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Head Coach Jay Triano close up

It’s Pan Am Silver For Canada Basketball

Team Canada looked like they had never been in a really big game before and Brazil just did what they had been doing all tournament, so it was Pan Am Silver for the team that had never won a medal at this tournament. Brazil has now taken home Gold in four of the past five events.

After an earlier win over an Argentine team that has been the bane of Team Canada in previous international events, head coach Jay Triano was as excited as he ever has been during international competition.

However, that was nothing after coming from behind to defeat Team USA in the semi-finals and advance to the Gold Medal Game. That win, any win, over any American team was a long time coming for Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team. In the end, it was a very proud Coach Triano watching his team get their medals.

Canada was the top scoring team in the tournament, but it was obvious being in the Finals got to them. They gripped the ball too tight and rushed their shots in the first half, shooting 5-19 in the first quarter and 3-16 in the second. A frustrated Andrew Nicholson, who had become Canada’s go-to-guy for a bucket, picked up his third personal foul at the end of the half, then a quick foul in the third quarter that he made worse by adding a technical foul that took him out of the game. Under FIBA rules a tech counts as a personal and five fouls ends your night. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong for Canada.

Brazil felt no such pressure and shot 19-31 to start the game as they built up a 48-29 lead heading into the half. Brazil was up by 25 points in the third quarter just after Nicholson got himself ejected. At this point everything the Brazilians threw up at the basket was going in and Canada could do nothing right.

Then, possibly in desperation or maybe just for the experience,  Triano turned to the youngsters Dillon Brooks and Jamal Murray for a Team Canada version of small ball and to some amazement, it started to work. Canada’s energy level on the court went up, everyone was hustling and diving for balls and Brazil’s torrid scoring pace slowed. There were even signs of Brazil looking out of sorts as Canada closed to within 6 points while two Brazilians fouled out including their star scorer Vitor Benite.

Unfortunately for Canada, the deep and experienced Brazilians regained their composure, stopped Canada’s run and rebuilt their double-digit lead. For about two minutes it looked like Canada was going to pull off the improbable comeback, but then it was over and Brazil managed last five minutes until they became Gold. The final score was Brazil 86, Canada 71.

This was a tune-up tournament for Canada and most of the participants. The big show with all the NBA stars in attendance is happening in Mexico at the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying tournament later this summer. However, it was an important learning experience, confidence booster and tryout for several of Coach Triano’s players with limited international tournament experience and even less success at these events as reported by Canada Basketball.

“Brazil is a good team and they played well today,” said Canada Head Coach, Jay Triano. “I think we grew up throughout the tournament and throughout this game. I’m glad that we showed some fight to get back in the game.”

“It was a great experience playing with these guys,” said Murray. “We’re still very proud of what we did, even though this not the final goal that we wanted.”

Murray was the surprise of the tournament. The 18-year-old came off the bench, but was one of Canada’s best offensive players with a flair for both scoring and creating for others. It is going to nearly impossible for Triano to leave him off the roster going to Mexico.

Canada vs Brazil Gold Medal Game boxscore

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Luis Scola with media

Why Don’t Raptors Fans Know Luis Scola Better?

If there was a free agent President and General Manager Masai Ujiri signed this summer that Canadians, Torontonians  and Raptors fans in general should have been familiar with and happy to see it should have been Luis Scola. Scola has enjoyed a solid NBA career and as the top player from Argentina, he’s been a Team Canada killer since 2007.

Scola is 5-0 against Canada at the FIBA Americas tournaments and in 2009, he took away Canada’s last and best chance at a medal in the final game. Argentina has been good for while, so it’s been no disgrace for the Canadian side to lose to them, but still, you’d think someone would have remembered?

Scola’s history versus Team Canada at the FIBA Americas looks like this:

In 2007, Argentina defeated Canada 85-70 in the quarter-finals, Scola leading the way with 23 points. In the tournament Scola led his team in scoring with 19.4 points per game and Argentina lost to the USA in the Finals to take home Silver.

In 2009, Argentina defeated Canada 67-51 in a quarter-final game, but Canada worked their back into the medal rounds only to lose in the Bronze medal game 88-73 to Argentina. Scola had 12 points and 9 rebounds in the first game and led his team with 27 points in the game for a medal. Scola also led Argentina with 23.3 points per game for the tournament.

In 2011, Argentina defeated Canada 79-53 in the second round behind 22 points from Scola. Scola averaged 21.4 points as he led his team to Gold over Brazil.

In 2013, Scola broke Team Canada’s heart leading his team to a 73-67 victory that eliminated any chance of Canada making it to the 2014 World Cup. Scola scored 28 points against Canada, averaged 18.8 points per game for the tournament and Argentina defeated the Dominican Republic for Bronze.

It’s well understood that international play is not the same as in the NBA. Scola took on a big scoring load for his National Team, in the NBA however, he’s played an all-around role focusing more on defense, rebounding and fitting into his various teams’ offense schemes.

Over his NBA career, Scola has averaged 26.8 minutes, 12.3 points, 7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. His role was reduced with the Pacers over the past two seasons playing behind the two-time All-Star David West and last year he averaged 20.5 minutes, 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

What really stands out from last season was Scola’s outstanding effort to grab 25.7 percent of the available defensive rebounds. Now that’s something the Toronto Raptors have been missing in the worst way.

Scout.com’s Phillip B. Wilson described Scola as an unselfish team player last year.

Scola doesn’t force shots and unselfishly looks to set up his teammates while expending more effort to rebound and play defense.

“The shot, sometimes it goes down, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Scola, who reiterated it’s more important to focus on energy and playing hard.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel has continually said he’s not concerned about Scola’s scoring. Some nights, Vogel said, Scola is often so consumed with rebounding and his defensive assignment, offensive opportunities don’t present themselves.

There remain some who are overly concerned about the veteran power forward turning 35-years-old, however, Scola’s game has never relied on out-athleting his opponent. While he has the size, strength and required hustle to play power forward, Scola has been more reliant on Basketball IQ to be in the right place at the right time. His career should last for several years yet.

“Last couple of years sometimes it was a little frustrating to play less minutes than I was used too,” Scola said on his arrival in Toronto. “I feel like my legs are okay. I don’t think I have any limitations. I really work hard. I expect to be a big part of the rotation.”

Raptors fans should expect Scola to be a big part of the Raptors rotation as well. Scola fits in a Raptors starting unit with plenty of firepower, but could use a boost at the defensive end and especially at finishing off defensive stands by grabbing the rebound. Toronto was the third worst team in the NBA at giving up second chance points last season and Scola has shown that he can be a big part of reversing that trend.

Canadian basketball fans should know and remember Scola for what he has done internationally and in the NBA. Those who don’t are about to get a first-hand primer on just how effective a team player this veteran power forward can be.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Luis Scola faces leftLuis Scola Is Ready To Chase A Ring With The Raptors

I wanted to win,” Scola said. “To me it was also important that I could be on a team that is strong, a good place (standings) team with chances to grow and hopefully chase a ring at some point down the line, but also be a part, be important on the team and I felt that this was the situation (here).”

 

Luis Scola Eliminates Canada At FIBA Americas
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.

Scola Schools Canada In Puerto Rico
It was too much Luis Scola for Team Canada as the veteran Argentine power forward scored 25 points in his team’s 83-74 victory at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup in Puerto Rico. Canada led this game at half-time 33-29 on a buzzer-beating three pointer by Andrew Nicholson, but Argentina pulled away after half on Scola’s strong play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

jamal murray 2

Jamal Murray Steals A Shot At Gold For Canada From Team USA

At the Pan Am Games in Toronto two National basketball teams were playing to end disappointing streaks. Team USA hadn’t won Gold at this tournament since 1983, the Canadians have never even medaled and the two teams were facing off in a semi-final for the right to play Brazil in the Gold Medal game the next day. With Team USA looking like they had taken control in the third quarter, 18-year-old point guard Jamal Murray became an unstoppable scoring force to steal a shot at Gold for Canada.

This was a game of runs with each side looking like they had figured things out and were about to take over, but it never happened. Canada took a five point lead 52-47 into the half, but the US came back with a 33 point third quarter and built a misleading six point edge 80-74 heading into the fourth quarter. That was a typical score for an entire game in this tournament, so really no lead should have felt safe and it wasn’t.

Murray opened the fourth quarter with 9 points in 2.4 minutes as Canada went on an 11-2 run to regain the advantage. The young point guard scored 14 of his team’s 23 points in the quarter and head coach Jay Triano put the ball in his hands for the final play in regulation time, Murray just missing on the last shot to sent the game into overtime.

In OT, Murray assisted on a three-pointer by Anthony Bennett and made the pretty play to Bennett for the monster slam to give Canada the early five point lead. But just like the rest of this game, the US came right back and reclaimed the lead with two minutes to go. At this point Murray took over again and in a one minute span Murray scored eight points including back-to-back three-pointers to put Canada up 110-106 and deny the Americans their chance to end that 32-year Gold Medal drought at this tournament. It has been quite the coming out party for the tournament’s second youngest player who won’t attend his first year of college until the fall.

The final score was 111-108 for the host Country with Canada shooting 50 percent from the field and the USA 48 percent. Canada outrebounded the US 50-29, but gave back that advantage by turning the ball over 8 more times. Each team made 13 three-point shots, the difference being the US made 11-18 through three quarters and then went 2-16, while Canada started off 7-25 over the first three periods and finished going 6-13. In this game, it came down to who was going to miss.

The leading scorer was Andrew Nicholson with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Nicholson had a spectacular night that was overshadowed by the finish from Murray. Canada’s other NBA player Anthony Bennett had 18 points and 14 rebounds and fought through foul trouble all game.

Former NBA player and 32-year-old veteran guard Bobby Brown led the Americans with 25 points. Another former NBA player Anthony Randolph had 21 points and led his team with 6 boards.

The US plays the Dominican Republic on Saturday at 11am ET for a chance at Bronze. Unbeaten Canada takes on unbeaten Brazil for Gold at 4:30pm ET.

Canada vs Team USA boxscore

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Heslip Nicholson Bennett

Canada To Face USA In Pan Am Men’s Basketball Semi-Finals

Team Canada went 3-0 in Men’s Basketball pool play at the Pan Am Games by defeating Mexico 96-76 to advance to the semi-finals against the loser between the USA and Brazil. It may seem like a surprise, but Brazil won 93-83 and Canada will now face the US Men’s National Team at 6 pm ET on Friday.

The US couldn’t contain Brazil’s 25-year-old guard Vitor Benite who went off for 34 points by shooting 8-11 from three-point range and once again they find themselves fighting from behind for a shot at Pan Am gold while mired in a 32-year drought.

This isn’t the “A” list from the USA at Pan Am. In fact, NBA players are few and far between on every team at this tournament as the Olympic Qualifier will be held later this summer in Mexico. The teams here are mostly represented by FIBA professionals, college players and Canada even has a recent high school graduate in guard Jamal Murray.

The lack of NBA talent hasn’t meant the Games aren’t well played and hotly contested. Every team is trying to win and players are trying to secure one of the limited spots available with their National Teams at the tournament in Mexico.

Heavy.com sums up Team USA’s chances as:

If the United States is going to end a 32-year gold-medal drought at the Pan American Games, it’s going to be a bunch of college kids and veterans who are going to do it.

There will be veterans playing key roles in Toronto. Ryan Hollins, who is the only active NBA player on the roster, Anthony Randolph, who is still only 26 and at 7’0″ has always boasted an intriguing blend of size and athleticism, and former NBA player Damien Wilkins come to mind. Still, the youth is the most intriguing part of this team.

That’s especially true in the backcourt, which features Melo Trimble, Ron Baker and Malcolm Brogdon, three of the best collegiate guards in the country.

Heavy.com provides detailed bios on the Team USA roster for Pan Am.

Similarly, Canada is relying on a group of National Team veterans and youth. The Canadian stars and future stars from the NBA like Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas and others are mostly expected to be available for Mexico.

Canada’s best players at Pan Am have been NBA players Anthony Bennett and Andrew Nicholson, undrafted three-point shooter Brady Heslip, and high school guard Jamal Murray.

Team Canada veterans Aaron Doornekamp, Carl English and Heslip have provided head coach Jay Triano with a noticeable stabilizing force so far in this tournament. They’ve been in these situations before.

While the USA hasn’t tasted Pan Am gold in over 30 years, Canada has never medaled at this event and are hoping to break that streak as the host Country.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Brady Heslip walking

Undefeated Canada Moves On To Pan Am Medal Round

Canada went undefeated in pool play after an easy 96-76 victory over short-handed Mexico that eliminated their opponent from moving on to the medal round. Canada now awaits the loser of the game between United States and Brazil who they will face in the semi-finals at 6 pm ET on Friday.

Canada won Pool B with a 3-0 record, defeating Dominican Republic 105-88, Argentina 88-83 and Mexico 96-76 who each finished with a 1-2 mark and the Dominican advancing to the semis on a tie-breaker.

For the second game in the tournament, Brady Heslip led Canada in scoring. This time with 20 points on 8-13 shooting. Heslip was a late arrival to Team Canada after leaving an unproductive NBA Summer League stint early and its hard to say where head coach Jay Triano would be without him. Heslip has averaged 18 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field and hit on 10 of 20 three-point attempts.

Heslip’s highlight bucket in this game wasn’t from beyond the arc, however. It was on a deep football-style pass from the 18-year-old Jamal Murray the length of the floor that was caught by Heslip taking just one-step to lay it in at the other end.

If nothing else, the Pan Am Games are going to land Heslip a job for next season.

2015 Jamal MurrayThe yet-to-be college freshman Murray hasn’t looked like a rookie on the Senior Men’s National Team and aside from his tournament high in turnovers of 5, the game against Mexico was just another example of the high expectations this kid will be bringing with him to University of Kentucky in the fall. Murray has averaged a veteran-like 15.3 points on 54.8 percent shooting and has been a surprisingly important part of Team Canada’s success thus far.

Andrew Nicholson posted his second double-double with 11 points and 10 boards and his frontcourt partner Anthony Bennett was solid once again with 10 points and 8 rebounds.

This game was never in doubt after the 5 minute mark of the first quarter when Bennett hit a pair of free throws to make the score 11-10 for Mexico. From then on, the rout of Mexico was in full effect.

Gabriel Giron with 18 points and Orlando Mendez with 24 points tried to keep the score respectable, but Mexico was getting beat up on the glass 44-30 and Canada was shooting the lights out at 52 percent from the field. There just wasn’t much they could do to stop it.

Canada has never won a medal at the Pan Am Games. It’s starting to look like this will finally be their year.

Canada vs Mexico boxscore

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Jay Triano 2015Should Raptors Give Canadian Brady Heslip a Camp Invite?

“The thing he does best is shoot the basketball,” head coach Jay Triano said. “But, Brady is a good playmaker as well and he knows how to score, whether it’s a shot or a drive to the basket. He is unselfish as a driver and he finds guys who are open. His ability offensively is going to help (Team Canada) score points.”

 

 

2015 Jamal Murray

18-Year-old Jamal Murray Leads Canada Past Argentina

Jamal Murray has yet to arrive at the University of Kentucky to play his first collegiate game, but the 18-year-old guard contributed 20 points to a 88-83 victory over powerhouse Argentina at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

It was a heart-breaking loss for Argentina who fell to 0-2 and last place in pool play, losing to Mexico in overtime on Tuesday.

Having a recent high school graduate on the Senior Men’s National Team only serves to emphasize the warm-up status of these Pan Am Games as the Men’s Olympic qualifying tournament is in Mexico at the end of August, however, the game had all the intensity of an international contest that neither team wanted to lose. Tied at 80 with 50 seconds left to go in the fourth quarter, it took a personal 6-0 run by Brady Heslip over the next 42 seconds to decide the game.

Argentina had read the scouting report on how Heslip shot the Dominican out of the first game with 24 points and it wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen before. Heslip is known to bury teams that disrespect his shooting ability. There was hardly a moment when Heslip didn’t have a blue and white striped shirt in his face and a forearm in his chest as soon as he crossed the time line. The tactic worked up until the dying seconds as Heslip was held to just 10 points on 3-8 shooting. However, all that attention on one side of the perimeter meant Murray could play his game and Team Canada’s big men got to work against single-coverage in the paint most of the time.

Andrew Nicholson 2014Andrew Nicholson feasted inside going one-on-one pouring in a game-high 24 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. He was like an unstoppable force in the paint. The 7’5 giant Sim Bhullar was an unstoppable force with 4 points, 2 rebounds and 3 blocks in just over 12 minutes. He only needs to get in good enough shape to stay in the game.

As promised by head coach Jay Triano before the tournament started, Anthony Bennett played a lot of center beside Nicholson and the pairing was effective. Bennett put together his second solid outing in a row scoring 17 points on 6-6 shooting and taking down 6 rebounds.

“I don’t mind him playing the five spot,” Triano said. “Especially if Andrew Nicholson is spreading the floor as a stretch four.”

Argentina was led by Facundo Campazzo with 23 points and 5 assists and Nicolas Laprovitola with 22 points and 7 assists. Argentina led from 2:17 left in the first half until there was just 6:49 left in the game, but a 13-5 run by Canada to start the fourth quarter gave the host Country the lead back and allowed for Heslip’s winning heroics at the end.

While it was Nicholson’s turn to dominate inside while his frontcourt partner Bennett didn’t miss a shot, the night belonged to the yet-to-be college freshman Murray. It looks like the University of Kentucky still knows what they are doing when it comes to recruiting the good ones.

Canada vs Argentina boxscore

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Anthony Bennett - croppedTimberwolves Anthony Bennett To Play Center For Canada

“The body is healthy,” Triano said after watching Bennett working out with Team Canada. “He is as fit as he’s ever been. He is in great shape. He still does all the things, he’s an energy player. He has a great skill-set. He can do a little bit of everything. ”

 

 

 

Brady Heslip headshot 2015

Brady Heslip Shoots Canada Past Dominican 105-88

Team Canada won their Men’s Basketball opener at the Pan Am Games in Toronto by beating up on the Dominican Republic 105-88 behind the reliable three-point shooting of Brady Heslip.

This game was close in the first quarter until head coach Jay Triano brought in Heslip off the bench. Canada’s best shooter poured in 18 points in the first half as Canada dominated the Dominican 54-37 in large part because Heslip changed how the visitors had to defend. Heslip finished with 24 points in 23.3 minutes hitting 5-10 three-point attempts and 4-5 field goals in close.

Heslip always seems like an after-thought for Team Canada, but he has proved his worth internationally over the past couple of years. Opponents either stay stuck to him like glue or he fills the basket from everywhere on the court.

The Orlando Magic’s Andrew Nicholson started strong for Canada, scoring 7 of his team’s first 9 points and keeping the Dominican at bay until Heslip entered the game. Nicholson finished a strong outing with 14 points and 5 boards in 17.7 minutes.

Former first overall NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett had his moments in this game and looks like a very good player that still has a few of the basketball nuances left to figure out. A 15 point 10 rebound game reflected the effort Bennett played with and seemed a bit like a tease of what could be.

Undrafted Melvin Ejim worked out for the Raptors in 2014 and it looks like his game has improved since the last time he was in Toronto. The big combo forward was defensively solid and had an impressive 12 points and 3 rebounds in just 16.7 minutes. He would have played more if this game hadn’t turned into a blowout.

Everyone wanted to see what the 7’5 Sim Bhullar could do and the giant didn’t disappoint. Bhullar still needs to drop some weight and become a lot more mobile, but he is an imposing rim protector, picking up 2 boards, 2 blocks and 4 personal fouls in just 8.4 minutes. It took a while for the Dominican guards and wings to adjust to Bhullar’s size and length around the rim and this very big man isn’t deniable on lobs – not that going 1-1 for 2 points made much of an impact offensively.

The Dominican was led by Angel Suero with 17 points, 3 rebounds and 5 steals and Angel Delgado with 15 points and 6 boards.

This game was never in doubt after the first quarter. Team Canada shot 55 percent from the field versus 42 percent for the Dominican and outrebounded the Dominican 43-34. Under FIBA rules, the game is only 40 minutes long and Canada reached the uncommon century mark in scoring.

Triano has to be very happy after this game that Heslip left NBA Summer League just in time to become a last minute addition to Team Canada. Canada will need Heslip’s ability to score and throw defenses off balance if the Senior Men’s National Team is going to have a chance at winning their first ever Pan Am medal.

Canada vs Dominican boxscore

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association

 

 

Brady Heslip walkingShould Raptors Give Canadian Brady Heslip a Camp Invite?
Team Canada shooting guard Brady Heslip played 20 games with the D-League’s Reno Bighorns last year where he averaged 24.5 points per game and shot 44.3 percent from deep. He scored in bunches, four games with 9 or more three-pointers, games of 35, 38, 40 and 45 points.

 

 

 

Anthony Bennett - cropped

Timberwolves Anthony Bennett To Play Center For Canada

Minnesota Timberwolves Anthony Bennett is in Toronto preparing for the Pan Am games with Team Canada and Head Coach Jay Triano suggested this 240 lb 6’8 forward isn’t a three, he’s planning to use him at center in certain lineups.

“(Bennett will) probably (play) the four and the five,” Triano said. “I don’t mind him playing the five spot, especially if Andrew Nicholson is spreading the floor as a stretch four. He has got that ability where he, depending on who he is on the floor with, he can be a guy who can stretch the floor or he can roll and do damage inside.”

After watching the very similarly-sized and skilled Golden State Warriors Draymond Green do amazing things to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, imagining Bennett in that role suddenly gets a lot easier to believe.

It has been a rocky start to Bennett’s NBA career. Shoulder surgery just before the 2013 NBA draft followed by being taken first overall by the Cavaliers in a move that, in Bennett’s words on twitter, “I am just as surprised as everybody else.”

A one-and-done at UNLV, Bennett showed the makings of a do everything forward at the next level. He could rebound, shoot the three and finish around the basket. He didn’t seem to have many weaknesses, but no one saw him as the number one pick and that notoriety has hung a bust label around his neck that on-going injury problems have made impossible for him to shake.

Not surprisingly, Bennett had shoulder issues at the start of his first NBA season – no kidding – and right knee, then left knee problems later on. He only played in 52 games for the Cavs, but seemingly got a second chance when he was traded to the Timberwolves in the summer. A promising first month to the 2014-15 season quickly tailed off and then his year was trashed by leg and ankle injuries. It’s been rumored Minnesota would like to trade him.

There are signs hidden in the numbers that Bennett is better than his bust-like first impressions. He was grabbing a respectable 20.2 percent of the available defensive boards while he was on the court in his first two seasons and that solid three-point shot he had in college is showing signs of reappearing. It isn’t easy adjusting to the NBA after just one-year of college and it had to be a lot harder trying to do while constantly rehabbing injuries, but Triano believes those days may be behind Bennett.

“The body is healthy,” Triano said after watching Bennett working out with Team Canada. “He is as fit as he’s ever been. He is in great shape. He still does all the things, he’s an energy player. He has a great skill-set. He can do a little bit of everything. He can make plays. He can put the ball on the floor. He can rebound the ball for us and that’s the big thing for (Team Canada) right now. We want him to rebound the ball for us. He will find ways to score. It will come out of our offense.”

Playing for Team Canada this summer at the Pan Am Games and later at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico is another second chance for Bennett. An opportunity for him to show that he is healthy and all those great things scouts noticed about in college are still there and can translate to the NBA. And maybe, just maybe NBA teams will stop thinking about Bennett as a combo or small forward. Bennett is a big man and sometimes the best place for a big man is at the center spot.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Brady Heslip walkingShould Raptors Give Canadian Brady Heslip a Camp Invite?

As Raptors GM Masai Ujiri seems to be the process of looking for training camp invitees that will likely end up with Raptors 905 in Mississauga, maybe he should take a look at Brady Heslip? After all, those defensive specialists the Raptors have been lining up could use a really challenging offensive player to work against and the Raptors new D-League team will need someone that can score.

 

 

Brady Heslip walking

Should Raptors Give Canadian Brady Heslip a Camp Invite?

The long ball comes naturally to Canada’s best shooter. Brady Heslip shot 46 percent from three-point range in his final season at Baylor, however, that didn’t get him drafted into the NBA. He spent last year overseas and in the NBA D-league proving his long range game works just as well out the NBA three-point line and beyond. As Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri seems to be the process of looking for training camp invitees that will likely end up with Raptors 905 in Mississauga, maybe he should take a look at Heslip? After all, those defensive specialists the Raptors have been lining up could use a really challenging offensive player to work against and the Raptors new D-League team will need someone that can score.

Heslip arrived at Team Canada practice on the last day Head Coach Jay Triano was looking for players to add to his Pan Am Games roster. Heslip’s NBA Summer League opportunity with the Minnesota Timberwolves hadn’t worked out this time, but he’ll be a huge boost to a short-handed and scoring challenged Senior Men’s National Team.

“The thing he does best is shoot the basketball,” Triano said. “But, Brady is a good playmaker as well and he knows how to score, whether it’s a shot or a drive to the basket. He is unselfish as a driver and he finds guys who are open. His ability offensively is going to help (Team Canada) score points.”

After failing to capitalize on a training camp invite with the Timberwolves last year, Brady played 20 games with the D-League’s Reno Bighorns where he averaged 24.5 points per game and shot 44.3 percent from deep. He scored in bunches, four games with 9 or more three-pointers, games of 35, 38, 40 and 45 points. If a team fails to run Brady off the three-point line, they are going pay dearly.

As if Brady needed to prove he could score against teams where defense might be more of a priority – the D-League is better known for scoring, he headed overseas for a short stint in the Adriatic league. In 7 games with Igokea, he averaged 23.7 points and shot 42 percent from three.

“I feel like my role on most of the teams I’ve played on is to score the ball,” Heslip said. “When I am on the court, I put myself in a position to do that.

“In training camp in Minnesota (last year) I learned a lot in just a month and a half. In the D-League I learned what a grind it is there and then I got the best of both worlds, I went to Europe. The main thing was I had a lot of responsibility on the two teams I was on and I just felt that I expanded my game and got a lot of confidence.”

Brady even played a bit in Canada’s NBBL where he put up a 50 point game.

Heslip has been a big part of Team Canada in the past and he has provided a major-league scoring punch in international contests. With so many FIBA teams using zone defenses, a knock-down three-point specialist like Heslip is essential at times to create any kind of offense. As more NBA teams start packing the paint as part of their usual defensive strategy, a zone-buster like Heslip should be able to find a role.

“Every team in the NBA looks for guys that have a specific NBA skill,” Triano said. “Brady has one in his ability to shoot the basketball. It has to be the right place, right time.”

“I haven’t made any commitments to teams (here) or overseas, so really I am just focused on (Team Canada) and building off this into August for the (Olympic) qualifier,” Heslip said. “I think (Team Canada) just gives me more experience, more games.”

Although Heslip is a great shooter and has an NBA ready skill, his size will probably remain a concern throughout his career at the defensive end of the court. A shooting guard in point guard’s body, but just maybe that isn’t the concern that it once was?

“Everyone is going to say something,” Heslip said. “Little white guy, he can’t guard at this level and stuff like that, but there are plenty of guys who do it. You just need to be in the right situation at the right time.”

While it would be surprise to see the 6’2 Heslip on an NBA roster next season, if he could land a spot on the Raptors 905 less than half-an-hour from the Air Canada Centre and very close to his hometown in Burlington, Heslip might become hard not to notice if the right situation came up. This kid has an extraordinary ability to shoot the basketball and a team never knows when it will find themselves in desperate need of a scorer.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Brady Heslip by MoVernie (edited)Can Canadian Brady Heslip Make The Timberwolves?

Last July, Minnesota decided to give him a look at Summer League and Brady Heslip wasn’t about to waste his opportunity. In his final two games he averaged 15.5 points and made 7-10 three-points attempts. Then with Team Canada, the undersized guard led his team in scoring against Georgia, Croatia, Serbia and Angola.

 

 

Sim Bhullar stretches out

A Slimmed Down Sim Bhullar To Join Team Canada

Team Canada’s biggest basketball prospect Sim Bhullar will be headed to the Pan Am games in hometown Toronto after warming up with a couple of NBA Summer League games for the Kings.
 

 
 
At 7’5”, Bhullar was the tallest player coming out of college a year ago, but that wasn’t enough to get him drafted. However, getting a training camp invite from Sacramento did not come as a surprise. Somebody was going to give a kid this big a hard look.
 
“I think (Bhullar) is probably on every team’s radar,” Raptors Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman told Pro Bball Report last summer. “A guy that big in Division 1 basketball, you hear about it.
 
“If a player (Bhullar’s) size is interested in becoming better and wants to be an NBA player and really wants to get better, then absolutely coaching is – I don’t want to say that it is easy, but it helps – if they want to be in the gym, then (the NBA’s) got coaches and got development people that will work with him constantly to get better.”
 
Bhullar spent last season with the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns until he was called up on an historic 10-day contract to become the first player of Indian descent in NBA history. However, this really big man still needed to work on his body and get his conditioning up to an NBA level and apparently that’s just what he has been working on this summer.  
 


 

Sim Bhullar layupsDuring the predraft workouts at the Air Canada Center this past June, Bhullar could be seen around the Raptors practice court and he did look somewhat different, although it is truly hard to distinguish if a player that massive had lost any weight from a year ago.

 

Most of the “A” list for Team Canada will miss the Pan Am games because of NBA free agency, Summer League, and because the Olympic Qualifying tournament is being held at the end of August in Mexico. However, just seeing how far Bhullar has come since last summer could be worth the price of admission. There hasn’t been a player this big in the NBA since “The Great Wall” Yao Ming and a slimmed down Bhullar just might be back in the NBA to stay next season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Nash with Team Canada OfficialsCanada Basketball Sends “B” Team To Pan Am Games
With so many of Canada’s stars embroiled in NBA free agency and upcoming NBA Summer League games, it should not come as much of a surprise that the big names like Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins won’t be there.

 

 

Nash with Team Canada Officials

Canada Basketball Sends “B” Team To Pan Am Games

Canada Basketball has announced the 16 players that will tryout for the Pan Am Games roster in July. Of note, this is not the Olympic qualifying tournament for next summer.

With so many of Canada’s stars embroiled in NBA free agency and upcoming NBA Summer League games, it should not come as much of a surprise that the big names like Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins won’t be there. However, the team will feature the Minnesota Timberwolves Anthony Bennett and the Orlando Magic’s Andrew Nicholson.

The balance of the roster includes many names familiar to those who have followed Team Canada in the past:

Jermaine Anderson TBB Trier (Germany),

Olu Ashaolu, Hamamatsu Phoenix (Japan),

Sim Bhullar, 3 games with Sacramento Kings (NBA),

Dillon Brooks, University of Oregon (NCAA),

Junior Cadougan, Sidigas AV (Italy),

Aaron Doornekamp, Fraport Sky (Germany),

Melvin Ejim, Bayreuth (Germany),

Carl English, AEK Athens (Greece),

Devoe Joseph, Cholet (France),

Daniel Mullings, Bayreuth (Germany),

Jamal Murray, Orangeville Prep (High School),

Dyshawn Pierre, University of Dayton (NCAA),

Thomas Scrubb, Carleton University (CIS), and

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga University (NCAA).

The head coach is Jay Triano.

This represents an excellent opportunity to continue the growth of the program and give some players that may not represent their Country at the Olympic qualifier from August 31 to September 12 in Mexico City a chance to play.

The first game is Tuesday, July 21 versus the Dominican Republic.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Tyler Ennis

Bucks Tyler Ennis May Miss NBA Summer League And Team Canada

The Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis is expected to be out of action for the next eight weeks or more after unexpectedly undergoing labral repair surgery to his right shoulder on Tuesday as reported by NBA.com

Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond announced that guard Tyler Ennis underwent successful labral repair surgery to his right shoulder today. After consultation with Bucks orthopaedist Dr. Michael Gordon and Dr. David Altcheck from the Hospital for Special Surgery, the procedure was performed this morning in New York.

It was only a few days ago that Ennis was quoted as hoping to play in the NBA Summer League and for Team Canada. The Canadian Men’s National Team will be at the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto from July 21-25 and the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Monterrey, Mexico from August 25 to September 6 where they hope to earn a trip to Rio 2016.

The Bucks rookie guard was acquired from Phoenix in a three-team deal on February 19. He had not missed any games due to this injury during the season. Ennis averaged 14.1 minutes, 4 points and 2.4 assists in 25 games with Milwaukee and appeared in one postseason contest playing 16 minutes and contributing 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the Bucks Game 6 blowout loss to the Bulls.

The competition for a spot on the Team Canada roster is expected to be especially tough this summer with a record number of NBA players likely to be available. It will be very difficult for Ennis to make the final roster if he isn’t back to 100 percent by the time training camp opens.

Ennis was born in Brampton, Ontario and represented Canada at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague.

 

 

 

DeRozan at Media Day

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Says World Cup Helped Him

The Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan did not have a big role on the FIBA World Cup Gold medal winning Team USA, however, he says his experience will help him grow as a player according to Emmet Ryan of Ball in Europe.

“It felt great,” DeRozan said. “Especially to play at this level with these great players that you can learn so much from and just to take this same energy and the same experience back. It can’t do nothing but help you.”

VIDEO: DeRozan says World Cup win will help him as a Raptor

 

 

 
 

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

No Contest, USA Wins FIBA World Cup Gold, Kyrie Irving MVP

Serbia was not expected to be in the Gold Medal game against the United States and after a high energy start that saw the underdogs go up 15-7 early in the first quarter, the game became a shooting and rebounding display by the USA and turned into a blowout early in the second quarter.

  It quickly became obvious Serbia was just happy to be here once the game turned. They had already “won” this tournament by going home with the Silver. USA cruised to a 129-92 victory and never trailed after DeMarcus Cousins tied the game at 15-all on a pair of made free throws with 4:51 left in the first quarter.  

 

USA vs. Serbia boxscore

Kyrie Irving shot 6-6 from three-point range and led all scorers with 26 points. He was named the tournament MVP. Team USA captain James Harden scored 23 points and Cousins helped swing the momentum in his team’s favor after Anthony Davis picked up two quick fouls. Cousins finished with 11 points and 9 boards.

“DeMarcus Cousins had about five plays right in the middle of the first half that really turned positive – 8 points, 10 points – for us and then our whole team gelled,” USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said during the post game press conference.

“This is by far the biggest accomplishment of my life so far,” Irving said. “This feels amazing. This is one of the greatest feelings that I’ve ever felt.”

22-year-old forward Nikola Kalinic led Serbia with 18 points on 8-9 shooting from the field.

The well-deserving tournament All-Star Five were Kenneth Faried, Pau Gasol, Nicolas Batum, Kyrie Irving and Milos Teodosic.


USA – Serbia post game press conference

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Valanciunas and Batum

Valanciunas And Batum Battled For Bronze At FIBA World Cup

In a game that came down to a free throw contest in the final minute after the Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and the Portland Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum had traded baskets all game, it was France finally winning the Bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup in Spain 95-93.
 


 

Both Valanciunas and Batum played over 34 minutes and kept their respective teams in this contest. Batum led all scorers with 27 points on 8-12 shooting and 9-11 from the free throw line. Valanciunas led Lithuania with 25 points and 9 rebounds on 8-12 shooting and 9-10 from the charity stripe. However, it was the savvy veteran play of the Spurs Boris Diaw hitting improbable shots around the basket in the fourth quarter that swung the game in France’s favor. Diaw played over 33 minutes and scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting.

Valanciunas spoke with Emmet Ryan of Ball in Europe after the game.

VIDEO: Valanciunas says FIBA World Cup has been a learning experience

“I have grown every time I’ve stepped on the court,” Valanciunas said. “So I feel I’ve got something.”
 

 
NBA training camps open in about two weeks.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Rudy Gay Kings by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com)

Kings Rudy Gay Got A Fractured Jaw Vs. Lithuania

The Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay will be sidelined for Team USA’s Gold Medal game versus Serbia after receiving a fractured jaw in Thursday’s semifinal game against Lithuania according to USA TODAY Sport Sam Amick.
 

“I’ve got a fracture in my jaw, a broken tooth and am going to probably need a root canal,” Gay told USA TODAY Sports. “The top is where I got hit. It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable, and it still bleeds, so I’ve got to continuously gargle. It is what it is, man.”

 

Gay was hit in the mouth by one of the Lavrinovic twin brothers who have played a very physical FIBA brand of basketball for a long time.

“I don’t even remember,” Gay said. “I couldn’t tell them apart.”

The incident happened in the third quarter and was the likely cause of the typical basketball ‘scuffle’ between the two teams broken up by USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I just wanted to get in the middle and I figured they wouldn’t hit an old man,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m Polish, I knew the Lithuanians were friends. I could be somebody who – those two things – Polish and being old, I figure that’s a good separator.”

 

 

 

Note: Sportando reports Gay will play against Serbia in the Gold Medal game, but it seems unnecessary and very unlikely his club team would support such a decision.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Display photo credit Paul Saini, Fylmm.com

 

 

DeMar DeRozan interview by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com) cropped

Raptors DeRozan Says USA Won’t Take Teams Lightly

The Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and virtually everyone on Team USA knows they can’t take other teams lightly if they want to win Gold at the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

“I am not surprised about anything in international competition,” USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “All these teams are good. That is why we haven’t mentioned anybody that we might play because we don’t know if we might play. We can lose. If we feel we can lose, then anybody else can lose because there are so many good teams.”

Emmet Ryan of Ball in Europe talked to DeRozan after Team USA’s win over Lithuania that put Team USA in the Gold medal game on Sunday.

“We understand that there are still a lot of things at stake,” DeRozan said. “We can’t take nobody lightly.”

DeMar DeRozan “We can’t take nobody lightly”

 

The lesson of Spain’s elimination by France is not lost on the American team.

 

Team USA knocked off Lithuania 96-68 on Thursday to advance and with so many players who know each other well as in the case of DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas who are from the same club team, but representing different countries, there is a significant amount of goodwill at these international competitions.

 

 

On Sunday, the USA goes for Gold against winner of the semifinal game on Friday between Serbia and France.

Lithuania plays in the Bronze Medal game on Saturday.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Irving and Thompson

USA Advances To Gold Medal Game At FIBA World Cup

For three of the four quarters Lithuania managed to hang with Team USA, but a third quarter scoring explosion by the Americans proved to be too much for the Lithuanians to handle and the US won by a wide margin.  The 96-68 score wasn’t indicative of how hard Team USA had to fight.

As expected, Lithuania played a tough physical game, however, it was the Americans that got into the early foul trouble and both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins fouled out. Kenneth Faried, who has been tearing up defenses all tournament, was held to just 9 points and 6 rebounds.

At half, USA was fortunate to be leading 43-35, primarily on the strong play of Klay Thompson’s 6-11 shooting for 14 points. Lithuania’s small forward Mandaugas Kuzminskas was able to take advantage of James Harden and the US smaller lineup for 12 points and 7 boards in the first half.

“Klay’s play in the first half was the biggest reason we were ahead at half time,” USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said during the post game press conference.

The USA opened the second half at a new pace and started converting opportunities into points. Kyrie Irving turned it up a notch and Harden got mad, finally taking advantage of his mismatch at the offensive end. The third quarter quickly turned into a 33-14 blowout for a plus 20 point lead that the US never gave back.

“Kyrie was special in this game,” Krzyzewski said. “In the third quarter, he got us moving.”

Irving led all scorers with 18 points on 8-15 shooting. Thompson and Harden finished with 16 points each.

Kuzminskas was held to just 3 second half points to finish with 15 points and 9 rebounds.

Without their starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis, Lithuania has turnover problems and the US was able to take advantage of the 21 Lithuanian turnovers to score 24 points. Adas Juskevicius stepped in to play big minutes at the point against the Americans and scored 12 points despite going 1-8 from the field as he was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.

Inside, Jonas Valanciunas contributed 15 points on 11-13 free throws and 7 boards and was the primary reason why the American big men were in foul trouble.

 

USA v Lithuania – Post Game Press Conference – FIBA 2014 Basketball World Cup

 

USA vs. Lithuania Boxscore

 

Lithuania moves on to the Bronze Medal game against the loser of the other semifinal between Serbia and France on Saturday.

The USA goes for Gold against the other semifinal winner on Sunday.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 

Diaw and Gobert

Spain Stunned By France 65-52 At FIBA World Cup

A hometown crowd of 13,673 in Madrid were stunned into near silence as Spain was upset 65-52 with a 12-2 run over the final 2.5 minutes by Les Bleus. The powerhouse combination of veterans Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were outworked and outhustled by France’s pair of 22-year-olds Rudy Gobert and Joffrey Lauvergne and the veteran Boris Diaw.

Spain had cruised through pool play and the first elimination contest averaging over 88 points per game and never facing a real threat to their supremacy. Even France had bowed down without a fight 88-64 earlier to Spain. However, in the quarterfinals match, France controlled the pace, slowed the game down to a crawl and Spain found themselves in the uncomfortable position of playing from behind for nearly the entire contest.

It didn’t help that Spain shot 2-22 from behind the arc, but France wasn’t doing much better from deep at 6-25, however, the real reason for Spain’s problems came on the glass where France hammered them 50-28 thanks to an unexpected 13 rebounds from Gobert and 10 from Lauvergne.

France’s defense was on target all game and held Spain to just 32 percent shooting from the field and the soon-to-be Jazz sophomore Gobert was a big reason for Spain’s inability to dominate in the paint like they had all tournament. Gobert was only credited with one blocked shot, but he changed many others and was key to keeping the Spanish big men from taking over this game.

At the other end of the court, the Spurs Diaw had an effective 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists to lead France in scoring and point guard Thomas Heurtel had 13 points on 4-7 shooting.

The Bulls Pau Gasol led all scorers with 17 points on 7-12 shooting, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, but the Grizzlies Marc Gasol, Thunder Ibaka and Timberwolves Ricky Rubio each shot 1-7 from the field to seal Spain’s fate.

An unexpected and devastating loss for Spain on their home turf to their biggest European rival who was without their best player is a shock to the fans, tournament organizers and to Team USA. The Americans were game planning for a gold medal match against Spain and now will not have to face the only team expected to threaten them.

Boxscore: Spain vs. France

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR DeRozan Valanciunas

Raptors DeRozan And Valanciunas To Meet At FIBA World Cup

Raptors teammates DeMar DeRozan with Team USA and Jonas Valanciunas representing Lithuania are poised to meet in the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup in Spain and Emmet Ryan of Ball in Europe has the two NBA stars talking about the game on Thursday.

DeMar DeRozan looking forward to facing Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas looking forward to possible DeMar DeRozan clash

“They are a really, really good team,” Valanciunas said.