The Toronto Raptors are set to host the NBA Finals on Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors. It’s a historic evening as it’s the first time the Finals have been played or hosted in Canada.
There was no doubt that Raptors ambassador and superfan Drake was going to show up with some sartorial flare. Before Game 1 tipped off, his decision could be seen courtside. To be honest? It was sort of perfect.
Yes, that is Dell Curry’s Toronto Raptors jersey. Of course, Dell’s son Stephen Curry is set to try and beat the Raptors in Game 1.
Drake may be corny, but at least he’s plotting. Plus, wearing Vince Carter‘s old shoes is pretty cool.
Vince Carter has said he thought he had one more season in him and wanted to return for a 22nd season.
Now he’s made it clear, he’s coming back. Here is what he said on the Winging It podcast with Kent Bazemore (hat tip Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
“I’m coming back.”
Will that be with the Hawks?
“I would like to. We’ll see what happens.”
Atlanta has a young core they like — Trae Young, John Collins, Taurean Prince and more — but they need to add talent to that mix. They can do that via the draft plus potentially trading Kent Bazemore (who will be an expiring contract). They might love to have a veteran like Carter in that locker room, but there are a few other teams that would like him in the mentor role as well. Plus, Carter can still give a team a solid 15 minutes a night off the bench.
Carter, at age 42, will have options. Atlanta may be just one of them.
Chauncey Billups, Shane Battier, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Jamal Crawford have won the Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.
Who’ll claim it next?
Each of these players is a good teammate in his own way.
Steven Adams does all the dirty work to make the Thunder – especially Russell Westbrook – operate smoothly.
Mike Conley has remained steady amid a losing season full of trade rumors.
Jared Dudley is smart, always willing to share his opinion and happy to help younger teammates.
Channing Frye fosters better communication and relationships within the locker room.
Rudy Gay showed great determination recovering from a torn Achilles.
Udonis Haslem oozes veteran wisdom.
Andre Iguodala is highly intelligent, on and off the court, and tries to use his knowledge to help his teammates.
Kyle Korver continued to do his job after what could have been an ugly end with the Cavaliers, and he remains steadfast with the Jazz.
Khris Middleton set a tone for the four Bucks starters who entered this season on expiring contracts to remain focused and unselfish.
J.J. Redick is the 76ers’ veteran voice.
Garrett Temple is a bit of a surprising inclusion considering he got into a fight with Grizzlies teammate Omri Casspi earlier this season. But Temple, who was since traded to the Clippers, is renowned for his professionalism.
Thaddeus Young keeps becoming an even more complete player for his team. With Victor Oladipo sidelined, more of a leadership role has fallen on Young.
Dirk Nowitzki keeps saying he hasn’t decided to retire after this season.
Everyone else keeps assuming he will.
The harshest assessment came from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who named Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade (who already announced his impending retirement) specially added All-Stars. Silver said of Nowitzki, “I saw him painfully running up and down the court, and I think it was clear that this was going to be his last season.”
Count Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among those planning on Nowitzki to retire.
Cuban on “The Speed of the Game with Dan Gilbert” podcast:
He’s feeling better now, so I think it’s not 100 percent certain. Which is going to create real problems, because we have this killer last game for him, the whole thing set up.
So, we’ll just get it twice. That’s OK.
It’s up to him. Whatever he wants to do.
Maybe Cuban really doesn’t know what Nowitzki will do. But I take these plans for Dallas’ final home game – against the Suns on April 9 – as indication Nowitzki will retire.
I’ve suspected Nowitzki decided to retire but doesn’t want the hoopla of a farewell tour. So, he hasn’t preemptively announced anything. He could have still privately informed people like Silver and Cuban.
But Nowitzki also might truly want to leave the door open for returning.
It’d be cool if he comes back. His 21 seasons are tied with Vince Carter, Kevin Garnet, Kevin Willis and Robert Parish for the most ever. Another year would push Nowitzki ahead, or at least keep him tied with Carter.
And if the Mavericks have to honor him twice, that wouldn’t be so bad.
In the last 25 years, four players won the dunk contest then played in their first All-Star game: Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Blake Griffin and John Wall. None returned to the dunk contest.
Donovan Mitchell, who won last year’s dunk contest, isn’t a lock to become an All-Star. But he’s on that track.
Does that mean he’s finished with the dunk contest?
Mitchell, in a Q&A with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:
Will you compete in the dunk contest again? I know you didn’t enter it this year because you didn’t want to be tired for the second half of the season as you fight for playoff positioning. But will we ever see you in the dunk contest again?
DM: Yes. For sure. I don’t know if it’s going to be next year, I don’t know if it’s going to be the year after that, but I am going to do it again.
It’s cool Mitchell wants to return to the dunk contest. That’s the type of joyous competitiveness that endears him to fans.
But I’m skeptical. The history of rising stars trying to defend their dunk-contest titles is overwhelming: They don’t. Mitchell could reach a stature where people around him will advise him to skip the dunk contest. He’s already won it. It won’t be a place for him to raise his profile.
I also don’t have a hankering for him to compete again. He had the best overall performance last year, but he produced no memorable dunks (though a couple memorable costume changes). I care far more about the very best dunk-contest dunks than a player’s consistency in the contest.
If Mitchell still wants to compete in the dunk contest next year or some future season, great. It’d be fascinating to watch him buck the trend.
But if all goes well with his playing career, I wouldn’t count on it.