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

Report: Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon named GM of Pelicans

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The New Orleans Pelicans continue to rebuild their broken front office. Now that David Griffin has taken his place as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, the Pelicans are reportedly adding another name to their executive staff.

According to Shams Charania, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon will join Griffin in the New Orleans front office as the team’s new general manager.

Langdon started his front office career as a scout with the San Antonio Spurs, and was named assistant general manager of the Nets in 2016.

Via Twitter:

Brooklyn is a team that has done more with less as of late, and has acted as efficiently as they can particularly as they’ve tried to recover from the moves of a former GM. The Nets moved Billy King Out of the GM job in 2016 in favor for Sean Marks. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps in February.

It looks like the Pelicans are going to do all they can to get Anthony Davis to stay, and that includes a new front office team, upgrades to their practice facility, and a better health and training staff.

Langdon could be just a piece in the puzzle, but he could also be part of the group that has to figure out the best trade package for Davis if the day comes. Either way, New Orleans is regrouping as they move forward with the number one overall pick where they will presumably take Zion Williamson.

Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals.

Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts.

The supporting cast hasn’t supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green‘s expense.

“We’ve got to be better, man,” Nurse said Saturday. “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to hustle more and we’ve got to work harder.”

He may as well have punctuated that by adding “or else.”

In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that’s the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish.

“We can’t rest,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We can’t relax. We can’t assume anything.”

So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn’t care.

“I don’t really give a crap about that,” he said. “I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.”

Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 – which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto’s chances.

It hasn’t worked that way.

Add up everyone else’s scoring in the series, and it’s Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well.

“We’re just trying to be us,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We’re just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.”

The Raptors don’t have to look at the history books to know this series isn’t over.

All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home – then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals.

“We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,” Gasol said. “That’s all that matters right now. That’s all that matters.”

 

Andre Iguodala sits fourth quarter with “lower leg soreness,” to get MRI Sunday

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DaMarcus Cousins. Kevin Durant.

Now you might be able to add Andre Iguodala to the list of injured Warriors. He only played 18 minutes in Game 3 Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. Asked about that after the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr listed a hockey injury — lower leg soreness — and said an MRI was coming.

If he has to miss time, that would be another blow to the Warriors. Up 3-0 on Portland, Golden State can close this series out without him, but the Warriors are going to need Iguodala and Durant — and, ideally, Cousins — against the Bucks or Raptors in the NBA Finals starting on May 30.

Iguodala made friends and influenced people when he went back to the locker room late in the first quarter, deciding to flip off the hallway camera on his way.

We will see if the League has anything to say about that or lets it slide.

 

Jordan Bell spectacularly missed dunk, but Warriors reaction was perfect

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Golden State was starting to make its comeback, cutting the lead to eight midway through the third quarter when Draymond Green found Jordan Bell for the breakaway dunk and…

Ouch.

What was impressive though was the Warriors reaction. First, Steve Kerr didn’t take him out. Didn’t bench him, instead left him in and with that showed confidence.

Then there was Draymond Green, who was on ESPN’s Mic’d Up, and was heard encouraging Bell.

Then there was assistant coach Mike Brown, who tried to get Bell out of the moment, in a great story relayed by Ethan Straus of The Athletic.

“So Jordan played against my son Elijah,” Brown explained. “My oldest son played at Mater Dei High School in Orange County and Jordan played at Long Beach [Poly]. So they had a lot of games back in the day. So I went up to him and he thought I was serious, because we took the time out. He’s about to walk out of the huddle and I walk up to him and say, ‘Jordan, listen, don’t worry about the dunk. I saw about three or four of them back in the Long Beach days and you bounced back.’ He fell out laughing. He said, ‘Ah, MB, I didn’t do that back then!’ I said, ‘Yea you did! It’s all good, though!’”

It worked. Bell never lost confidence, never stopped playing the way he plays, and soon enough there was this.

With Portland going smaller and counting on their offense more, Bell is going to have a larger role in that matchup. This is exactly how you build up the confidence of a player so he will come through for you in those moments.