft picks and Novak was more than most could have hoped for in dealing Bargnani who had bottomed out in value.

It will be very interesting to see what happens with this team but in general you have to like it. They are not giving up on the season before it starts but are still able to leave some flexibility to go a different direction.

So if the lights stay on in Venezuela will have some thoughts on Canada’s efforts in the preliminary round of the qualifying tournament. It has been pretty good to this point.