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Raptors get validation

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Of course, the Raptors had to wait.

The final second of Game 6 of the NBA Finals took nearly seven minutes. This was never going to be easy for Toronto.

But when the game finally ended – 114-110 with the Raptors as NBA champions – it was oh so satisfying.

Toronto was built boldly then played boldly, upsetting the heavily favored Warriors and gaining validation.

Masai Ujiri upended a successful team in pursuit of something better. Don’t let the payoff totally obscure the risk. Disrupting the best era in franchise history for an injured star was always a real gamble.

Validated.

Kawhi Leonard requested a trade from the Spurs, who are widely viewed as the NBA’s model organization. He couldn’t control where they sent him. He just knew he’d be better off elsewhere. Now, Leonard joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks and Lakers) and LeBron James (Heat and Cavaliers) as the only players to win Finals MVP with multiple teams.

Validated.

Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol have thrown everything into becoming the best players and teammates they could be. But they still toiled for years – Lowry in Toronto, Gasol in Memphis –  trying to get over the hump with team success. Now, Lowry (13th season) and Gasol (11th season) join a short list of multi-time All-Stars who waited so long to win their first title but got it while still starting.*

Validated.

*Jason Kidd (2011 Mavericks, 17th season), Dirk Nowitzki (2011 Mavericks, 13th season), Shawn Marion (2011 Mavericks, 12th season), Kevin Garnett (2008 Celtics, 13th season), Ray Allen (2008 Celtics, 12th season), Michael Finley (2007 Spurs, 12th season), Glen Rice (2000 Lakers, 11th season), Clyde Drexler (1995 Rockets, 12th season), Jerry West (1972 Lakers, 12th season), Oscar Robertson (1971 Bucks, 11th season)

Pascal Siakam took to basketball just eight years ago, committing to the sport to honor his late father. He rose from Basketball Without Borders in Africa to New Mexico State to an NBA bench role to likely winning Most Improved Player this season. On the biggest stage, he put his stamp on this series.

Validated.

Serge Ibaka cares about his standing within the league. Don’t get him started on how many times he has been snubbed for a defensive award. But he accepted a reserve role this season and just focused on doing his job well. He still still found multiple times to come up big in the Finals.

Validated.

As an undrafted free agent, Fred VanVleet chose a team with three point guards – Lowry, Cory Joseph and Delon Wright – with guaranteed salaries. Most teams kept only three points guards at that time. VanVleet believed in himself and gradually earned a role in Toronto. He hit so many big shots in this series and scored 22 in the Game 6 clincher.

Validated.

Nick Nurse coached at one basketball outpost after another. He shuffled between Great Britain, Belgium, small college, U.S. minor leagues. It wasn’t always a glamorous life. Eventually, he got his shot coaching the Raptors and pushed so many right buttons in the Finals.

Validated.

Twenty-four years ago, the NBA put two expansion franchises in Canada. The Grizzlies left Vancouver just six years later for Memphis. The Raptors remained in Toronto. They remained through losing seasons. They remained as star after star left. They remained as the team got just good enough to get heartbroken annually in the playoffs.

They remained for this.

Validation.

Watch Trae Young drop 31 at Drew League, lose to Montrezl Harrell who has 46

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The Drew League in Los Angeles is one of the premiere — for my money the best — summer pro-am basketball league in America. There is some serious talent getting run on that court.

But drop in NBA talent and it’s another level.

That’s what happened Saturday in Los Angeles. Atlanta’s Trae Young showed up, went head-to-head with the reigning Drew League MVP Frank “Nitty” Session (who has embarrassed guys like Denzel Valentine in Drew games), and dropped 31.

But Young’s team lost because Clippers’ stud  Montrezl Harrell dropped 46.

You can see the highlights above thanks to BallisLife.

 

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.