The Canadian trio (Wiggins, Stauskas and Ennis) is coming to the NBA

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NEW YORK – For the second year in a row, a player from the land of maple syrup and hockey was selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft. Last year Anthony Bennett shockingly became the first Canadian born player to be picked first overall when the Cavs decided to roll the dice on the small forward. This year it came as no surprise when Andrew Wiggins was the first name commissioner Adam Silver called to the stage.

Wiggins had some pretty good company from his homeland, Nik Stauskas was selected eighth by the Sacramento Kings and Tyler Ennis was picked 18th overall by the Phoenix Suns. It was the first time in the history of the NBA that three kids from Canada were selected in first round. If you needed proof that there is more to do in Canada besides watch hockey, this was all of the evidence you needed.

This could also be just the tip of the ice burg, pun intended, especially if the Canadian trio lives up to the hype.

“I think it’s huge. Like I said before, it opens doors for all the youth and everyone in Canada. It gives them hope, you know, because coming up when I was in Canada, I wasn’t ranked or nothing,” Wiggins said on Thursday night after being selected by the Cavs. “I wasn’t known. I didn’t have no offers or anything like that.”

The lack of national attention put a chip on Wiggins’ shoulder that propelled him to keep working.

“But I just kept my head straight and kept working on my game and look where I am today,” he said. “I just think it gives everyone in Canada hope that they can accomplish what I do because it’s possible if they work hard.”

For Ennis, the ability to play international basketball and learn a different style of play helped his confidence blossom.

“It’s [playing internationally] helped a lot, you know having to adjust to the FIBA style of play. I was having to adjust to playing against pros who were coming right out of high school. In the U19 I was able to lead the tournament in scoring and I was able to show what I can do.”

Growing up in a country where the sport you love is basically the redheaded stepchild of the country is difficult, but staying in the country after realizing that the sport you love is also your destiny is even harder. It’s the reason why Stauskas had to leave his native land.

“I left Canada when I was 15 years old and my parents didn’t want me to leave,” he said. “But I felt like I had to in order to get to this point because I didn’t feel like there was that same kind of support of basketball in Canada.”

What we are currently observing is the evolution of a sport in a country. The key point in the shift of basketball’s popularity in Canada is tied to the introduction of the Toronto Raptors in 1995. Having an NBA team that you can consistently watch on television gave the kids in Canada a much easier outlet to discover the NBA. You can bet that at some point in their childhood development Wiggins, Stauskas and Ennis were mesmerized by the beauty of a young Vince Carter.

“[Watching the Raptors] was very important. I grew up a huge Raptors fan. Having them on TV all of the time gives you a team to watch and look up to,” Stauskas told NBCSports.com. “Especially having guys like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady around that team growing up. Those were my guys, that’s who I looked up to.”

Every NBA draft is a celebration of the next wave of young talent (except for the disaster that was the 2013 NBA Draft), but when you think about how important it is to have idols growing up, the 2014 NBA Draft could be the reason why the next generation of Canadian kids decide to pick up a basketball.

“I really hope that the eight, nine, ten year old kids that are starting to play basketball in Canada look up to us,” Stauskas said. “Hopefully I inspire someone, because I was that kid growing up.”

Twitter: @Scottdargis

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?

Report: Warriors “perplexed” by Kevin Durant’s offseason fighting old battles

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Kevin Durant made his move to Golden State last summer — it was an emotional, wrenching decision for him — and it went as well as he could have dreamed. He felt at home. He’s got a ring (or will have one on opening night), he was Finals MVP, and he not only strengthened his legacy with a title, but also helped it out by taking a paycut that made it easier for the Warriors to keep their core together this summer.

So why is he living in the past? Why release a shoe line taking shots at his detractorsWhy did he blast his former organization on Twitter? Sure, he apologized, but why slide back down that rabbit hole? For that matter, why take a shot at Stephen Curry’s shoe line?

Chris Mannix at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said some with the Warriors are wondering the same thing.

But make no mistake: Many in Golden State, team officials and players alike, have taken note of Durant’s oddball offseason and are perplexed by it. They see a bright future for Durant in Oakland, league and team sources told The Vertical, and are bewildered as to why he is still addressing his past.

Oklahoma City will always be in Durant’s DNA, but it’s time for him to move on. Slapping around a team that was loyal to him, even in rejection, is a bad look. He’s a Warrior, and the possibilities for this Golden State team are endless. He can win championships, can win awards, can build one of the great dynasties in NBA history. The Thunder are doing their thing. Durant should forget about them, and do his.

This will all blow over. Soon the season will start, Durant and the Warriors will look dominant, and this will all seem like a minor distraction in the deadest part of the offseason. The focus will be on the rings.

But if you want an answer as to why, Durant’s response to a YouTube comment to someone who told him “who cares what other people think, just do you.” (Hat tip For the Win.)

…of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

Durant still can be a little immature, still wants to be a regular guy, and just like a regular guy he wants to be liked. And like a lot of people, he snaps at people when he knows he should just let it go and rise above. Maybe that will come with the lessons of this offseason.

Despite revoked passport, Enes Kanter says Thunder have arranged his travel to Mexico City, Toronto

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Thunder center Enes Kanter – who had passport revoked by Turkey – lacked documentation to travel for a December game against the Nets in Mexico City and a March game against the Raptors in Toronto.

Apparently, that issue has been resolved.

Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman:

Kanter said on Sunday that the team has worked out an arrangement to allow him to travel to games in Toronto and Mexico City even without a passport.

It always seemed highly likely Kanter would get to Toronto and Mexico City. He’s a high-profile millionaire working for a billion-dollar company.