Historic day has been coming for a long time
Can’t remember what scout it was – it might have been Jim Kelly now that I think of it – who said this to me way back about last December or January.
“Canada could have the next two No. 1 picks in the draft.”
Pretty sure I scoffed, or perhaps rolled my eyes.
That was some night, no?
History made a year before we expected it to be made when Toronto-born, Brampton-raised Anthony Bennett went No. 1 in the NBA draft.
(Quick, go find the mock drafts that had that happening, I dare you)
And with Andrew Wiggins right now a dead-bolt lock to go No. 1 in 2014 – I know, lots can happen between now and then – it really is something, isn’t it?
How’d it happen? How does this pucks-loving country do this?
Well, I’m sure there are much Taller Foreheads than me trying to figure that out but I’ll put in my two cents and we’ll see what you think.
There has, I believe, been a seismic shift in Toronto away from the hockey for young boys who grew up watching basketball here, who don’t have nearly the history with pucks that people my age might have and who were drawn to the courts because it’s less expensive, less structured in many ways, more fun.
We’ve seen the change coming for years, actually; I can say since we’ve been in the neighbourhood here for about 15 years there have been more backboards than hockey nets on the street every year and I would imagine that’s the case in a lot of places around these parts.
And now I would guess it’s only going to get better.
It started in the mid-1990s with the birth of the Raptors, it continued when Vince Carter burst on the scene with such ferocity, Steve Nash’s career helped spawn a generation of Canadians who wanted to be like him.
It’s been fascinating to watch from somewhere close to the game, I can recall a time when people would roll their eyes whenever you mentioned basketball in Canada; it was decidedly the “other” sport and one might be mocked for caring.
But society has changed, the demographics of our cities have changed, families have changed and those old “traditional” days of Saturday nights with Pops on the couch watching Hockey Night In Canada are long gone.
This is not to denigrate hockey or those who play it and love it; it is simply to suggest that times are different now and there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Bennett, and Wiggins and those who went before him, the Tristan Thompsons, Cory Josephs, Andrew Nicholsons, and all the other NBA players who come from Canada at now the role models for a new generation of Canadian kids.
It’s an important task, showing young boys that dreams can be realized with hard work and seizing opportunities presented and I hope they are up to.
There’s no suggestion they’re not but the ball, as they say, is in their court.
We’re closing in on Canada Day – my favourite holiday of the year – so …
Oh yeah, I’m off to Cleveland bright and early so I have no clue when I’ll get to the inevitable comments but I will at some point.
And when I land and get settled, I’d sure like some mail if you don’t mind.
Figure tomorrow’s mailbag is going to be late because of the drive, but that just gives you more time to drop a note at email@example.com and say hello.
So Bennett went No. 1 overall.
Big whoop, Clevelanders.
The folks in ESPN’s Research Monkey Department unearthed this little gem yesterday and I think it kind of goes to what I’ve been saying for years that the draft is just one part of the process of building a team that can compete for a championship.
Since 1985, only two players drafted No. 1 overall have gone on to win championships with the teams that drafted them.
David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Make of that what you will but I hope you see my point.
Hey, Kawasaki’s coming back.
And, yes, it’s because someone got hurt and that sucks but what did I tell you about karma and The Baseball Gods?
Should have listened, I tell you.
Thank goodness the HOTH didn’t do anything last night, would have been impossible to keep up with it given the stress of trying to get the Bennett stuff done.
I know they made a few calls trying to work their way into the draft and I know one call they should probably make today.
That’d be to Myck Kabongo to offer him a spot on their summer league team although I’m sure he’s going to be fielding a bunch of them from a bunch of teams today.
But since there is no point guard from the Raptors roster going out to play in Vegas – the three main guys are Ross, Acy and Valanciunas – it’d be a pretty good fit to have the local kid on the team.
How about that Boston-Brooklyn deal (to which I paid very little attention last night thanks to the Bennett thing) and the imminent demise of the Celtics as a force.
I always wondered how they’d get out of this Big Three era, what the rebuilding process would look like and whether, in hindsight, it was worth it.
And I wonder if it was.
Knowing they likely face years of relative obscurity now as they restock with draft picks and a new coach and no expectations, was it all worth it?
Winning one championship and playing for another since 2007 would seem to be a good tradeoff for what’s ahead, isn’t it?
I suppose if you’re a fan, you’d take six years or so of winning for a few years of struggling, wouldn’t you?