Peak Ujiri dropping knowledge in Africa | What to do with a Lowry extension | Olynyk out; team Canada reeling
Ujiri revealed that winning the title hasn’t even fully sunk in for him because of how packed his schedule has been but that it does indeed feel good.
Born in England after his parents first met as nursing students in Bournemouth before moving back to Nigeria a few months after he arrived, Ujiri’s journey to being an NBA champion is nothing short of remarkable after working as an unpaid scout in Orlando before moving on to Denver and then Toronto.
His parents are in Lagos currently, and Ujiri also revealed on the show that it was a special moment for him to take the Larry O’B to his parents there.
Speaking specifically about the game in Africa, Ujiri admitted that another goal of his is to have an NBA team he’s in charge of play a game in the continent, preferably in either his mother’s Kenya or his father’s Nigeria.
“There are no arenas to play any NBA game of standard,” Ujiri said when asked about why that’s not possible now. “How is that possible? It’s not possible, it’s not possible this happens because we can bring so much…
“On this continent, everybody is chosen and they have something special about them and they just have to find it. I am blessed that I found me.”
Safe to surmise, the Raptors are pretty thrilled to have found him, too.
NBA champions Toronto Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri has faulted African states for treating sport as “an after-thought” and placing the wrong people at its helm.
He called on experts and the youth to be given the opportunity to make decisions in sport so as to grow the sector.
Ujiri, who is on a talent development tour of Africa, spoke yesterday when he paid a courtesy call at Nation Centre.
“We need to treat the talents we have in sports like gold or diamonds. And that can only be possible if we have the right people in the sector so that they can bring the right systems,” Ujiri said after meeting Nation Media Group chief executive officer, Stephen Gitagama.
The 48-year-old son of a Nigerian father and Kenyan mother took issue with sporting facilities in the country, singling out the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, which he termed an “eyesore.
There are so many things to consider when trying to pin down what Lowry’s value on the open market might end up being in 2020. Assuming Anthony Davis stays in Los Angeles, Lowry could very well be the best unrestricted free agent judging by resumé alone. It’s a comparatively weak class, which theoretically means many teams with cap room could bid for his services. However, how many teams that are looking to improve would really want to spend significantly on a 34-year-old point guard, especially since the summer of 2021 could have Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal and more available? The Raptors could very well have similar goals to star-hunting teams in 2021, which would affect what they were willing to offer Lowry, too.
Accordingly, looking at the deals that point guards got this summer is only so helpful. Ricky Rubio got a three-year, $51-million deal from Phoenix. Patrick Beverley, 31, got $40-million over three years. At 28, Cory Joseph got $37.2-million over three years, with the third year lightly guaranteed. Lowry is better than all of those players, but he is also older than all of them.
It is inviting to say Lowry’s game will age nicely because of his lack of athleticism and good shooting, but history suggests that will be tough. Over his last three years, Lowry has produced 28.9 win shares, already down from his previous three seasons, when he amassed 30.4. There is a long history of shorter point guards dropping off in their age 33-35 years. John Stockton is the freakish exception, putting up 34.6 win shares in those seasons after posting 36.7 in his previous three seasons. Tony Parker went from 19.2 to 10.2. Tim Hardaway went from 30 to 12.5. Chris Paul’s per-minute production fell off dramatically last year, in his age-33 season. And that says nothing of the 6-2-and-under players who retired before they hit 35 — Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson and Kevin Johnson, among others.
As his career has gone on, Lowry has gotten smarter about maintaining his body. He had a poor shooting year last season, but we can assume that was a blip until proven otherwise. Still, no matter how committed Lowry is to staying healthy and productive, he is still going to have to defy the odds
There is no questioning where Olynyk’s heart lies – his father coached in the national team program and he grew up hoping to play in three Olympics over his career – but when the medical staff of the team paying your salary speaks, only a fool doesn’t listen.
That leaves Canada’s NBA representation at two, at least in theory: Olynyk’s long-time national team running mate, point guard Cory Joseph of the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic big man Khem Birch – as the team gets set to kick off a five-game exhibition series in Australia with back-to-back games against the home team in Perth on Friday and Saturday.
Why in theory? Because according to ace Australian hoops reporter Olgun Uluc, Joseph hadn’t joined the team in Australia, missing its practice in Perth on Wednesday.
No one with Canada Basketball would comment on Joseph’s absence.
Given that Joseph was wavering about joining the team for the World Cup as the first wave of withdrawals hit the roster, it’s a situation that has to be concerning.
It’s hard to blame Joseph if he’s wondering what he’s signed up for. Considering there are 17 Canadians with NBA deals heading into the 2019-20 season – the most Canada has ever had and the most NBA players ever from any country other than the United States – the rate of attrition is staggering: Canada now has three starting lineups of NBA players not playing in China.
Nurse was only appointed as coach of Canada less than two months ago.
He said the warm-up games against the Boomers and US would be crucial as he attempts to bed down a game-plan with his second-string squad.
“The biggest thing is this is a much newer situation for me,” Nurse said of being coach of a national side.
“I know it was my first year as coach of the Raptors, but I was there five years as an assistant so I knew the pulse and the heartbeat of the locker room.
“Here I’m in a much more of a clean slate type of situation.
“I’m trying to get to know these guys, they’re trying to get to know me. And we have to do it quicker. These games are going to be here in a few weeks so it’s an accelerated pace.”
When the Raptors went on their Championship-winning run last season, the whole of Canada got behind them.
Nurse hopes he can now bring the nation some joy on an international stage and he feels Canada is a team on the rise.
“What happened with the Raptors was really cool,” Nurse said.
“It almost felt like a national team playing in the pro league because every city in the country was watching every second of all those games.
“I think Canada is at an interesting, pivotal point in its basketball career.”
Atlantic Division (CM)
The Atlantic Division features three really interesting JAM teams, one absolute all-timer, and the, uh, New York Knickerbockers.
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka – The Raptors’ lack of a high-flying 3-and-D monster is even more apparent in NBA JAM than in real life. Still, this is a dark horse team. Siakam has got to be the quickest big in the game, and Ibaka, career-wise, brings enough three-point shooting to keep Toronto afloat on offense around Lowry’s dead-eye marksmanship. And on D? Expect to hear a ton of: “the bigger the love, the bigger the shove” from this handsy trio. (And yeah, yeah, I didn’t pick OG Anunoby — we all realize he hasn’t proven that he’s like, a good NBA player yet, right?)
There’s one special piece that the Raptors seem to have a part in, just in time for their 25th year anniversary. “Peace to the Past, Reach for the Future” is in honour of the Toronto Raptors and to celebrate the success of such a beloved team.
Creative producer Bryan Espiritu and Sculptor Esmaa Mohamoud will create an 18-foot sculpture which honours the team’s past, “imagining their future and celebrating the diverse communities that support them,” according to the description of the piece.
There’s plenty to celebrate about the Toronto Raptors this year, after all.
And fans on Twitter are already sharing their excitement for the piece in response to the Raptors cryptic tweet.
If you’re excited to see this piece and others, this years theme, Continuum, will consist of 19 art projects to discover in part of three exhibitions.
Those three exhibitions are Creation: Destruction, Kings and Queens of Scarborough, and Lunar Garden.
The Raptors piece will be located behind the backdrop of City Hall and Old City Hall. You can check out the map for a more detailed look into what’s to come.
But at no time, according to Leonsis and Forde, did he try to get an audience with Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri.
Although Ujiri and Forde, who have a previous connection, had communicated when Forde was retained by the Wizards, the conversation was not to set up an interview. Regardless, in May, there was media speculation that Leonsis could make Ujiri the lead executive of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which includes the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, with an ownership stake.
“Somebody writes I’m going to make [Ujiri] run all of basketball and all of hockey. So that was uncomfortable, right?” Leonsis said. “One of my partners, fellow owners [Dick Patrick] who’s built one of the great franchises in all of sports, reads that. He’s mature enough, he calls me and says, ‘Hey, I know it’s not true, but that was an article I felt was odd.’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s not true, and it is odd.’ ”
Through this period, which Leonsis described as “noisy,” his conversations somehow never leaked.
Andrew Wiggins Goes Home to Toronto
Raptors Receive: SF Andrew Wiggins, 2020 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Timberwolves Receive: PF Serge Ibaka
The Raptors can still be good this season even without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, although they won’t make much noise in the playoffs without an additional scoring punch.
For all his faults, Wiggins can put the ball in the basket (career 19.4 points per game), and the veteran supporting cast around him (Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet) would do wonders for the 24-year-old’s development.
Taking Wiggins out of a Minnesota rebuild and putting him on his hometown team would be the best possible situation to extract the talent that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2014.
For the Timberwolves, this move would mainly be about clearing future cap space.
Adding Ibaka would be great for the short term, given he’d be the team’s best power forward and bring championship experience.
Ibaka averaged 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and shot 53.6 percent from the floor when he started for the Raptors last season, and his $23.3 million deal expires next summer.
The Wolves would have to sacrifice a lightly protected first-round pick in the process, given the amount of money they’d be saving by not having to pay the remaining $122.2 million on Wiggins’ contract.
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