Andrew Wiggins

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

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.