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FIBA Team Canada Anthony Bennett

Canadian Anthony Bennett To Join Fenerbahce In Turkey

Former number one overall NBA draft pick from Canada Anthony Bennett will join FIBA club team Fenerbahce In Turkey after bring cut by the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week as reported by Sportando.

Bennett was originally drafted by the Cavaliers in 2013 and traded the next summer along with Andrew Wiggins to Timberwolves for Kevin Love as part of a three-team deal. He was waived by Timberwolves the next summer and signed as a free agent by the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors waived him in March and he was signed as a free agent by Brooklyn in July.

Bennett played in 23 games with the Nets before being waived on January 9, 2017. He had played in 151 games and 1,905 total minutes averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in the NBA over parts of four seasons.

As a freshman at UNLV in 2012-13, Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds.

The biggest winner out of this move may be Canada Basketball as Bennett will learn the FIBA game ahead of this summer’s international play.


 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Outperformed Cavs Kyrie Irving in Rio

Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise as the top players at international tournaments are invariably the more experienced veterans, so when Team USA was struggling – and they did struggle in Rio, they went to their 30-year-old veteran point guard Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors to get things back on track.  It’s not that the Cavs 24-year-old Kyrie Irving had a bad tournament, he shot the ball well and was a significant contributor on offense, it was Lowry’s defense that allowed him to outperform his NBA rival as described by Kurt Helin of NBC Sports.

As they had every step of the way to the USA’s gold medal, the bench changed the dynamic of the game when they entered.

Deserving the most credit was the combination of Kyle Lowry at the point and Paul George at the wing — they changed games. Plural. Lowry is a better, more tenacious on-ball defender than Kyrie Irving.

Look at it this way, against Argentina in the quarterfinals the lineup of Lowry, Butler, George, Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins was +20 in 12 minutes, the rest of the team was +7 for the remainder of the game.

the USA doesn’t have gold without Lowry, George and the rest of Team USA’s bench.

Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski had a plan. Irving was paired with defensive center DeAndre Jordan who clogged the paint and intimidated at the rim.  Lowry played a lot with the offensively talented DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings big man had a monster performance in the Gold medal game. In the end, Krzyzewski’s rotations got the job done yet again and Team USA got better the longer the tournament went.

For all the NBA players that didn’t make it to the Olympics in Rio like LeBron James, Team USA was still an All-Star roster and their least utilized player Harrison Barnes just signed at $94.4 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks in July. Team USA won the Gold with their depth – again. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a veteran All-Star was one of the keys to victory.

Gold Medal Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics



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.





Team Argentina Luis Scola

Luis Scola To Carry The Flag For Argentina At The Rio Olympics

Luis Scola has represented the South American powerhouse Argentina in international basketball for over two decades and in his fourth Olympic Games, he will carry his Country’s Flag during the opening ceremonies in Rio. An honor won by hard work and dedication to his National Team.

“It’s amazing,” Scola told Pro Bball Report after he heard the news. “I can’t believe it you know. I will have the chance to do that.

“This is my fourth Olympics. I can remember going into my first one and now after some time I had no idea what I was going to be in. I thought about the Olympics as just another experience and I didn’t know it was this life changing experience that people will pay a lot of money to see and they will do a lot of things to win this.

“I had a chance to not only be there but also to play there and to win there.”

In 2004, Scola and Manu Ginobili led Argentina to a semi-final upset win over Team USA represented by group of young NBA Stars including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Amar’e Stoudemire and Allen Iverson. Team Argentina won Olympic Gold in Athens that year.

In 2008, Scola led Argentina in scoring and took home a Bronze from the Beijing Olympics. They didn’t medal in 2012, but Argentina managed to qualify for 2016 in Rio by winning a Silver medal at the FIBA Americas tournament last summer with Scola taking tournament MVP honors.

“Each (Olympics) is different,” Scola said. “I know a lot more about what I am going to need, what kind of experience I am going to have. My eyes are going to be more open. My eyes and ears and mind is going to be more open to live the experience more because I know how important it is, much more than I did 12 years ago.

“On the other hand, basketball-wise we are not as competitive as we were before and that will change the experience a little bit. It’s just a different reality.

“I think I am going to be nervous.”

At 36-years-old Scola is not ready to go out in a hard-earned blaze of glory from basketball just yet. After the Olympics he will be joining the Brooklyn Nets on a one-year contract in his tenth NBA season.

Last year he played for the Toronto Raptors and started 76 games. Not as quick or strong in the post as he once was, Scola put up almost three times as many three-point shots as he had in his entire NBA career up to that point and he hit over 40 percent of them.

Now a stretch-four, Scola is going to be called on for scoring by Argentina at the Olympics once again, but this NBA, FIBA and Olympic veteran has nothing to be nervous about in Rio. He just shot 2-5 from three-point range in a Friendly against Team USA on July 22nd.



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.





Team USA DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Team USA Men’s Basketball To Be Streamed Live

If you can’t get enough NBA basketball because it’s the summer, no worries, you can get your fill of NBA stars streaming live on Facebook or watch on NBA TV reports

Over the next two weeks, the NBA and USA Basketball will be live-streaming a mix of nine men’s and women’s exhibition games.

The games will be streamed on the Facebook pages for USA Basketball and the NBA, and they may show up as promoted posts in your feed, too.

According to the NBA, the games will only be aired live; there won’t be cached versions to watch later. And Facebook’s stream will be simulcast straight from NBA TV

USA basketball starts on Friday, July 22 at 9pm ET with the Team USA Men going up against Argentina in a pre-Olympic exhibition friendly.





NBA D-League Melvin Ejim

Melvin Ejim Was The Next Best Canadian In Manila

Team Canada came up short in a 83-74 loss to the Olympic Qualifier favorite France in Manila and once again it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph leading Canada in scoring almost by himself with 20 points. The next best player Canada had for putting the ball in the basket didn’t come from the NBA. The next best Canadian in Manila was the undrafted forward Melvin Ejim who played in Italy and Erie of the NBA D-League last season.

While Joseph has been Team Canada’s undisputed leader for several years now and led his team in scoring in each of their four games in Manila and his 19.2 points per game was third best in the tournament, the guys who were supposed to helping put in some points were conspicuously absent. Some like Andrew Wiggins chose not to go, but none of the other three Canadian NBAers who played could manage to score in double digits.

As a team, Canada shot poorly all tournament and only hit on 26.7 percent of their three-point attempts, a disaster waiting to happen in paint-packed FIBA basketball. Usually reliable sharp shooter Brady Heslip was 2-13 from deep for the tournament, Philip Scrubb was 2-12 as was Joseph. Far and away the best shooter for Canada was Ejim.

Ejim was the only other Canadian player to average double-digits (12.5 points) in scoring and he was the best three-point shooter on the team (7-13). Ejim was one of the few Canadians on the court besides Joseph that was noticeable for almost every minute he was on the court and it wasn’t just on offense. Ejim was a team best +14 points for the tournament.

Going back to the predraft workouts in 2014, the potential of a four year college player who could contribute on defense and shoot from distance was noticed.

“Melvin (Ejim), he is another guy that is intriguing because he plays so hard defensively,” Raptors Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman said. “Because of the style of Coach Casey, we kind of gravitate towards players that fit into that (style) naturally and Melvin is a powerful defender on the wing and that goes a long way in the NBA.”

“I am a small forward and I bring the versatility to be able to defend bigger guys,” Ejim said. “I have a strong body and can do a lot of things defensively and offensively. I can shoot the ball and play inside and out. If you don’t consider those good things, then tweener is a bad thing. I just it depends on how you view the role. A tweener – playing small ball, that’s an asset you can use to help you win games. I am just trying to show I can play defense, I can defend the perimeter, defend small forwards and be a leader, shoot the ball and be aggressive.”

Now 25-years-old with two seasons of professional experience under his belt, Ejim was ready to show that he had continued to improved his game since college.

Ejim’s scoring had improved from 10.2 points per game as a freshman in college to 17.8 as a senior and his three-point shooting improved from 22.4 to 34.6 percent. Last year in Italy he shot 37 percent from three, but he showed the biggest overall improvement in his game playing for Erie where he averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 39 games.

Listed at 6’7 and 220 lbs, Ejim plays a lot bigger and that has earned him the tweener label, but he is showing that he can play small forward in big lineups and a stretch-four in small lineups. Being a “tweener” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in today’s NBA.

As Tolzman said in 2014, “You like to see players that are stair-stepping towards (us when) we get them because that’s a natural trajectory that you want to see.

“(A tweener) is almost a positive in today’s game because you want the flexibility if a team goes big against you, you have the ability to just shift guys over and keep your best players out there.”

Ejim has continued to “stair-step” in his development, but he missed out on NBA Summer League (for the moment) so he could play for Canada this summer. Hopefully the GMs in the NBA were paying attention to the players that chose to represent their Countries at the three Olympic Qualifying tournaments. There were some pretty good players that deserve another look by the NBA.



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.





NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Carries Canada Past New Zealand

Team Canada was in tough against a physical squad from New Zealand on Saturday, but once again the Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph was there to pick up the scoring load and lead his team with a game-high 23 points and 4 assists. Canada securing the 78-72 win with a 6-1 run over the final 3.5 minutes.

The Tall Blacks strategy was obvious from the jump. Hit, hold and foul at every opportunity and they made it tough on the referees to call everything. New Zealand was tagged with 27 personal fouls and Canada was sent to the free throw line 25 times, but it didn’t cost New Zealand. The Canadians missed 11 free throws and failed to take advantage of their opportunities to build a lead that would have made this a much easier game.

New Zealand also took advantage of Canada on the perimeter, hitting on 11-29 three-point attempts. Canada, on the other hand, continued with their tournament long struggles from the outside hitting just 4-20 from three. The usually reliable Brady Heslip failed to connect from deep for the second game in a row going 0-3. Anthony Bennett was 1-5, Thomas Scrubb and Joseph both went 1-4.

Where Canada found their advantage was in the paint as Melvin Ejim (13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Tristan Thompson (13 points, 10 rebounds) embraced the physical play. In limited minutes Khem Birch (6 points, 5 rebounds) came in and impacted the game with his size and toughness. The trio accounting for 12 of Canada’s 18 offensive boards.

Canada vs New Zealand 2016



With the win Canada advances to the tournament final to play the winner of France versus Turkey at 9am ET on Sunday. Canada defeated Turkey earlier in the tournament 77-69. In Pool play, France trailed New Zealand by 10 points after three quarters, but came away with the 66-59 victory with a huge fourth quarter.

Tournament favorite France is led by the San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, the Denver Nuggets Joffery Lauvergne and Euroleague MVP Nando De Colo.

The winner on Sunday goes to Rio to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics.



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.





NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Saves Canada In Ugly Win Over Senegal

It was as ugly a basketball game as can be played. Senegal proving that hard work and effort can almost beat vastly superior talent especially when your team’s star player puts you on his back. The Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph scored 7 of Canada’s 11 fourth quarter points to hold onto the lead and eek out a 58-55 win despite the heroics of Senegal’s Maurice Ndour.

It was a bevy of turnovers, bad shots, ignored time clock violations, terrible defensive rebounding, bad offense and uncontrolled hustle by both teams that made this game the ugly affair that it most certainly was.

Senegal shot 25 percent on twos in this game and if they hadn’t unexpectedly hit on 9-29 three-point attempts, they would have struggled to crack single digits in any quarter.

Canada was beating themselves at the free throw line, missing 8 of their first 19 attempts until Joseph stepped up to hit 3-4 to preserve the victory in the final 11 seconds. Three-point shooting is a concern for Canada, but going just 2-17 almost sunk them. The usually reliable Brady Heslip going 0-5 and Philip Scrubb 0-4 from deep without much of an excuse for the bricklaying.

Joseph led Canada in scoring for the second game in a row with 13 points and an important 5-6 from the charity stripe. Tyler Ennis had 12 points, but was 2-6 from the free throw line and Tristan Thompson had 7 points and 10 boards while embarrassing himself from the line 1-4.

The star of this game was forward Maurice Ndour who played at Ohio in 2014-15 but went undrafted and played for Real Madrid last season. The 24-year-old Ndour put on a show with a game high 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. He hit on 4-8 three-point attempts and personally kept the score close.

Canada probably should have been better prepared for Ndour. In his final college season he averaged 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks while shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range.

Canada v Senegal 2016


With the win Canada advances to the Semi-Finals on Saturday to play the second place team from Group B (t.b.d.). Fortunately no cares how you advance after you get there.



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.




Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Leads Canada Past Turkey In Manila

At the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph putting his team on his shoulders (AGAIN) to win the opener 77-69 over Turkey.

The Canadian team features featured five NBA players including Joseph, Anthony Bennett (free agent), Tyler Ennis (Bucks), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers) and Joel Anthony (Pistons), however, this game might have been lost if it wasn’t for the Scrubb brothers Philip and Thomas who play in Germany.

While Joseph led all scorers with 21 points and single-handedly stopped Turkey’s 8-0 run in the third quarter with four made shots in a row to reclaim a double-digit lead for Canada over the final 1:42 heading into the fourth quarter, the Scrubb brother combined for 19 very big points and 11 boards.

Except for a few minutes towards the end of the first quarter, Canada led this game wire-to-wire and it was the always reliable shooter Brady Heslip hitting the three-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first to reclaim the lead 18-16 that Canada never relinquished the rest of the way.

Thompson missed all of Canada’s pre-tournament warm-up games and looked a little rusty shooting 3-11 from the field for 10 points and 6 boards. He did get 3 assists and much more is expected from Thompson as he re-adjusts to FIBA basketball. Bennett scored just 4 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in 17 minutes and Ennis had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Joseph led all players with 5 assists and in minutes played at 34.8.

Canada v Turkey 2016 FIBA

Canada vs Turkey boxscore

This wasn’t the first time Team Canada has leaned heavily on the 24-year-old Joseph to win an important international game. Joseph has played for the Senior Men’s National team since 2011 and he’s been it’s leader at the last two FIBA Americas Championships in 2013 and 2015.

Canada plays Senegal on Wednesday and a win guarantees they advance to the elimination round.



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.





Team Canada Cory Joseph

Cory Joseph And Tristan Thompson To Lead Team Canada In Manila

Canada Basketball has announced the 12-man roster that will compete in the 6-team Olympic Qualifying Tournament (“OQT”), tipping-off July 5th in Manila, Philippines.

“Our goal is to qualify for the Olympics,” head coach Jay Triano said. “We are focused on one practice at a time and one game at a time.”

Canada went 4-1 in a European exhibition tournament, taking on China, Croatia, Italy and Puerto Rico. Cory Joseph (Toronto Raptors) and Joel Anthony (Detroit Pistons) joined the group for the June 29th win over Puerto Rico, and Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers) met the team in Manila.

“We are facing some of the top teams at the qualifier and have prepared by completing a rigorous preparation schedule in Europe,” general manager Steve Nash said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to achieve an Olympic berth and our players and staff will be doing everything possible to achieve our goal of qualifying for Rio.”

Canada will play in Group A taking on Turkey on July 5th and Senegal on July 6th at 6:30 a.m. ET, respectively.

The Philippines, France and New Zealand will play in Group B. The top two teams from each group in the preliminary rounds will move on to the semi-final crossover games. The top two teams will then compete in the finals.

The tournament champion qualifies for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Team Canada Senior Men's National Team Roster 2016


TSN will broadcast the tournament in Canada on TSN2 or TSN4 as follows:

Broadcast Schedule

Tuesday, July 5
– Turkey vs. Canada at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN2
– France vs. Philippines at 9 a.m. ET on TSN2

Wednesday, July 6
– Canada vs. Senegal at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– Philippines vs. New Zealand at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Thursday, July 7
– Senegal vs. Turkey at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– New Zealand vs. France at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Saturday, July 9
– Semi-final #1 at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– Semi-final #2 at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Sunday, July 10
– Final at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4




Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Dreams Of Going To The Rio Olympics

While the Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph was still fighting to advance in the NBA playoffs he told Pro Bball Report that he would be representing Canada this summer with the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Joseph has been there every summer for Team Canada since he was a teenager and he’s arguably been their best player over the past three years. He dreams of bringing the team back to the glory days when Steve Nash took Canada Basketball to the world stage.

It isn’t going to be easy however. There are even fewer NBA players on Team Canada’s preliminary roster than last summer when they just missed qualifying for Rio and this time hope primarily rests on Joseph and the FIBA veterans as reported by Canada Basketball.


“Given the time of year, player availability is always changing. We’re continuing to talk to teams and players may become available as the summer progresses,” said Steve Nash, general manager, men’s national team. “Playing for your country is an honour, we have a deep pool of talent who are committed to playing for Canada and we’re ready to get to work.”

It was inexperience that crushed Canada’s hopes of qualifying in Mexico last year and the team faces many of those same obstacles again. They have enough talent to be competitive, but they’ll have to beat France in the qualifying tournament to advance as reported on

As for Joseph, he recalled: “It was frustrating as we had maybe our worst game of the tournament at the worst moment. Venezuela outplayed us. In this kind of competition, every team is talented and plays with a lot of passion. It was disappointing not to reach the gold medal and clinch a direct spot to Rio. Now, our minds are focused on Manilla. We got to fight for our lives to get a spot to the Olympic tournament.”

“Everyone has the same dream of going to Rio and every game is going to be very competitive. France and Turkey have a lot of experience, but every team is going to Manilla with ambition.

“It’s going to be an exciting tournament. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw are going to be there with France too, that’s going to be an interesting experience.”

It’s a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old NBA backup point guard, but he has elevated his game with Team Canada every summer and this time the team really has no one else to turn to.

“Our talent level isn’t where we thought it might be, but it’s a great chance for these guys, and we have to be really good in a month for four games,” head coach Jay Triano said.

The Olympic dream is still alive, if only on life support, but maybe Nash can use his influence to bolster the roster before the start of the qualifying tournament in the first week of July?



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 & DeColo

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas And Nando De Colo Are Eurobasket All-Stars

The Toronto Raptors got some good news from the Eurobasket 2015 tournament, starting center Jonas Valanciunas and a player they hold the NBA rights to Nando De Colo were named to the All-Star Five.

Lithuania center Jonas Valanciunas also earned his first All-Star Five Presented by Tissot selection after contributing 16 points and 8.4 rebounds per-game, despite suffering with illness earlier in the competition.

France’s Nando De Colo completed the fantastic five after playing a starring role in the hosts’ run to the bronze medal. The 28-year-old averaged 13.1 Points and 5.2 rebounds per-game as he revelled in the increased responsibly on his shoulders.

Valanciunas was the only NBA player on Lithuania’s roster and was his team’s prime offensive weapon, but De Colo stood out over a bevy of teammates playing in the NBA for France including the Spurs Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, Nuggets Joffrey Lauvergne, Magic Even Fournier and Jazz Rudy Gobert. De Colo led his team in scoring and was third in rebounds and assists.

Valanciunas signed a four year $64 million extension this summer with Toronto. De Colo was acquired by the Raptors from the Spurs two seasons ago but signed in Europe after Toronto made him a restricted free agent by issuing a qualifying offer last summer. Toronto issued another qualifying offer this summer to maintain their player rights.




Jonas Valanciunas Lithuania

Jonas Valanciunas Goes For Gold With Lithuania At Eurobasket 2015

Taking on top-ranked and unbeaten Serbia in the Eurobasket 2015 semi-finals, Lithuania was in tough if they wanted to get to the Gold Medal game and a guaranteed Olympic berth in Rio. However, once again Jonas Valanciunas led his team in scoring with 15 points and 4 blocked shots as Lithuania knocked off Serbia 67-64 in a hard-fought defensive battle.

Valanciunas has become an offensive force for Lithuania this summer using his size and length to dominate offensively and on the glass, however, far too often he has been substituted out of games for defensive purposes as described by Basketnews in their pregame write-up.

Jonas Valanciunas, the only Lithuanian player from an NBA team at the European Championship already has four double-doubles. Valanciunas is criticized for defense, but his offense is the main weapon of the Lithuanian national team. After the monstrous appearance against the Italians he has averaged 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. (rough abbreviated translation)

Against Serbia, the game was tough, physical and defensively-oriented and Valanciunas was held to just 26.5 minutes despite his impact at both ends of the court. The big center shot 5-6 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line, but he picked up 4 personal fouls (5 fouls and you’re out by FIBA rules). He had to play defense in this contest.

Serbia epitomizes the tough physical games that FIBA basketball is known for and their own star big man and leading scorer Nemanja Bjelica fouled out. Recently signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 27-year-old Bjelica was held to just 10 points on 3-8 shooting and Valanciunas surprised Bjelica by blocking his shot twice during the same possession.

Lithuania 9-18Boxscore

Eurobasket postgame

“Before EuroBasket 2013 they were saying we had a good team but not great players. When we reached the semi-finals in 2014 [at the FIBA Basketball World Cup] they said we had an easy schedule. I don’t know what they will say now.” – Lithuanian head coach Jonas Kazlauskas

Lithuania will play Spain for Gold in the Eurobasket final 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.





Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Leads Lithuania Past Bargnani And Italy

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had a huge game for Lithuania in a quarter-finals match against Italy at Eurobasket 2015. Valanciunas posted a game-high 26 point 15 rebound double-double in the 95-85 overtime victory.

A big win for Lithuania was an even bigger win for the Raptors as Valanciunas was forced to cover Italy’s stretch-five Andrea Bargnani for nearly the entire 38.5 minutes both players were on the court. While Bargnani had a team high 21 points, he was held to just 36.4 percent shooting from the field, 1-7 from three-point range and just 5 boards and 0 assists as Valanciunas was effective defending the perimeter, grabbing rebounds and imposing his will on the inside. Valanciunas shot 11-13 from the field, even hitting on a couple of mid-range jump shots in the fourth quarter over a surprised Bargnani.

Ball in Europe’s Emmet Ryan described Valanciunas’ dominance:

Jonas Valanciunas utterly dominated Andrea Bargnani from the start. Here, he was back to his best and laid waste to the Italian center for three quarters.

(Coach) Simone Piangiani however was determined to keep Bargs matched up on Valanciunas. When JV sat, so too did his shadow. When he was in, back came Bargs. Given how one-sided this contest was proving it cut out the Italian advantage inside. Bargs tried to get a little bit chippy inside by JV isn’t the kid he once was. Valanciunas took the first shot and was ready to defend himself the next time Bargnani thought about it. The Italian wisely backed off. At the half Bargnani was getting handily dealt with by JV.

There was nowhere to hide Valanciunas on defense in this game as Bargnani was paired with stretch-four Danilo Gallinari who played over 39 minutes and was the more effective of the Italian big men. Gallinari finished with 17 points on 5-11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

This was precisely the type of matchup the Raptors need Valanciunas to become comfortable and effective playing against if he is to start getting the fourth quarter minutes they want him to play in the NBA against small ball and non-traditional lineups.




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.





Team Canada Success Is No Surprise To Steve Nash

While the success of Team Canada is no surprise to general manager Steve Nash, after losing their opening match of the tournament to Argentina, where they eventually ended up after the two preliminary rounds was more than just a little unexpected.

In a surprising turn of events Canada finished first overall after the second round at the FIBA Americas and will face fourth place Venezuela in the semi-finals on Friday. The Canadians had clinched a berth in the semi-finals even before their easy 94-73 victory over previously unbeaten Mexico on Tuesday as both Venezuela and the Dominican Republic lost earlier in the day. Then in their final second round game, Canada scored at will against the Dominican Republic and cruised to a 120-103 win to finish with a record of 6-1. (7-1 counting the win over Cuba that wasn’t carried forward to the second round.)

After Mexico defeated Argentina 95-83 in the final game of the second round with a 17-0 run over the final 3.5 minutes, that record put Canada into a three-way tie for first with Argentina and Mexico, tie-breakers putting the high-scoring Canadians at the top. The reward for being seeded first is a semi-final match with 3 win 4 loss Venezuela, a team Canada defeated 82-62 a week ago. A win on Friday earns Canada a spot in Rio at the 2016 Olympics.

Steve Nash 2015“I feel like this was what I envisioned,” Nash said after learning Canada was through to the semis. “There was moments when maybe I wasn’t sure it would come along this crisply, but I thought this would be the curve. We had a timid game against Argentina where we weren’t very good, otherwise we played well in Puerto Rico, we played well since. I don’t think I’d even go as far as pleasantly surprised, but I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it.

“The sky is the limit. Obviously we have a tremendous amount of talent. We have great depth and balance, but again it is always in the details. I think the biggest thing in this tournament for us is continuing to grow because we obviously on any night we can beat anybody, but we could also get beat, especially in a one-off.

“The only thing we are playing against is experience. When you go and you play one game to go to the Olympics anything could happen for the most experienced teams, so for a precocious team like ours you never know what will happen, but it’s exciting.”



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.




Jonas Valanciunas by Robertas Dačkus with permission (3)

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas To Miss His Next Game

The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas will miss his next game with his National Team due to an indeterminate illness according to

“Yesterday after training he climbed quite high temperatures, he receives medication, lies at the hotel and hopes that tomorrow he will be able to play. Today – certainly not, “- said Team doctor Vytenis Trumpickas

The doctor described Mr Valančiūnas illness: “He picked up a virus somewhere, where we can not answer, perhaps just after the workout went out and caught a cold, he has a high temperature, feeling ill. We really hope that he will play tomorrow for all possible means, both liquids rebuild, he is lying down, and we believe that tomorrow he will be able to play. How the body responds to the treatment? It is difficult to say. “

Valanciunas scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Lithuania’s most recent game.

Wiggins FIBA

Andrew Wiggins Leads Canada To 94-73 Spanking Of Mexico

Team Canada faced off against unbeaten Mexico and a boisterous crowd in the second round of the 2015 FIBA Americas spanking them 94-73 on their home court. Andrew Wiggins led Canada with 17 points while hitting on all four of his three-point attempts. It was a crushing victory for the visitors that vaulted Canada past Mexico and into second place with an outside shot at the number one seed in the semi-final round depending on the results of Wednesday’s games.

This contest was never in doubt. Canada only trailed briefly 2-0 at the start, was leading by double-digits in the first quarter and was up by 22 points heading into the half. Mexico had no answers for the Canadians as the visitors found themselves frequently unguarded for wide-open jump shots in the first quarter. Then when head coach Jay Triano went to his bench in the second quarter, his reserves piled on, adding another 10 points to the lead before he went back to his starters to close out the half. Canada coasted through the final 20 minutes unchallenged for the easy 21 point win.


Canada 9-8Boxscore

“I just think we are getting more comfortable playing with each other and our players are starting to understand and learn the international game a little bit better because we come from varied backgrounds,” Triano said after the game. “Our goal was to get better with each game as the tournament has gone on and we struggled in the first game of the tournament, but I think we have taken a step every day.”

Canada lost their only game of the tournament to Argentina on their first day of action. Luis Scola doing what he has often done to Team Canada, burying them with a 35 point effort. Now Canada needs Mexico to dig deep Wednesday night and find a way to steal a game from unbeaten Argentina in order to create a three-way tie (Canada-Mexico-Argentina) for the number seed (tie-breakers, if necessary, to be determined.)

Canada plays the Dominican Republic in the second game of the last day in the second round and will have to wait on Argentina and Mexico to finish before knowing their seeding in the semi-finals.



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 Scola Joseph

Raptors Scola, Valanciunas And Joseph Are Leading Teams This Summer

The Toronto Raptors are watching three of their recently signed key players for next season in leading roles with their respective National Teams this summer. Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola and Cory Joseph are playing on teams expected to make some noise in their respective FIBA tournaments and while each player has a pivotal role, their situations couldn’t be more different.

Lithuania, despite its small size in terms of population, has long been one of the FIBA powerhouses that has punched well outside their weight class. However, there is a changing of the guard in this basketball crazed Country, the veterans are starting to retire and young center Jonas Valanciunas is the only NBA player on the team this summer. Not that expectations are any lower this time around.

Valanciunas missed nearly all of his National Team’s pre-Eurobasket preparations as returned to Toronto during the Friendlies to finalize a new long term deal with the Raptors. The move didn’t go well with his National Team’s fans, but Valanciunas has been a major factor in Lithuania winning two of their first three Eurobasket games and sitting in a four-way tie for first in Group D.

Through three contests, Valanciunas has averaged 19.7 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 26.7 minutes. He is shooting 51 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line. Some people even think he looks a little lighter on his feet which could be very good news when he gets back to Toronto. Valanciunas doesn’t want to be tagged as a big, slow-footed center any longer. He is also showing a little more confidence in the jump shot he was working on earlier this summer.


Argentina has been a powerhouse for the better part of a decade and at the FIBA Americas tournament Scola has been the most dominating player. Scola is 35-years-old now, but unlike Lithuania that is breaking in a new star player, absolutely nothing has changed. Once again the Argentine big man is leading the tournament in scoring as he averages 21.9 points and 10.9 rebounds in 31 minutes. He also leads the tournament in free throws attempted (7.4) and made (4.6) by a wide margin.

Scola is Argentina’s go-to-guy and when Argentina does struggle, they simply don’t take him off the court. In their win over Canada, Scola scored 35 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 34 minutes. (FIBA games are 40 minutes long). In the very tight second round match against Uruguay, Scola had 26 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes proving he still has the legs to do whatever is necessary to get the win.


Unlike any other team at the FIBA Americas, Canada has an unprecedented depth of NBA talent, although they do have a couple of FIBA tournament veterans that provide something the young NBA talent is still figuring out. However, Joseph is the one NBA player on Team Canada that has been to the FIBA Americas for his fifth time, twice as part of the under-19 squad and this is his third trip as part of the Senior Men’s National Team.

Joseph is Coach Triano’s steadying influence, the guy who’s been here before, fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it – Canada hasn’t struggled much in this tournament. Over their first six games, Canada has outscored their opponent by an average of 23.2 points, so Joseph hasn’t been required to play big minutes.

So far Joseph has averaged 9.7 points (4th on Canada), 3.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 22.2 minutes (3rd most on Canada), but his opportunity to shine may not arrive until the semis and the finals. Joseph has played well and remains a leader for Canada, it has just been hard for any one individual to really stand out with Triano able to divide up the minutes so evenly.




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.




Head Coach Jay Triano close up

Canada Should Defeat Mexico To Secure FIBA Americas Semis Appearance

The two top teams heading into the FIBA Americas tournament were Argentina and Canada, both in Group B. In Group A, Mexico avoided the top teams in the preliminary round to go undefeated, but the easy ride is over for the host nation and they have to face Canada tonight and Argentina on Wednesday to determine seeding for the semi-finals on Friday. With a win over Mexico, Canada will secure their spot in the semis.

The worst Canada can finish if they lose to Mexico today and the Dominican Republic tomorrow is in a three-way tied for third with Dominican and Venezuela. Although that would require the Dominican to defeat Argentina today as well, so that should be put in the remote possibility category. Canada will get their shot at a medal. All that remains is determining what seed they can earn.

In the second round of this tournament, the teams that advanced from Group play cross over to play the teams from the other group and where Canada has demolished Group A teams in their first two second round games, Panama 103-66 and then Uruguay 109-82, Mexico has struggled against Group B.

On Sunday Mexico barely got by Puerto Rico 92-86, a team Canada defeated by 20 points, 112-92 in Group play. Then on Monday, Mexico escaped defeat in the dying seconds 73-70 versus Venezuela as described by FIBA. Another team Canada defeated by 20 points, 82-62.

Mexico closed the day by securing a spot in the semifinals after winning, 73-70, in a game that they were losing for 39 minutes.

Venezuela gave a brilliant fight showing their structure on both sides of the court, however four points from Jorge Gutierrez in the last 9 seconds of the match sealed the win for the hosts.

As head coach Jay Triano and starting point guard Cory Joseph will be sure to remind their teammates, in 2013 Canada was but a win away from guaranteeing themselves a spot at the 2014 World Cup and lost three-in-a-row to see it slip away. Canada doesn’t want to risk a tie-breaker to get into the semis or even a low seed. This time there is a spot in Rio at the 2016 Olympics available and they don’t want to see that opportunity slip through their fingers.



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.



Note: Argentina has defeated Dominican Republic 92-84 today, this guarantees Canada can finish no lower than 4th.

Jonas Valanciunas the beard

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Leads Lithuania Past Latvia 68-49

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas led all scorers as Lithuania defeated their close rival Latvia 68-49 in their second match at Eurobasket 2015.

Valanciunas scored 15 points, grabbed 7 boards, 2 steals and blocked 2 shots in 22 minutes. FIBA named Jonas Maciulis the game hero for his double-double in 30 minutes of action.

Game Hero: Jonas Maciulis showed a real appetite for the big moments. He scored 13 points off 5-of-10 shooting, a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown, and typified his team’s refusal to accept anything but victory.

The game was close through the first half as Lithuania took a 1-point lead into the break and it stayed close in the third quarter until Lithuania managed an 8-1 run to close out the quarter up 49-39. A 5-0 run to open the fourth quarter sealed the deal as Latvia couldn’t crack Lithuania’s defense. The postgame interviews with summed things up:

Jonas Kazlauskas, the Lithuanian national team coach: “Today we played differently than yesterday, much better defense and we were a real team. In the second half of the game, with a lot of defense and it was very important. I did not expect to win such a difference. Both teams know each other very well, and even some combinations are similar. We know their strengths parts – and they us. Latvians are playing at home and felt the pressure. ”

John Maciulis, Lithuanian striker: “Latvia as a team fell apart after our spurt in the third quarter. I can understand Latvian emotions, because they are playing at home. In this team the fans have high expectations and this match between the Baltic countries, they have great importance.”

“Ronald Freimanis Latvian striker:” I thank the fans have been great to play in such an atmosphere. During the first two quarters we showed a good defense, and all fared well. I find it hard to explain what happened after the break. The Lithuanians were just better. We need to recover from this terrible failure and show character. “




NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Posts Double-Double In Lithuania’s Opening Win

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is playing for Lithuania at Eurobasket 2015 and he posted a double-double as his team eked out a 69-68 win in their tournament opener over the Ukraine.

Veteran Lithuanian forward Paulius Jankunas led all scorers with 22 points has he stretched the floor hitting on 3-4 three-point attempts, but this game turned into a battle between Valanciunas and the Ukraine’s big man Kyrylo Fesenko with each player finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds as described by FIBA.

the 2013 runners-up (Lithuania) came up against an inspired Kyrylo Fesenko, who went toe-to-toe with NBA star and headline act Jonas Valanciunas, driving his team on in the process. The pair went for 19 points and 11 rebounds each in a back-and-forth tussle, as both showed off an array of post moves and emphatic finishes.

“I thought it was a great battle, a clash of the titans,” the 28-year-old (Fesenko) said of his encounter with Valanciunas.



Check out the full boxscore and game summary where Lithuania head coach Jonas Kazlauskas describes why this game was so tight.

“For us, the biggest problem was that we didn’t play as a team, every one of us was trying to score, to beat the opponent on our own and this was a big problem” – Lithuania head coach Jonas Kazlauskas.