Drake

NBA denies it asked Raptors to remove Drake to avoid fine

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We’re talking about $25,000 here. To you and me, that’s a lot of money. To an NBA team, that’s nothing. A slap on the wrist. At best.

So the idea that the Raptors would have dropped Drake as their “Global Ambassador” after they threw a big press conference to promote him last year, all over $25,000, was crazy. Drake is tied to the team as they try to rebrand it, his popularity and being a Toronto native make him a great fit as spokesman for the team.

The idea the Raptors would drop him is crazy that the league didn’t even ask, according to league spokesman Tim Frank, speaking to the National Post.

“As the Raptors’ global ambassador, Drake must follow our anti-tampering rules,” Tim Frank, the league’s senior vice-president of basketball communications, said in an email to The Canadian Press on Wednesday. “At no point did we suggest his title be removed but we were clear that as long as he acted as a representative of the team, he is subject to the league’s rules.”

When you go back to the original story where this rumor started, the tone of it is to make the Raptors as the poor, picked on victims of a secretive NBA agenda. Frankly, it was kind of sad. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the writer (or sources trying to sell this same sad story) would exaggerate what the league actually told Toronto.

The NBA likes having big name celebrities like Drake associated with it. The agenda would be to get his face in front of more people talking about the league, not less.

Was the fine silly? Sure. But I don’t have the space here right now to list all the silly fines the NBA hands out because someone violated the letter of its laws. And this did violate the letter of the league’s bylaws. And the Raptors are probably good with that, part of the reason to have Drake on the masthead is to recruit players. Just not directly in public.

The fact is the NBA is fond of Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and the guy who helped bring in Drake to the Raptor family. Leiweke is a guy who dreams big and pushes the big picture. He was part of getting Los Angeles’ Staples Center (and the very successful LA Live center around it so many other teams want to mimic) built. He came closer to bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles than anyone.

Heck, the NBA gave him and Toronto an All-Star Game. There is love there.

More than that Raptors fans, you have a good team, an improving team that could be top four in the East and make it past the first round of the playoffs. A team that plays hard and is entertaining. Savor that, enjoy it. Don’t get sucked into a “woe is us” mentality. You’re better than that.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.