Despite fact that players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, Luol Deng, and Serge Ibaka have all come to the NBA by way of Africa, the sport hasn’t really caught on over there. According to a recent New York Times article, Amadou Gallo Fall, vice president of NBA development in Africa, is doing his best to get young kids playing basketball while Africa is in the throes of World Cup fever.
Fall and the NBA both wanted to open up their offices while World Cup hysteria is at its highest and the sports world has its eyes on Africa, but that doesn’t mean the task in front of them any easier:
Fall may have the toughest sports job in Africa. He certainly faces one of the most daunting challenges: planting the N.B.A. flag here and using the league’s enormous global brand to develop basketball on a continent where the game of choice is soccer.
“There’s no question that we’ve got some work to do to get the game where it is really accessible,” he said. “That’s our main mission, not just in South Africa but throughout the continent. The good news is that we’ve been coming here for quite some time. We’re not starting from scratch. We have something to build on. It isn’t completely uncharted waters.”
According to the article, the challenge is not creating interest in basketball, but providing the resources — indoor courts, coaches, clinics — necessary to cultivate that interest.
The NBA has made efforts to develop the game in Africa before, developing the Premier Basketball League in 1993 (it disbanded in 1996), and making regular visits to Africa as part of the Basketball Without Borders program in recent years. The hope is that a more permanent presence will allow the interest in basketball that exists in Africa to turn into more kids getting scholarships, playing in leagues, and eventually making it to the pros.
Professional basketball has obviously been tremendously successful in Europe, and the passion for the NBA game in China is incredible. If the game can catch on in Africa, it will be one more example of the amazing work David Stern has done to make the game global.
The one rule of Twitter is something that NBA officials are apparently willing to sidestep. That rule?
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, NBA referees will tweet from their official Twitter account during NBA games this season and hold back-and-forth conversations with fans about calls during games.
It seems like something that would immediately go wrong, but officials have done this before. They held Twitter conversations during last season’s Finals and they apparently feel as though they went well enough to do this sort of thing again.
This season, the NBA league office has agreed to work in collaboration with the referee union on this project. As part of the deal, the tweeting referees will have access to the league’s replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey, just like the officials who are on duty that evening, so they can have all the angles available to answer questions.
The union and the NBA plan a series of these games over the next few months, including some playoff games.
You will be able to tweet at @OfficialNBARefs or use #RefWatchParty during Monday’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, or Wednesday’s matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers.
It’ll be interesting to monitor this thing and see where it goes. Even the most inane opinions can be shot down by the twittersphere so watching actual NBA referees try to defend themselves against the hordes could get wild.
Pascal Siakam has been an important part of the Toronto Raptors organization for a couple of seasons now. Siakam has been a target in requested trades with the Raptors, but general manager Masai Ujiri wants to hang on to the burgeoning Cameroonian forward.
That’s probably wise.
As time wound down in Thursday night’s game between the Raptors and Phoenix Suns, Siakam found himself with the ball at the top of the arc and the game on the line. Siakam had Mikal Bridges isolated up top, and wound up going to his left to score the game-winning shot as time expired.
Siakam finished the game with just 10 points but grabbed 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.
Raptors are now just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Bucks with a record of 34-13.
The Toronto Raptors have been pushing Kawhi Leonard for the All-Star Game since 2018. The angle the team has decided to take is with Leonard being a “man of action” as opposed to a man of words.
Teams come up with some pretty good ideas about how to promote their star players for the All-Star Game. The Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum did the Vote for Pedro dance from “Napoleon Dynamite” to ask people to vote for buddy Damian Lillard.
The Raptors took a shot at a viral video of their own this week by releasing a fake 1990s-style action figure commercial for Leonard.
The result was pretty good:
At least with a Kawhi Leonard action figure you wouldn’t need to have a speaker and a button that plays catch phrases on it.
Things might not be over between Dennis Smith Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks.
The sophomore guard and the Mavericks have apparently been on the outs with each other as the season approaches the midway point. It was rumored that Smith was on the trading block, and that several teams were interested in his services.
But reports on Thursday surfaced saying Dallas and Smith could be heading for a reconciliation, and that conversations between the two sides have been positive as of late.
Via Twitter and ESPN:
The Mavs have shopped Smith, 21, throughout the season but haven’t received any offers that have tempted them to pull the trigger on trading a player whom the Dallas front office still believes has potential to develop into a star, sources said.
“Plan A is still to fix this,” a team source told ESPN.
Smith has not been that good this season, but his advanced numbers suggest that he is on a slow rise upward. It perhaps isn’t the jump Mavericks fans were looking for in the second season for a Top 10 pick, but if they can salvage their relationship it’s probably best for both sides at this juncture.