Posts Tagged ‘Tristan Thompson

Loss to James and Cavaliers leaves a bitter taste in mouths of the Raptors

- December 10th, 2014

Tuesday’s loss to Cleveland will stick with the Raptors for some time. In a gloomy locker room afterward, many of the players lamented their lack of fight, their inability to come up with timely rebounds and even their inability to get a fair shake from the officials. Oddly enough, it was the usually terse Kyle Lowry who was one of the most upbeat Raptors. Lowry didn’t have a great night, for the second game in a row his jumper wasn’t falling, but he did notch 14 assists against just a single turnover. To his credit, he said the team would move on and can play a lot better: “We could have done a few different things. It was poor execution on my part, and as the point guard, I’ve got to get into better situations,” Lowry said of being forced into a bad shot with the game still in the balance by Tristan Thompson, who has nearly a foot on him.

- As good as Lowry was early at running the show, and he was great, finding a dominant Jonas Valanciunas to finish off pick-and-rolls with dunks several times, Lowry and the rest of the Raptors completely went away from what was working for them in the fourth quarter. They stopped feeding Valanciunas, who had annihilated Cleveland’s frontline all evening, missing just a single shot on seven attempts and shooting six of Toronto’s 10 free throws on the evening (making them all). If you have something that is working so well, going away from it just doesn’t make any sense. Lowry and the other Raptors have to be smarter. Of course, not having DeMar DeRozan to share the load and having Greivis Vasquez unavailable due to the flu definitely made life tougher for Lowry and the other players on the floor aren’t necessarily capable of running a pick-and-roll with Valanciunas.

- Were the referees a bit dicey? Sure, but that’s nothing new when James is playing. The NBA has always given superstars like James, Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade a far wider berth. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s the way the NBA works. Amir Johnson, in particular, was incensed about the way it went down, but I think he was just as upset about he and the other Raptors not being able to come down with rebounds at opportune times, something that also sunk them against the Cavaliers on Friday night. Again, Thompson needs to be accounted for on the offensive boards. He is an elite offensive rebounder. Valanciunas said they need to be far more physical with him and must push him away from the basket.

- I gripe at times about Casey’s decisions, it’s part of my job, but I also point out when he makes some excellent calls. Starting Landry Fields turned out to be a great move and it also served to inspire James Johnson, who didn’t get the promotion. Casey’s decisions down the stretch of how to deploy his big men were bang-on. With Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson proving to be the best combination on this night, Casey rode them. When he needed a bit of Amir with Valanciunas he tried that too. The right players were on the floor. The problem (besides not going to Valanciunas), especially against a great rebounding team like the Cavs, is Toronto doesn’t really have a complementary big for Valanciunas right now. Amir looks like a shadow of his former self on too many nights. He can barely get off the floor some nights (just two rebounds, though it’s amazing how effective he can still be on basically one leg and without jumping). He just can’t help Valanciunas on the boards at the moment. Meanwhile Patterson, for all of his strengths, is a below average rebounder, it is the weakest part of his game. Without DeRozan, playing Chuck Hayes or Tyler Hansbrough isn’t an option, because they don’t offer enough offensively. Clearly, when Masai Ujiri decides to make a move, getting an upgrade at power forward has to be the focus.

- There is no shame to losing to that team, especially when you don’t have your top scorer. Cleveland is not perfect, but in the East, you don’t have to be. The Cavs could win the conference and are going to come back to beat good teams on many nights because James is basically unstoppable. Once Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving heat up, the Cavs become a problem. Toronto just didn’t have enough answers. Part of the reason for that was because they were shooting themselves in the foot though.

 

 

 

Finally, a better start; Lowry’s bricks don’t matter if he’s doing everything else; Rarified air for Raptors; DeRozan’s heating up

- February 26th, 2014

Finally, a non-horrible start to a game. Progress? Maybe. Toronto didn’t get off to a good start on Tuesday in Cleveland, but it wasn’t a bad one either. And the team got it together in a first quarter for the first time in a while to take a six-point lead into the break.

In a reversal of recent fortunes, the league’s top second half team got outscored by seven in the third, before springing to life in the fourth.

- The team would probably prefer Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to be less streaky, but when they’ve been on, they’ve been scorching. Quarters of 15 or so points are becoming routine lately for Toronto’s all-star caliber backcourt. I talked about DeRozan’s remarkable improvement as a playmaker here and he put up his 16th game of the season with five or more assists. Remarkably, it was the eighth time he did it without committing a single turnover.

- It wasn’t just their offence that helped the Raptors win for the 32nd time – two off of last season’s win total. Lowry took a massive charge late on Kyrie Irving and DeRozan made a key steal to finish off the Cavs, a .500 team at home heading in.

- Coaches don’t like it, but lulls happen nearly every game. It wasn’t at the start this time, but it came after a 15-0 run in the second quarter put the Raptors firmly in front 29-17. Cleveland managed to outscore Toronto 24-18 from there to crawl back within striking distance. It got worse for Toronto when the rare bad third quarter start took place.

- Greivis Vasquez gave the Raptors some much-needed secondary scoring. With Lowry struggling with his jumper and the rest of the bench AWOL (save for Tyler Hansbrough), every one of the 15 points Vasquez scored were helpful. He was the only Raptor going when Cleveland closed the gap in the second.

- Some areas for concern for the Raptors: Outscored 40-32 in the paint; Eleven combined turnovers by Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson; No impact from Jonas Valanciunas, who dominated against these same Cavs last time out, but was benched for most of the second half in this one.

- Another one: Lowry’s shooting just 26% from three over his past 10 games and 38% overall. He’s shot just 35% over his past four. Still, he had nine assists and no turnovers, plus that huge charge taken on Irving.

“You’re not going to have a great game offensively all the time, so I tried to do other things. That’s how you’ve got to play. I just tried to get everyone in spots where they could be successful by attacking all night,” Lowry said afterward.

- Not a concern: The play of DeRozan. He’s averaging 23.7 points over his past three, along with 5.0 assists, just 2.0 turnovers and shooting 46.4%j from the field. In those three games, DeRozan has averaged 15 points on 53.1% shooting in the second half.

- Really liked what I saw from Brampton’s Anthony Bennett in Toronto last week, but that didn’t carry over into this one. Bennett had a rough start, airballing an easy shot and getting lost a couple of times on defence. Still, he’s one of the youngest players in the league and is only now getting back into top shape and getting consistent minutes. He’s a rookie, doing rookie things. Write him off now and look foolish later.

- Tristan Thompson continues to play well. One more rebound in this game and Friday’s against Toronto and he’d be on a seven game streak of double-doubles.

- Toronto stayed 1.5 games ahead of Chicago and picked up another half game over Brooklyn for the Atlantic Division lead. This is the first time the team has been seven games over .500 in six years. Toronto beat Washington Feb. 20th, 2010, to move seven games over .500 and hadn’t been there since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cavaliers at Raptors Points Per Game: You wanted the rookies and now you’re going to get them; Amir for MIP? At least DeRozan attacked; Catching up with Thompson

- March 11th, 2013

Those no-quit Raptors resurfaced on Sunday, rallying to beat a Cleveland squad that couldn’t figure out how to play once star point guard Kyrie Irving was forced out due to an injury. There is little question that Amir Johnson is the team’s MVP for 2012-13, just as he deserved that honour for the 2010-11 season (he had a poor season sandwiched in between). Adrian Wojnarowski first floated this, but Johnson probably is going to get some votes for most improved player simply because most people don’t remember what he did two years ago at all, but just recall that he wasn’t very good last season. Paul George has the award sewn up, but if Amir gets in the top 5, it will be well-deserved. He definitely is a better player than he was last year and he’s also better than he was two years ago.

Some thoughts:

-DeMar DeRozan struggled without Rudy Gay, but one of the good things he did was continue to attack the basket (eight free throw attempts) He could have done that more often early, but he at least made a point of doing it. He also moved the ball well to set up his teammates (6 assists) an under-reported area of improvement this season. He’s gone from an extremely poor passer to an above-average facilitator.

- Rudy Gay is expected to return Friday, but expect him to be rested liberally to close the season. The team knows he’s not right and it’s impacting his production. No point letting him play through this. Sounds like Andrea Bargnani could be out a while after hurting his sore elbow. The doctors in L.A. immediately told him to shut it down so it’s not like he’s embellishing or anything. It’s unfortunate, as he needed a good stretch here to up his trade value. Dealing him won’t be the easiest thing in the world this summer (well, dealing him for any kind of value that is) but somebody will pony up something. We’ve seen far worse players and contracts dealt over the years (though the new CBA is more restrictive, which limits the market further).

- You’ve probably read a half-dozen stories now about Amir, so we’ll leave out the fact that he turned in another standout performance in a season filled with them.

- Minus Gay and with DeRozan struggling, Alan Anderson stepped up, leading the team in scoring, and Landry Fields did a nice job again all-around.

- Casey said he’s going to roll with Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross now down the stretch, as long as they aren’t making mistakes on every second play. If their errors become too frequent, they’ll sit until they learn what they’re doing wrong, but the expectation is, they’ll be able to stay on the court for 25-30 minutes every night to close out this season. Ross was a little shot happy early, but eventually started to use his elite athleticism to his advantage. He needs to do more of that. He made mistakes, but also contributed across the board with five rebounds, three assists and 14 points. He also couldn’t quite finish a couple of spectacular drives. Valanciunas was his usual solid self and once he gets featured more in the offence (next season) the efficiency of DeRozan and Gay should improve.

- Casey again defended his decisions on the road in sitting Valanciunas and Ross. I absolutely agree with rookies needing to adapt to the speed of the game and that Valanciunas  has had some issues with that, but we’re going to agree to disagree about what Aaron Gray provides and how effective Valanciunas had been against Dwight Howard compared to Gray and leave it at that. I do agree that it didn’t make sense to throw Ross in against Kobe or the artist formerly known as Ron Artest.

- Kyle Lowry again looked more like the Lowry of old, the one the team needs going forward. He still needs to take more shots (it seems like he took all of the complaining about his early-season “chucking” to heart and is completely going away from it) there has to be a balance. That “no he didn’t … yes he did!” turnaround to seal the game was an example of the shots he needs to take. He’s capable of hitting them and it puts pressure on opponents, since they know he can score from anywhere at any time, when he feels like it.

- Casey on the need for three-point shooting next year:

“Corner threes. We dearly need it. We’re 22nd or 23rd in three-point shooting. To open up the floor for DeMar and Rudy, we need somebody to get that shot. We need consistent three-point shooting to open up.

There’s nowhere for he or DeMar to go (with no three-point threats).

Could be next evolution of DeMar’s career. Rudy is still struggling with his back I think that effects his shot from the first week he’s here.” As I pointed out last game, DeRozan has had far more success shooting corner threes than his long attempts from elsewhere on the court, so there’s a good chance he can add that to his arsenal.

- Valanciunas said he’s getting more acclimated to the NBA every day.

“I’m working a lot on my post moves. I feel comfortable every game, it’s getting better. That was a great effort in the second half. We were down big-time we regrouped and we came back,” he said.

“There is up and down nights because one night you feel tired, one night you feel tired. You need to adjust. I’ve been here like five months already. Every month I feel more and more comfortable.”

- Always enjoy catching up with Tristan Thompson. I’ve been covering Tristan since he was in high school and Frank Zicarelli even covered him in the Sun when he was still playing high school ball in Canada. Like Valanciunas, who went one pick after him, he’s a genuine guy who hasn’t changed, despite being drafted fourth overall and despite the money and fame that has come with that. He’s a hard worker and that relentlessness has paid off since he’s a heck of a lot better this season than he was as a rookie. The difference in his confidence on offence is night and day. Thompson said everything was a rush last year due to the lockout (no time to adjust to the NBA, being thrown right into the fire) and being more prepared and understanding the NBA game more has really paid off. Thompson sees himself as one of the leaders of the Canadian national team for the next decade or so and keeps a close eye on what his fellow Canadians are doing in the NCAA. He’s happy good friend Myck Kabongo has been tremendous since coming back from his suspension and has definitely seen what Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos have been doing at Gonzaga. It’s by no means set in stone that Thompson and Olynyk will pair up for Canada (since Andrew Nicholson and Anthony Bennett, among others, are also fantastic players), but if they do, Thompson believes they will play well together.

“We complement each other well. He’s a pick and pop guy, I’m a space eater, so we play off each other and we’re good together,” Thompson told me.

More from Tristan:

Tristan:

“It’s definitely been tough (losing Anderson Varejao to injury) because Andy, he meant a lot to us, he was 14 and 14. He played with a sense of pride and just a hunger to play hard every night, so we definitely do miss him, but, the opportunity came for me to play and I can show a little bit more, so you have to take advantage of it. It’s part of the league, injuries happen, but we wish Andy was with us right now,” he said.

On Texas struggling:

“We wish Texas could get a bit more wins, but it happens in college basketball. Some years it goes through, some years it doesn’t. As long as the young guys keep getting better, one day, we’ll get back to the promised land.”

Thompson also said he was happy that Toronto was able to create a buzz in the city by acquiring Rudy Gay. Thinks Gay will be a big addition for the team. While Thompson is a proud Cav, he loves the city and prefers to see the Raptors doing well and getting noticed (as long as they aren’t playing Cleveland).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The debut of Points Per Game – Cavaliers at Raptors January 4

- January 5th, 2012

Today I’m debuting a new feature here at the blog – Points Per Game – a brief recap of things that caught my eye during or after each Raptor game. It will run the morning after every game.

- Jose Calderon is off to a spectacular start and making Bryan Colangelo feel a lot better about  the big contract he handed the highest-paid Raptor. Calderon hasn’t been this good since his excellent 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns, the ones where he shot 50% fromt he field (or close), 40% from 3 and 90%+ from the line.

His defence, never as bad as it appeared to the naked eye (the stats backed up the fact that Jarrett Jack, for example, wasn’t doing any better defensively, he just wasn’t as targeted by opponents as often), has improved under Dwane Casey’s system and his offence has been all-star level good. Though it is only six games in, Calderon is shooting better than ever from the field, from three and from the line, is just shy of his best per-season scoring numbers and is averaging 10 assists per game.

He seemed to take some offense to my question last night about whether he is feeling healthier and more confident so far than he has over the past couple of seasons:

“Everybody knows my problems a few years ago. I’m good, feeling great and you don’t forget about how to play basketball,” Calderon said rather pointedly.

Casey certainly is sold: “I came away with a different opinion of Jose (after watching him direct Spain at the EuroBasket in Lithuania this summer). Anytime you win a championship the way he has, that tells you something and he’s much better than people give him credit for,” Casey said.

- Andrea Bargnani is really feeling it. Offensively he’s never looked better – opponents look clueless about how to stop him and every jumper he takes seems to be on its way in. He’s really in a zone. We’ve seen similar streaks from Bargnani offensively before, but the effort and intensity level and emotion he is showing on the court is novel for him. He seems far more engaged and is much more of a presence defensively. Always a fine man-to-man defender, he is shockingly looking above average in a help role, which, along with rebounding, was his biggest deficiency since entering the league in 2006.

“Andrea? Hewasn’t that good tonight,” Calderon said with a laugh, before heaving some praise his way.

“So nice to see him smile every time. He’s really comfortable playing out there. We’ve been playing together for a long time, so it’s nice to see.”

- Casey didn’t like what he saw from Ed Davis against Orlando and New York and brought him in for a meeting and video session before the game. It worked, Davis looked far more active and played very well at both ends.

“I brought Ed in to watch film after shootaround to show him the difference in his effort during the last Cleveland game vs. his effort in New York which I thought was not himself,” Casey explained.

“I need energy, we want to develop Ed Davis, but he’s got to earn it and he did tonight. We as a staff are not going to give away minutes, but he earned them tonight and that’s what he’s got to do.”

- Casey also said James Johnson earned himself more time (not because of his 1-8 shooting) but because of his defence and rebounding.

- Finally, the coach cautioned there was still much work to be done:

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be. We’re playing the style it takes to play in the playoffs. I don’t think (we’re a playoff team).” He was happy to see the Raptors cut down on the turnovers substantially.

- And a brief mention of DeMar DeRozan. His ability to now hit three pointers with ease is a testament to the hours he put in during the lockout. This is no Shawn Kemp, people. DeRozan lived on the court and it is showing.

- Tough Toronto debut for Tristan Thompson. As my man Grange pointed out, he was going at a ridiculous clip during the warmup, maybe he burned himself out? Maybe it was the nerves – though he strongly denied that – maybe it was sitting at the scorer’s table for 5 minutes before a stoppage of play allowed him to finally come in. Whatever it was, don’t expect to see a repeat performance the next time he is in town.

Raptors vs. Cavs morning update

- January 4th, 2012

The Cavaliers and Raptors will square off for the second time this season Wednesday night.

Brampton’s Tristan Thompson is off to a fine start and will make him ACC debut. Jamaal Magloire, the first Torontonian in the league said he remembers how excited he was before his Toronto debut on Nov. 20, 2000, though he couldn’t remember how he did (quite well, it turns out. Magloire scored a season-best 16 points and added 8 rebounds and 3 blocks for Charlotte).

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Jerryd Bayless and Aaron Gray are day-to-day, while Linas Kleiza is doing 5-on-0 drills, but still needs to be cleared by his doctors in Denver before he can go full out.

Casey pointed out that Cleveland’s bench is the highest-scoring second unit in the NBA and he talked about how effective Thompson has been so far, particularly on the boards. Stopping Cleveland on the offensive glass and taming the Cavs’ red-hot outside shooting will be keys to winning the game, Casey said.

Canada out and Rautins is too

- September 9th, 2011

Thursday was an extremely dark day for basketball in Canada.

The senior men failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics thanks to a devastating 91-89 loss to Panama, ranked five spots lower in the standings, but much farther apart talent-wise based on performances during the FIBA Americas tournament (Canada kept games close while Panama made getting blown out by 25 points or more a habit). Panama got a ridiculous performance from Denver Nuggets guard Gary Forbes. Sometimes that happens.

It’s a huge disappointment though. Not sure what else to say about it. While 2016 was the realistic goal, at least making the last-chance qualifier was huge for the program, since I have heard from various sources that Steve Nash was 50/50 to take part and Tristan Thompson and Matt Bonner likely would have been on-board as well.

It was also disappointing to see a man who, despite what his critics have said, has given his all for the program.

Leo Rautins was a dedicated and tireless worker for Canada Basketball. Like everyone he had his faults, but what he had going him constantly seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Being unable to work with Samuel Dalembert hurt the team even if the blame can be shared between both men.  I have been told, however, that the absence of Syracuse star Kris Joseph wasn’t on Rautins.

In a perfect world, the idiotic move to dispatch Jay Triano in 2005 would never have been made and Rautins could have come on board as an assistant coach/backer of the program.

That would have kept Nash, the two-time NBA MVP on board and probably would have been enough to get young kids more interested in playing than they are now.

Canada Basketball has a tough challenge ahead of it. The young players must be convinced to buy into the program (since Canadian pride doesn’t seem to exist in the same way as it does for members of other countries) but they must not be coddled. It’s a fine line. They need to be made to commit to 2-3 years with the program. The program must also be more willing to take outside opinion than it has in recent years. Constructive criticism, while criticism, can be handled much better.

As Rautins said in his exit conference, the FIBA schedule makes things insanely difficult. Players need to sacrifice to play. Their time with family, their bodies, etc. Most, like most people, want to advance themselves and see playing in camps or other events as more beneficial than suiting up.

That needs to change.

Given the talent in the pipeline – Thompson, Khem Birch, Andrew Nicholson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Kyle Wiltjer, Kris Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, Justin Jackson, Andy Rautins, Jevohn Shepherd, Myck Kabongo, Cory Joseph, Kevin Pangos and more! there is no reason why Canada shouldn’t be not only in the 2016 Olympics, but a top 5 contender.

But they all need to be properly reached out to and they need to play.

Here are some of the words from the post-game press conference:

Leo Rautins:

“Disappointing, we’ve all put a lot into this. These guys have worked their tails off. For some reason, different things catch up with us. Losing a few guys, we’re not good enough at this point to absorb that. A lot of good things have happened unless you’re close to this program you’re not going to see. To continue the things that need to be done, I’ve made a decision that this team needs a new voice in the locker room.

I think it’s time, I’ve gotten a great deal of support from within the organization, I think the players have given me everything I’ve asked. For the benefit of this program going forward, a new voice in the locker room will be the best thing.

I love this program. I didn’t take this job to enhance my reputation, to become an NBA coach, to use this as a launching pad, I took this job because I love the program and I want to see the program succeed. I know what this program can become.”

“I’ve got nothing but support from Wayne or Maurizio. I never felt any pressure, anything in any way from Wayne here.I went to Wayne and said this needs to be done.

In light of new occurrences where program had to spend a lot of time defending me, I didn’t want to put the program in that position anymore. Sometimes you just need a change. There will be a lot of speculation. Most important thing is the players. The young players the future, that’s all that matters to me. Right now this is the best, in my opinion.

We’re playing against the best in the world, we compete with what we have. I think the structure of FIBA has to change. You have players dropping like flies. In what technically is their offseason. It would be wonderful if we could put our best players on the floor. I’m never going to be critical of those who don’t Everybody’s got career, families, injuries that they’ll have to consider before playing.

Having said that, it’s a great opportunity that players should take advantage of.

We have to look as playing for the national team as an honour and something beneficial.

There’s two ways to represent your country, in war and in sports and I think this is a hell of a better way to do it.

I’d love to see all our players take part and I think it’s going to happen.

I had a lot of fun with this group. Nobody cared about who started, how many minutes, these guys just came out and played.

I was part of this program as a youngster where we were amongst the best in the world and that’s where I see this program.

What’s next for me is doing whatever part I can to make that happen. That’s priority for me.”

Jesse Young:

“Definitely not the place where we though we would be today. We fought all tournament and sometimes bounces don’t go your way. Every one of us put everything into it to try to get us in a position to qualify. Everyone’s pretty down right now.”

Wayne Parrish:

“There is a lot of work to be done.

Real focus and target is 2016 that hasn’t changed we’ve been able to build into the program elements and features that have gotten us along that trajectory.

We all hope that we would be positioned to be in the qualifier at least next summer, the fact that we aren’t doesn’t change the success that has been borne.

Need to become one of the teams that others are fearful of.

Leo has been for many many years the heart and soul of this program and I don’t think that is going to change. Know success this program is going to have in the future is going to be tied to what Leo has achieved to date and what he will continue to help achieve in the future.

Program isn’t about one person, but its built on some real key values and principles.

We’ll sort those things in the next few weeks, my focus is so we don’t lose any of that.

Discussions have been over the past hour or couple of hours.

Level of competition at this level, at this event is high. Anyone that has not been here, cannot fathom.

We came up short and we have to change that.”

Canada comes through twice against Belgium; a bit on Tristan Thompson not playing

- August 14th, 2011

Canada’s senior men’s basketball team continued its strong recent play on Sunday, winning its third of four exhibition games this month, 74-68 over Belgium at Hamilton’s McMaster University.

Kamloops’ Kelly Olynyk, a Gonzaga forward, led Canada with 16 points and seven rebounds. Head coach Leo Rautins had earlier said Olynyk was outstanding in training earlier this summer, before getting hurt in Europe.

Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony was a force defensively with four blocked shots.

Carl English added 11 points, New York Knicks guard Andy Rautins 10 and Levon Kendall chipped in with nine points and eight boards. San Antonio Spurs draft pick Cory Joseph was held to three points as he adapts to the international game.

Canada’s usually efficient three-point shooting was absent (4-18 from three), but a 34-22 edge on the boards was huge, as were 26 points from the line compared to Belgium’s six.

Canada beat Belgium 79-74 at Ryerson on Saturday and split a pair of games with the Czech Republic in that country a few weeks ago and is on the rise after a double-digit losing streak dating back to last year, which was largely the result of the absence or limited performances from most of Canada’s top players due to injury.

Canada will continue its training camp in Toronto until Aug. 20th, before heading to Brazil for exhibition games against Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico at the Tuto Marchand Cup.

Canada will then head to Argentina for the FIBA Americas tournament. A top two finish there would mean a berth at the 2012 London Olympics. Canada is in a group with the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba. Brazil and Argentina in the other group are the favourites but Canada can still advance to a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament next year with a top five finish.

Wanted to chime in on Tristan Thompson choosing not to play. Andy Rautins certainly seems to have an opinion about it, though he didn’t name Thompson directly.

I still maintain that people should get on Thompson the next time he declines an invite (if he does), not now. He has had an extremely long year and though Canada Basketball believes any insurance risks would have been worked out to get him to play, I can’t fault him for not wanting to risk it before he’s even signed a deal.

Do I think he could have benefited from playing? Absolutely. As good as Thompson is defensively, his offensive game is very much a work in progress. We have seen Joel Anthony and Samuel Dalembert improve their games with more touches and focus offensively with the team in the past and I think Thompson could have helped himself by playing. Plus, as Cory Joseph said, they haven’t played in a while and who knows, with the lockout going on, when the next time Thompson will play competitive basketball. Plus, if he wants to play in the Olympics down the line, his team needs to qualify. With Thompson, no doubt Canada would have a better shot in Argentina. Haven’t checked this, but I believe Thompson would have been the highest-drafted NBA player on any team at that event had he played.

But again, I understand why he didn’t and won’t fault him for it.

This time.

NBA draft combine update: Kanter says no thanks to Raps, Jazz? Bucks; Measurements released

- May 20th, 2011

Enes Kanter doesn’t want to be a Raptor. Or a member of the Utah Jazz or Milwaukee Bucks for that matter.

That was the news Friday from ESPN’s Andy Katz who said the Turkish forward/centre skipped interviews with the Jazz (3rd pick), Raptors (5th) and Bucks (10th), though ESPN’s Chad Ford later said Kanter would have a full sit-down interview with the Jazz early in June.

Apparently, Kanter thinks the Jazz and Raptors have too many big men (Millsap, Jefferson, Favors, Bargnani, Davis, Johnson) and he’s probably right on that count. However, if the report that said Kanter wants to play for Washington (6th pick) is correct, that argument doesn’t make perfect sense, as the Wizards have youngsters JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche up front already. Still, Kanter wanted to succeed John Wall at Kentucky and now apparently wants to join him at Kentucky.

The combine measurements came out on Friday. Perhaps the most interesting results were as follows:

Kemba Walker measured a shade under 6 feet without shoes, 6-1 with, alleviating some concerns about his size, though his wingspan was terrible, part of the reason he isn’t expected to be a good defender at the next level.

Kawhi Leonard was 6-7 in shoes with a ridiculous 7-3 wingspan and massive hands. Combined with his motor, Leonard has all the tools to be a Shawn Marion or Gerald Wallace-like terror on defence and in the open floor.

Brampton’s Tristan Thompson wasn’t 6-9 without shoes as one erroneus report said, but rather just shy of 6-9 in shoes, with a 7-1.25 wingspan.

Pickering’s Cory Joseph measured a sold 6-3, Brandon Knigh was also 6-3 and Kanter was 6-10 without shoes s, just shy of 7 feet in shoes.

Joseph, Ashaolu expected to join Thompson in entering NBA draft

- April 22nd, 2011

History will be made Friday afternoon.

Brampton’s Tristan Thompson, of the Texas Longhorns is expected to announce his decision to sign with an agent and enter the 2011 NBA draft.

But that’s not all, the Sun has learned his longtime teammate, Cory Joseph of Pickering and their Grassroots Canada AAU teammate Olu Ashaolu of Toronto and Louisiana Tech. will also declare, barring a last-minute change of heart, though they will do so without an agent, leaving the door open to an NCAA return.

Thompson is considered a potential lottery pick while Joseph and Ashaolu are likely second round selections at best.

Thompson’s decision is not a suprise, once elite forwards like Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III and Harrison Barnes opted to stay in school, his stock shot up in the depleted draft.

Ashaolu, though raw, was a double-double machine and has NBA-calibre athleticism.

Ashaolu averaged 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds at Louisiana Tech. as a junior. The year before he averaged 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds.

He posted a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double against Thompson (who had 17 seven) in the season opener and had 16 double-doubles on the season.

Joseph’s decision is perhaps the most shocking, scouts have said he needs more time to develop and it is still not clear what position he would play in the NBA, but those close to him have obviously heard good things from at one team.

Joseph averaged 10.4 points, 3 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game, shooting 41% from three.

The announcements are expected at 3 p.m.

Brampton’s Tristan Thompson set to go pro

- April 21st, 2011

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Longhorns forward Tristan Thompson, of Brampton, will enter the NBA draft.

The decision is not a surprise, Thompson, one of Canada’s top basketball prospects, had been interviewing agents for some time now and is expected to formally announce his decision on Friday.

Last month, sources who had been in touch with people close to Thompson informed the Sun he was a lock to go.

The Big 12 freshman of the year averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game and was outstanding in Texas’ win over Oakland in the first round of the NCAA tournament, boosting his draft stock.

Though Thompson originally said he wanted to return to the school, especially because longtime friend and teammate Myck Kabongo of Toronto will start there in the fall, the lure of potentially being selected in the lottery appears to have been too much to pass up. The 2012 draft is expected to be one of the best in two decades after stars like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III elected to stay in school, whereas the 2011 version is considered poor.

Thompson had until April 24 to declare for the draft. Players can still pull out if they don’t hire an agent by May 8th. DraftExpress placed Thompson 16th in its first 2011 mock draft with him in it. ESPN’s Chad Ford slotted Thompson in the 9-12 range.

Friday is expected to be a busy day as draft eligible players are likely to make their decision then instead of waiting until the Easter Sunday deadline. Thompson is by far the highest-rated eligible Canadian.