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NBA Orlando Magic Khem Birch

Canadian Shot Blocker Khem Birch Signs With The Magic

The Orlando Magic announced they have signed Canadian big man Khem Birch to a two year contract.

Birch (6’9”, 220, 9/28/92) played in Greece last season, appearing in 37 games (21 starts) with Olympiacos, averaging 7.3 ppg. and 5.6 rpg. in 18.0 minpg., while shooting 62.4 percent from the field.

After playing collegiately at both the University of Pittsburgh and UNLV, Birch declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and spent the 2014-15 campaign with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA G League, where he averaged 11.1 ppg., 9.5 rpg., 1.2 apg. and 1.8 blkpg. in 52 contests. He was named to the Futures All-Star Team in 2015.

A native of Montreal, Quebec, Birch has also played professionally in Turkey (2015-16) and is a member of the Canadian National Team.

Although Birch went undrafted in 2014, he was part of the ever growing wave of Canadian basketball players getting noticed by the NBA.

One of the best shot blockers in all of college basketball in his third season, Birch averaged a double-double with 3.8 blocks per game at UNLV and his collegiate success had a big impact on basketball in his hometown.

“It’s definitely a moment,” Birch said at a Raptors predraft workout in 2014. “The most Canadians ever in the draft, so it’s definitely a moment.

“There are a lot of young guys coming up (who are) my brother’s age of 14 years old and every time I do something, they like everything, so I have made a really big impact on Montreal basketball. I’m proud and hopefully I’ll keep it up. Right now it’s hockey, but watch, in the future, it’s going to be basketball. I can see it’s coming up.”

Expecting to go late in the second round of the NBA draft, Birch ended up with the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce and then headed to Europe for the next two seasons. However, in hindsight, it was apparent before he left that he’d fit in today’s NBA style of play.

“Khem, he is so athletic and he’s got the length and the shot blocking and the rebounding,” Raptors director of scouting Dan Tolzman said in 2014. “He is an intriguing player because he is the type of player that the NBA is going to more – athletic, nimble types of bigs and he is right in that group.”

Josh Cohen in the Orlando Magic Film Room illustrates what Birch could potentially bring to the NBA today.

With his speed, athleticism and aggressiveness, Birch chases down opponents in transition and swats shots away. He also is a terrific help defender and will often slide over from the weak side to block shots.

Birch fits in very well in small-ball lineups because he has the lateral foot speed to stay in front of smaller, quicker perimeter players. In pick-and-roll scenarios, Birch doesn’t get intimidated by opponents trying to break him down off the dribble. He has the body of a power forward but the game of a center.

An intriguing prospect when he left college, the 24-year-old gets his second chance at making an NBA roster (he played six preseason games with Miami in 2014) after an impressive run to the Euroleague Final Four last 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.





NBA Andrew Nicholson Magic Wizards Nets and Trail Blazers

Canadian Andrew Nicholson Becomes An NBA Free Agent Again

Canadian forward Andrew Nicholson was drafted 19th overall by the Orlando Magic in 2012 and after a less than inspiring four years, it must have felt like he hit the jackpot when the Wizards signed him as a free agent to a four year $26 million contract last summer.

It all fell apart in Washington, however, as he had only played in 28 games by the All-Star break when he was traded to Brooklyn for Bojan Bogdanovic in a multi-player deal. Only seeing action in 10 games with the Nets wasn’t a good sign either and he’s become trade ballast in yet another deal, this time headed to Portland for Allen Crabbe.

Luxury tax savings was the only thing on the Trail Blazers minds and Nicholson will be stretched and waived for the big time savings.

All this means is Nicholson still gets his money and will be a free agent once again this summer who can sign with any team that will have him in the NBA or overseas.

The 6’9 250 lb forward averaged 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 15.1 minutes in 247 games with the Magic and steadily improved his three-point shooting to 36 percent on 2.0 attempts per game in his fourth season.

The move to Washington was a disaster, but someone should give this potential stretch-four a second chance.



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.




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 Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Nuggets Jamal Murray Is Representing “We The North” Well

By Frank McLean

“We the North” was a marketing slogan the Toronto Raptors adopted a few years ago to announce to the rest of the NBA that the only team not located in the United States of America was finally a legitimate contender and it gave its rabid fan base a rallying cry so to speak.

“We the North” could also be a rallying cry for basketball players born in Canada as each year more and more players with a Canadian birth certificate can be found on NBA rosters making major contributions to their team’s fortunes.

On opening night this year there were 12 Canadian born players on NBA rosters. The only country to have more native born players in the NBA is the United States.

The latest is Kitchener, Ontario’s Jamal Murray who after playing one year at the University of Kentucky for John Calapari is now with the Denver Nuggets where the hope he is the last key to make them a legitimate playoff team.

Being drafted by the Nuggets (seventh overall) Murray was the player they had circled that they wanted on draft night. “It’s a good feeling to know that you were being selected by a team that really wants you.”

Head coach Mike Malone is bringing him along slowly, giving him a chance to just relax and learn how to play in the NBA. Mainly because this is a guy the organization really wanted and he is not going to ruin him as a potential NBA player.

“We tell Jamal (this) all the time. Listen, whether you go out there and score 20, or you score zero, we still love you, we still believe in you and we know that at some point, you are going to do great things for this franchise,” Malone said recently about Murray. “What I love about Jamal, and it’s a big credit to his mom and dad, he’s a well-balanced kid and for a young kid, he’s very poised. He doesn’t get too low, he doesn’t get too high.

“He’s a young man, 19-years old and won’t be 20 until February. A lot of poise, a lot of confidence, shot-making ability, can get his own shot, but he’s more than just a shooter and scorer, he can play-make and rebound for his position as well.”

When you talk to Murray he is very soft spoken. Like a true Canadian, not a braggart not full of himself, but he is confident of his abilities.

“Don’t look at yourself as a rookie,” Murray said. “A basket is a basket, free throw is a free throw,” was his advice to himself. “You just have to go out there and shoot efficiently and not over-think it. At the end the day it’s just a game so you can’t put things in your head to give yourself excuses.”

“I worked for it to happen, I truly believed it would happen,” Murray added.

Murray says the one big difference between college and the NBA is that everything about the game is faster and that you have to adjust your reaction time because everything is happening at a faster pace.

He is getting 20 minutes a night and averaging almost 8 points game which is a good chunk of minutes for a rookie to get his feet wet in the NBA.

He is with one of the good young coaches in the NBA in Mike Malone. He was doing wonders in Sacramento and winning games with another Kentucky product named DeMarcus Cousins until ownership fired him because the wins weren’t exciting enough.

He will make a great mentor for Murray.

Murray is in a great place in Denver and he’s going to be all right, making the basketball community in “We The North” proud.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.






CIA Bounce U17 coach Nicholas Davis

Kids Who Work Hard Are Making It In Canadian Basketball

There are never before seen opportunities for Canadian kids playing basketball and perhaps it should go without saying, it’s the kids that work hard who are making the most of it. The same can be said of every sport, academics, career and life in general and it’s the lessons kids learn playing sports that can be applied later in life whether or not they go on to a career as a professional athlete.

“Right now kids have enormous opportunities that kids didn’t have growing up in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s in Toronto,” Nicolas Davis told Pro Bball Report at a recent CIA Bounce event in Brampton. “I started coaching basketball in 1987. I don’t ever remember seeing a (US College) coach coming to a gym until 1994 or 95 when (now former NBA All-Star) Jamaal Magloire played for our club team. At those times there wasn’t even any rules, so (coaches) would just show up. Jamaal was a special case, a 6’10 kid, really athletic and wasn’t until three or years years after that that I saw (US college coaches) showing up again.

“When we were coaching Magloire, it wasn’t really about trying to get kids scholarships. It was about trying to get kids to do stuff, get off the street and so we coached in tough neighborhoods. We coached some tough kids giving them something to do other than just hanging around the mall. Now kids look at it as an opportunity to get an education, to maybe get a job and find work as a professional basketball player.”

One of Canada’s rising stars Jaylen Llewellyn was at the CIA Bounce event and his father Bobby Llewellyn talked about the CIA Bounce program and how things have changed for young Canadian basketball players.

“It’s a great environment to learn, a competitive environment to be in, traveling to the United States on the AAU circuit and other tournament throughout the US,” Llewellyn said. “There is far more exposure (now). The kids are playing against top competition in the States and they are competing or exceeding expectations. Once (Americans) realized Canadians are putting out a product in a greater volume, now their coaches are coming here to our backyard.”

Nicolas Davis, assistant basketball coach at Sheridan College for 22 years, Canadian National Men’s Cadet Team assistant coach and CIA Bounce coach for the 17U team, takes pride in helping Canadian kids work hard and becoming successful wherever life takes them after he’s done coaching them.

“Hopefully we are teaching them life skills because not everyone is going to become a professional basketball player,” Davis said “Not everyone is going to get a (US College) Division 1 scholarship and not everyone is going to play post secondary school basketball.

“When I coached a team of kids in the 90s, we were the North York Champions and went undefeated and not one kid on that team played post secondary school basketball. So, what you are hoping kids get out of it is they learn some life skills and some life lessons that will actually help them outside of basketball like how to be a respectful person. How do I address adults. How you address coaches is the same thing. Hopefully they take that outside (of basketball).

“The discipline to do your work, to stay focused. How to respond when things aren’t going your way. How do you respond when something negative happens because you are not going to make every shot and sometimes you are going to turn the ball over and sometimes you are going to give up an easy basket. So, how do you respond to those things? That’s the same as in life. If you are in school and something bad happens like you don’t get a good mark, you can say you aren’t good in that subject or you can respond differently. You can say I’m going to study harder. I’m going to do what I need to do to pass that subject.

“The other thing is how to get along with people. How do you interact with people you may not have much in common with other than you are trying to win a championship. You may have different goals or you may not like someone, but you are on the same team together. How do we work well together? How do we make this work? I tell kids all the time, you are going to get a job and you are going to be working with people you don’t like, but you have to make it work or you are not going to have a job. I don’t like everybody I work with, but I’m respectful to everybody I work with, I treat them with dignity and I hope they give it back to me in return. It’s the whole team dynamics and personal skills as well.

“The other thing is hopefully I will give them confidence. You are trying to help kids be confident and find their voice on the basketball court and hopefully they find it outside of basketball too.”

CIA Bounce asks parents and kids to stay respectful, stay committed and as Llewellyn emphasized, “Trust the process.” This is an proven elite program with a growing list of alumni who have been drafted by NBA and playing for Davis’ 17U team is the goal players here are striving for. So what does this very experienced coach look for in the kids who want to play for him?

“We look for kids who get after it,” Davis said. “Kids who work really hard. They don’t necessarily have to be the best player, but kids who work really hard, they really get after it. We look for good character kids as well. We want kids that when we sub off they are happy for the next guy coming in. They support their teammates, they cheer for their teammates. You are also looking for kids that do have the skill set to play at a high level of basketball and you want to see kids who compete. When they are in the games, they are actually competing regardless of the score, regardless of the situation, they are going to compete.

“Hopefully he is a good student as well because the way AAU basketball is now, you can’t really go after kids who aren’t good students as well because (college) coaches won’t come to see them because they’ll never get them because they won’t be qualified.

“When you get them when they are young, you have to stress as a program that you need to do well in school. We ask our kids to bring their report cards so we can see them. If you are not doing well, we say you might not be able to play this spring because there isn’t any point in playing if you are not going to be qualified. So you might as well take the time off to get your marks (up) and your school work (done).

“If you don’t do well in school, you can’t play basketball. That’s just the way it’s going now. This is not the 70s and the 80s when I grew up where you could do seven years of high school and no one would say anything. You could flunk out of every class and still be eligible to play, that doesn’t exist anymore. That pressure to do well in school so you can play basketball will serve you well outside of basketball.”

CIA Bounce is now just one of many places to play basketball in the greater Toronto area and more players means more competition, more reasons for scouts to follow Canadian kids and more opportunities to play after high school.

“At an event like (CIA Bounce) we had 41 Division 1 coaches here and we just came back from Peach Jam with our 17U team and there had to be 200 Division 1 coaches watching,” Davis said. “It’s overwhelming sometimes for the kids.

“With that comes pressure and kids put a lot of pressure on themselves and programs put pressure on themselves to develop kids who are going to be seen by these (Division 1) coaches. There is some status that comes that’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but it’s there when your program has put 75 kids on Division 1 scholarships and four guys were drafted in the NBA.

“There’s an industry of all the other clubs that have opened up. When I started coaching in Brampton, there was Brampton, Mississauga, Hamilton, there was probably seven or eight (clubs). There is probably 50 teams now in the GTA. That’s how much it’s exploded. Brampton alone has five or six clubs. Mississauga has six or seven clubs alone. There is just so much more.”

There is more. More kids playing basketball at a high level in Canada and more opportunities to turn basketball into a college scholarship or even a professional career, but when you listen closely to what coach Davis is saying, those are not the most important aspects of playing his sport. He takes his greatest pride in the kids who fought through adversity to stay in school and used basketball as a motivator to achieve in life and that’s the real measure of success for all these programs.



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.




Ball On My Mind is holding a Hold Your Own Showcase Event August 26 – 28, 2016 for high school age basketball players in Brampton with Chris Hemphill, scout with NC Preps in association with Rivals.com (One of the largest American Scouting Services in the US).
Spaces are limited. Registrations after August 12th will be accepted based on availability.




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 Andrew Nicholson

Wizards Take Canadian Free Agent Andrew Nicholson

The Orlando Magic didn’t extend a qualifying offer to power forward Andrew Nicholson briefly giving the Toronto Raptors the possibility of putting another Canadian player on their bench. However, from an ever shrinking pool of free agent talent, the Washington Wizards grabbed the stretch-four with a four-year $26 million offer for themselves.

Nicholson was on the outs in Orlando last season and for the first time in his NBA career, he didn’t get a single start with the Magic. However, in the 56 games he did play in, he averaged 36 percent from three-point range on a 114 attempts and pulled in a solid 22.8 percent of the available defensive boards.

In the current free agent frenzy, $6.5 million per season for a developing stretch-four actually looks kind of cheap.



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




NBA Orlando Magic Andrew Nicholson

Should The Raptors Add Canadian UFA Andrew Nicholson?

So you’d like to add a stretch-four to your roster? Well, they’ve become a hot commodity in the NBA these days, however, the Orlando Magic has just passed on keeping Canadian power forward Andrew Nicholson and if Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri believes Nicholson’s improved three-point shooting and rebounding is part of a trend, he’s worth a hard look.

Nicholson has struggled to get minutes and more recently even just crack the rotation on a Magic team that has obviously been moving in another direction for some time now. However, the changes in Orlando have been coming just as Nicholson seems to finally be putting it all together.

The stretch-four only played in 56 games with the Magic last season, but he averaged 36 percent from three-point range on a 114 attempts and except for a brutal shooting month in January, he would have shot better than 39.5 percent.

His defensive rebounding was markedly better than in his first three seasons as well. The 6′ 9.5″ 250 lb forward pulled in a solid 22.8 percent of the available defensive boards.

For the first time in his NBA career, he didn’t get a single start with the Magic. He also played less than 15 minutes per game on average, but his per 36 minutes numbers illustrate significant improvement at 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5 three-point attempts and a block.

Nicholson will be an under the radar free agent this summer. He isn’t likely to be on any team’s priority list to contact on July 1st. However, that means teams with limited salary cap flexibility – like the Toronto Raptors – will have a legitimate shot at signing him to a deal that fits their situation.

Think of Nicholson like Bismack Biyombo last summer. A young big man with four years of NBA experience who isn’t given a qualifying offer by his team and needs to go somewhere he’ll be given a chance to show what he can do. The Raptors don’t have the flexibility to land a big name free agent (unless they are willing to sign at a huge discount), so it’s the lower profile players Ujiri will likely be forced to look at in order to bolster his roster for 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.





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 FIBA.com

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.





NBA Denver Nuggets, Team Canada and Kentucky Wildcats Jamal Murray

Canadian Guard Jamal Murray Sets A Celtics 3-Point Record

Kentucky Wildcats freshman Canadian guard Jamal Murray set a Celtics three-point shooting record by hitting on 79 of 100 attempts today as he showed off his skills during a predraft workout in Boston. Masslive’s Jay King was there to catch up with the future Team Canada star.



Check out the full post workout interview here:


The 6’4 Murray was a big time offensive weapon with the Wildcats this past season averaging 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 36 games often playing in three guard lineups at what could be loosely called the small forward spot. He took 277 three-point attempts and made 40.8 percent of them to establish himself as one of the best and most prolific shooters in college basketball last season. He was the number one scorer in college under 20-years-old.

A strong spot-up shooter, Murray was able to get his shot coming off screens and found ways to get open playing off the ball. While there remains plenty of room for improvement playing with the ball in hands, he does have a solid leaping ability with a 39.5″ maximum vertical and at just 19-years-old, NBA coaches should be able to show him how to use his natural aggressiveness more effectively.

Murray only plans on working out for the Celtics (3rd), Suns (4th), Timberwolves (5th) and Pelicans (6th), but there have already been noises out of Philadelphia (1st) about their potential interest and the Toronto Raptors would have to be overjoyed if this local product were to slip past the Kings with the 8th pick to them.



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 Boston Celtics Kelly Olynyk

Celtics Lost A Lot More Than A Basketball Game To The Hawks

By Frank McLean

The Boston Celtics Saturday night rode a giant roller coaster of emotion in their opening Eastern Conference playoff series game with the Hawks in Atlanta.

They lost a nail bitter 102-101 and the game was highly entertaining, which is why I think this could be the most fun to watch of the four first round series in the conference.

Both teams finished the season with identical 48-34 records matching the won-loss of the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets, but what can make this a highly entertaining best of seven is the fact that both teams aren’t the best defensively and they can score. Now that’s what fans want to see, lots of baskets and defensive-minded coaches pulling their hair out.

The Hawks lead by 17 at the half, but the Celtics outscored their opponents 67-51 in the second half only to lose by a single point.

However, the Celtics it seems lost more than just a basketball game. They have lost guard Avery Bradley probably for the rest of the series with a strained hamstring and Canadian forward Kelly Olynyk’s right shoulder injury has flared up again.

If you watched the game on television, you would have seen the replay where Bradley was just running up the court with the play and all of a sudden he’s grabbing his right leg and trying to get to the bench in intolerable pain. Then he said heard it pop while running up the court.

It’s believed he hurt it earlier on when he tried to block a shot by the Hawks Jeff Teague.

“Avery has a pretty significant strained hamstring, I would say would be doubtful for any of the remainder of the series, certainly very unlikely Tuesday night,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens after Sunday’s practice. “As of right now I would say he’s out Tuesday night, but obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there. So I would say very unlikely the rest of the series.”

The other injury is to Canadian national team star Kelly Olynyk who strained his right shoulder again, the same right shoulder that kept him out of the Celtics line-up for 12 games in March.

Olynyk did not practice on Sunday resting it and with two day break between games one and two of the series the Celtics are hopeful that rest will allow him to dress for game two.

However from a Canadian standpoint, Basketball Canada and head coach Jay Triano have to be concerned that Olynyk’s right shoulder will be healthy enough for him to play in early July in the Philippines as Canada tries one last time to qualify for the Olympic Games in August.

To replace Bradley, Stevens is going to have to turn to rookie Terry Rozier who is considered someone who can play a little defense.

Rozier played for Rick Pitino at Louisville. I had a chance to talk to Rozier back in November when he was with the Celtic’s NBDL team Maine Red Claws when they played the Raptors 905.

He told me that in order to play for Pitino you have to play defense plain and simple or you don’t play at all.

Stevens is hoping that Rozier remembers what he was taught in Louisville because if the series is going to go longer than four games, he will have to make a significant contribution.

This wasn’t a good opening night in the playoffs for Boston.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




Team Canada Kelly Olynyk

Celtics Kelly Olynyk Is Hoping For No Time Off This Summer

By Frank McLean

When you talk to Boston Celtics and Canadian national team center Kelly Olynyk and you ask him “so what do you have planned for the summer”? He laughs because a holiday and a little time off to put his feet up are not on the radar.

Olynyk’s Boston Celtics are sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and have clinched their second straight berth in the NBA playoffs which start April 16th.

The Celtics were knocked out in the first round last year after being swept four straight by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but this year with five games left in the regular season they would have home court advantage against the Miami Heat if the playoffs started now.

Olynyk is hoping for a long playoff run and making the playoffs was but the first goal for the Celtics. Getting to at least the second round is the real goal for the team and if that happens there is a good chance Olynyk won’t have any time off this summer.

Olynyk and his Canadian national team teammates have a date in the Philippines July 4th through the 10th in a last ditch attempt for the men’s squad to make it to the Rio Summer Olympics and if that happens it’s off to Brazil and the Summer Olympics from August 5th to the 21st.

If everything works out he might get the Labour Day weekend off. Then it’s back in the gym because three weeks after that it will be the start of training camp for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Talking to Olynyk when the Celtics were in Toronto recently, he knows the summer may be long, but he is ready to embrace it.

“It could be a real long summer,” Olynyk said. “There could be no break until the end of the Olympics. You wish it will happen but whatever happens, happens. We are going to give everything we got as a team and represent our country.”

“For me it’s an exciting time. With the Celtics playoff push it’s going to be an exciting three or four months and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

The injury bug hit Olynyk after the All-Star break as he hurt his shoulder, but everything is ok now.

“It’s getting better every day,” Olynyk said. “I have to do stretching exercises that keep it mobile. A lot of it is getting the strength back.”

On the Celtics playoff push Olynyk said the team is ready for a longer run this time around.

“Everybody is playing for each other. We try and execute our game plan every night. Coach (head coach Brad Stevens) does a great job of getting the game plan across to the guys and just communicating things. Next step for us is getting into the second round.”

When asked what he thought about a possible second round playoff series against his hometown Raptors?

“I’d love that. It’s possible, it could happen. I would not be opposed to that,” a smiling Olynyk said.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




Canadian Jordan Bachynski

Canadian Jordan Bachynski Having A Big Time Year

Canadian center Jordan Bachynski was a shot blocking machine as a senior at Arizona State in 2013-14, but that wasn’t enough to get him drafted that summer by the NBA. He’s big, a legit 7’2 250 lbs and he’s outgoing, friendly and coachable, however, he was almost 25-years-old heading into the draft. Bachynski ended up signing with the NBA D-League Westchester Knicks last season. A year later and the big Canadian was ready to show his stuff.

“At the beginning of this year my coaches really encouraged me to run because I run very well for my size,” Bachynski told Pro Bball Report. “So, that’s been a huge focus for me to run the floor and get ahead of guys because I’m a lot faster than a lot of the bigs out there and even if I don’t get the ball, what happens is opponents see they have to come and guard me and it opens up so much for us.

“Every possession I’m working at running and I put a lot of time in the weight room and gained a lot of weight and I’m keeping it on and feeling strong and feeling good.”

Just from appearances, Bachynski looks in better shape than he did coming out of college and the weight gain is backed up by official (unbiased) measurements. He weighed 254 lbs at the NBA Draft Combine in 2014 and upped that to 265 lbs at the D-League Elite Camp heading into this season. Although he seems more focused on speed rather than strength.

“Any way I can help my team,” Bachynski said. “One of the ways I do is to sprint down and make those wings, those guards guard me and I get deep post position or it makes my guards open for three on the wing.”

Bachynski is one of the returning players from the Westchester Knicks initial season and the New York Knicks have set this program up right. The Knicks are looking to develop players and build those bonds so players they don’t have the ability to hang on to don’t want to leave for another team.

“The Westchester Knicks do a great job taking care of us,” Bachynski said. “We have a really great setup. It’s one of if not the best setup in the D-League. We practice in the Knicks facility. We have a full-time athletic trainer so any bumps or bruises we get we have someone to take care of us. We have top-notch housing and on top of that our coaches here, he’s a phenomenal coach. I love playing for him. I am happy I’m with Westchester.”

Remembering the D in D-League stands for development, every player including Bachynski is hoping for a bigger payday somewhere else, but Bachynski sees himself as a future NBA player and after watching him run the court at his size that’s not an unrealistic goal.

“Obviously my goal is to get to the NBA and I honestly believe I’m an NBA player.”

NBA D-League Jordan Bachynski

The Toronto Raptors had brought him in for a predraft workout and invited him to Summer League. So, not surprisingly, the Raptors 905 were very interested in acquiring the big Canadian this past summer, but Westchester wasn’t about to let him go and they were right.

“He’s having a big time year,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “We had talked about trying – obviously we had him in Summer League. We like him. He’s Canadian. We wanted to explore possibly bringing him in to this team and they (Westchester) were not having it. They wanted him and that was the right move by them because he’s having a big time year for them.

“Defensively he’s been good for them and his scoring is up and he’s obviously developing his game. He’s a load. He’s a big boy. He’s tough. He’s not soft at all. You have to battle, fight for position.”

“At college my game was very one-sided,” Bachynski said. “I was a back to the basket big who defended really well and defense has been my token, that’s what I do and the (Knicks) have really encouraged me to develop my defensive presence, but have also encouraged me to learn how to be a better offensive player and I think that’s one thing the triangle has really helped me with. It’s helped me when I get the ball to slow down, take a breath, see all my options and if I see an open man, I’m hitting him, I’m not a black hole like a lot of bigs. I try and spread the ball around and make the best possible play.”

Bachynski is getting noticed. Averaging 13.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.8 blocks in 26.1 minutes over 24 games with Westchester this season, he is currently rated 12th on the NBA D-League Prospects Watch List.



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 Milwaukee Bucks Tyler Ennis

Canadian Tyler Ennis Talks About His Bumpy Road In The NBA

Canadian point guard Tyler Ennis was Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri’s first choice in the 2014 NBA draft, but it wasn’t to be. The guard heavy Phoenix Suns swooped in and grabbed Ennis with the 18th pick and Ujiri ended up taking forward prospect Bruno Caboclo at 20 two picks later.

Ennis talks about getting drafted, the benefits of playing with so many experienced point guards in Phoenix, the trade to Milwaukee, Team Canada and his shoulder injury as part of his bumpy road in 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.




Anthony Bennett scrum

Should The Raptors Grab Anthony Bennett?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are buying out former number one overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and unless some team has $5.8 million they don’t want, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent shortly and available to sign for the NBA minimum salary. Bennett is from Toronto and played for Team Canada this summer, so should the Raptors make an attempt to grab him to fill the 15th and final spot on their roster for this season?


Ideally Bennett would play for a team with minutes available at the power forward spot and as of right now that isn’t Toronto. Actually at this late stage of the off season, one could argue that situation isn’t anywhere, but as Kelly Scaletta in Today’s Fastbreak points out, Bennett is not a worse choice than what a handful of teams are likely to be using in their rotation this season.

Sam Hinkie is always willing to take a gamble, and the Sixers have the cap space to absorb his contract if he’s waived. The only other team that can do that is the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Atlanta Hawks could look for a replacement for Mike Scott if he ends up in prison.
The Charlotte Hornets are woefully thin at the 4.
Bennett wouldn’t be any worse than Charlie Villanueva with the Dallas Mavericks.
Bennett fits the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuilding situation.
The New York Knicks could conceivably claim him.
The Phoenix Suns have been looking to deal Markeiff Morris. Signing Bennett could give them more options.
And the Sacramento Kings are always willing to do the unorthodox.
The Toronto Raptors are a bit thin at power forward, and would benefit from bringing in the Canadian.

There is a lot of speculation in any list of potential landing spots for Bennett, but the fact a list isn’t that hard to draw up suggests he should land somewhere and what he accomplished this summer with Team Canada may help shake the “bust” label as would only having to pay him a minimum salary.

Bennett played 19 games for Team Canada and looked pretty good doing it. He performed best at the Pan Am Games in Toronto against what could be best described as the “B” National Teams. The “A” Teams wouldn’t show up until the FIBA Americas in September, but Bennett did okay in that tournament as well. Over Canada’s 19 games Bennett averaged 10.5 points on 57.4 percent shooting and 36.8 percent from the (closer) FIBA three-point line, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Head coach Jay Triano described him as being in the best shape and health he has seen him in and no one could argue with the observation.

At the FIBA Americas Canada had their full complement of NBA players and Bennett’s minutes dropped from 26.8 per game at the Pan Am games to 16.8 as he was clearly out-competed for minutes by teammates like Kelly Olynyk, but he still showed an ability to run the floor, play hard and make a solid contribution. Bennett continued to play pretty well averaging 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in those limited minutes.

At this point no one is going to argue the Cavaliers overreached in 2013 when they drafted him first overall. At the time Bennett was coming back from injury and most people believed he was a back end of the lottery selection. Injuries continued to plague his first two NBA seasons, although in his limited opportunities he was posting about 12 points and 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, so maybe those National Team numbers are confirming what’s possible if an NBA team is willing to develop him?

Toronto is bringing in four players to tryout for their 15th roster spot: Shannon Scott, Ronald Roberts, Axel Toupane and Michale Kyser. It will be fun to watch them compete for a better payday than the Raptors 905 D-League team will be able to offer, but no one realistically expects to find a player who cracks the Raptors rotation and, if signed, doesn’t spend most of the season in Mississauga. Bennett may still be best described as a project, but he’s a project who is ahead of the four players Toronto is bringing to training camp for a look.

The Raptors have been reluctant to sign Canadian players who they don’t believe are ready to contribute right away in the past and that’s fair. It could be hard for a coach to play another developing player – like say Bruno Caboclo – with the crowd chanting for a Canadian to get those minutes. This isn’t an easy decision, but it’s one that deserves consideration. If Bennett wasn’t a Canadian and had just gone through a similar summer with some other National Team, not trying to add him on the cheap as the 15th man would seem like missing a low risk opportunity.



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.