The most surprised person to hear that Jarrett Jack wanted to be traded away from the Raptors was the man in question himself.
“I hadn’t even heard of it until (Monday),” Jack told reporters at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.
Rumours had been making the rounds that, unhappy with his role in Toronto, Jack had asked GM Bryan Colangelo to move him.
“(Colangelo) actually brought it to my attention. I was wide-eyed a little bit,” Jack said.
“I’m up here on my own merit. If I wanted a trade I doubt I’d be flying up here to work out. I don’t know where that came from. It never came from my end, and he said it never came from his either, so we don’t know where it came from.”
Jack did express some frustration with the way he was used last season, saying he thought he would play more at shooting guard, alongside Jose Calderon. Jack played more minutes than Calderon and the fourth-most on the team, but said he would have liked to combine with Calderon more often.
“It’s up to the coaching staff, (but) there were situations where we maybe could have played more together or switched up the rotation,” he said.
If the Raptors draft Marshall centre Hassan Whiteside, they might finally get a return on investment from an ill-fated signing of the past.
Hakeem Olajuwon, who took the Raptors’ money but was out of shape and just a shadow of his former self in Toronto, has been working with the promising big man who showed his stuff for the Raptors Tuesday.
Whiteside, the NCAA leader with 5.35 blocks per game, said Olajuwon has helped shore up his game at the other end of the floor.
“He’s showing me moves most coaches don’t even know about,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside said he has even learned how to set up the patented Dream Shake after working on his footwork with the all-time great.
It is doubtful the Raptors know more about any other prospect than Solomon Alabi.
Alabi, the tallest player eligible for the 2010 NBA Draft, worked out Tuesday for the team’s braintrust, which includes a very familiar face.
Raptors assistant GM of player personnel Masai Ujiri discovered the fellow Nigerian six years ago at the basketball camp he runs in his native country and has kept close tabs as his 6-foot-9 camper grew into a 7-foot-1 centre and legitimate first-round prospect.
“He grew up in the same part as I did in Nigeria and that’s where I was doing my camp (originally),” Ujiri said after watching Alabi, Marshall centre Hassan Whiteside, South Florida guard Dominique Jones and Cincinnati guard Lance Stephenson work out.
“He came and was very intriguing. We got him into Basketball Without Borders, one of the many we’ve tried to develop there.”
But few of Ujiri’s prospects have come as far as Alabi, who anchored one of the NCAA’s top defences at Florida State, becoming just the ninth player in ACC history to lead that tough conference in blocked shots two years in a row.
Alabi, now a 7-foot-1 Florida State sophomore likely to be picked in the first round of next week’s NBA draft, represents one of the true success stories of Ujiri’s work to make the sport relevant and the opportunities great for African teenagers.
“He meant a lot in my life,” Alabi said of Ujiri. “When I started playing basketball in a small town (Kaduna) where not too many people knew about basketball and only a few people played basketball, Masai did a camp in my town and . . . that’s when I started getting exposed to basketball.”
It was all part of Ujiri’s grand plan to provide opportunities for Nigerian youths who’d been denied them. Ujiri has run a camp for young African big men for about a decade and has been heavily involved with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, which is where Alabi continued his development.
It is the kind of outreach program the NBA is rightfully proud of as it searches out talent and provides instruction and infrastructure.
“When I started playing, I never played on a basketball court,” said Alabi, who is projected to go late in the draft’s first round. “I played on dirt on the ground, they don’t even have concrete on the floor. I went to the camp and they had concrete on the floor . . .
“Basketball Without Borders really helped me. That’s where I first got exposed to well-organized basketball and that really encouraged me to play basketball more.”
In town to work out with teammates DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey, Jack saved his strongest words for the summer’s biggest issue: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Bosh and their planned free-agent summit.
“The only part that makes it crazy is this free-agent summit they’re talking about,” he said laughing. “That’s the only part that’s driving me up the wall.
“It’s their business. How they go about it is how they choose to, but I just think all of them are great players in their own right and they should just go wherever they feel comfortable. I don’t think they need to meet with each other and get nudged by anyone other than themselves.
“This meeting stuff is weird. I’ve never heard of it before. I would never hear of Magic [Johnson], Larry [Bird] and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] meeting up to see what’s going on. I don’t know, it’s just different. They’re trying to make it like [a] monopoly.”
Jack made it clear he was mostly amused by it, and had not spoken to Bosh about the issue or anything else related to free agency. (He did, however, send Bosh a pointed email when ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy called Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol the best big man in the league during Game 4.) Largely, Jack was just poking fun at the league’s elite.
Of the seven coaching vacancies in the NBA since the season ended, only two remain unfilled.
Yet former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell will have received scant consideration for any of them unless he gets an interview with the Los Angeles Clippers or unexpectedly materializes as a fallback candidate in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are still waiting on a yea-or-nea response from Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
Mitchell, though, is in the mix for a new job. NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com that Mitchell will be interviewed this week by the Nets as a potential top assistant to new coach Avery Johnson, who wants at least one former head coach on the bench with him in New Jersey.
After winning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2006-07 and signing a four-year contract extension, Mitchell lasted only one more full season with the Raps before his dismissal in Toronto in December 2008. But he recently told the Toronto Sun that he accepts the notion that he’ll probably have to work as an assistant coach first before getting his next opportunity as a head coach … even though no one has really told him why.
“Being an assistant would be fine,” Mitchell told the newspaper. “But I want to make sure it’s in a good place — a team that not only has a chance to win, but to be with someone who brings something different to me, where I can actually learn something. I’m still a young coach. I still have a lot of things to learn.”
I’d be surprised if Jack is dealt this summer. I think Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu are the first guys to go.
Some great character bigs in for the Raptors today, plus two intriguing scoring guards.
Alabi and Whiteside were very personable and very big. The two tallest guys I’ve seen working out for the Raptors since, I would say, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert a couple of years ago.
Stephenson is trying to put past issues behind him and has the body and athleticism to be an NBA player.
Raptor’s assistant GM Masai Ujiri compared Jones to Rodney Stuckey. Jones is a tweener, but was one of the NCAA’s most potent scorers last season and could be in the mix if the Raptors do the expected and pick up a second first round pick via trade.
Read something interesting today that players including Gordan Haywood are refusing to work out for the Memphis Grizzlies (one of the NBA’s worst-run franchises starting from ownership) who happen to pick one slot ahead of the Raptors. Hayward has been in to work out for Toronto.
THE FAN 590’s David Alter was at the grand opening of the new restaurant in Maple Leaf Square (1), and was joined by Maple Leafs President/GM Brian Burke (2), Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo (3), MLSE Executive VP/COO Tom Anselmi (4), and MLSE Executive VP of Venues & Entertainment Bob Hunter (5) to discuss the event, in addition to organizational news
Alvin Williams, former Raptors player turned Raptors coach, joined the Game Plan live in studio to talk lots of basketball, including the Lakers-Celtics NBA final.
Summer League Schedule:
Friday July 9
1 PM – Denver vs. Dallas
3 PM – Houston vs. Phoenix
5 PM – Detroit vs. LA Lakers
7 PM – Golden State vs. New Orleans
Saturday July 10
1 PM – Toronto vs. Phoenix
3 PM – LA Lakers vs. Denver
5 PM – Detroit vs. Golden State
7 PM – Dallas vs. Houston
Sunday July 11
1 PM – New York vs. Denver
3 PM – Portland vs. Houston
5 PM – Washington vs. Golden State
7 PM – Miami vs. New Orleans
Monday July 12
1 PM – LA Lakers vs. New York
3 PM – Sacramento vs. Detroit
5 PM – Dallas vs. Milwaukee
7 PM – Washington vs. LA Clippers
Thomas & Mack
3:30 PM – San Antonio vs. Minnesota
5:30 PM – Phoenix vs. NBA D-League
7:30 PM – Memphis vs. Atlanta
Tuesday July 13
1 PM – Denver vs. Chicago
3 PM – Cleveland vs. NBA D-League
5 PM – Milwaukee vs. Memphis
7 PM – Portland vs. New Orleans
Thomas & Mack
3:30 PM – Houston vs. Toronto
5:30 PM – Sacramento vs. LA Lakers
7:30 PM – Golden State vs. Miami
Wednesday July 14
1 PM – Denver vs. Houston
3 PM – New York vs. Toronto
5 PM – LA Clippers vs. Chicago
7 PM – Sacramento vs. Minnesota
Thomas & Mack
3:30 PM – Atlanta vs. San Antonio
5:30 PM – Cleveland vs. Phoenix
7:30 PM – Detroit vs. Miami
Thursday July 15
1 PM – LA Lakers vs. San Antonio
3 PM – Golden State vs. Phoenix
5 PM – Washington vs. Dallas
7 PM – LA Clippers vs. Portland
Thomas & Mack
5:30 PM – Atlanta vs. Milwaukee
7:30 PM – NBA D-League vs. Memphis
Friday July 16
1 PM – Detroit vs. New York
3 PM – Toronto vs. Sacramento
5 PM – Washington vs. New Orleans
7 PM – Memphis vs. Minnesota
Thomas & Mack
5:30 PM – Cleveland vs. Chicago
7:30 PM – Milwaukee vs. Miami
Saturday July 17
1 PM – New York vs. Washington
3 PM – Miami vs. Cleveland
5 PM – LA Clippers vs. San Antonio
7 PM – Minnesota vs. Portland
Thomas & Mack
3:30 PM – Toronto vs. New Orleans
5:30 PM – Sacramento vs. Chicago
7:30 PM – NBA D-League vs. Atlanta
Sunday July 18
1 PM – Cleveland vs. Milwaukee
3 PM – Chicago vs. Portland
5 PM – Dallas vs. Sacramento
Thomas & Mack
1:30 PM – San Antonio vs. Memphis
3:30 PM – Atlanta vs. Minnesota
5:30 PM – LA Clippers vs. NBA D-League