Andrew Wiggins makes as much noise with silence as most players do when they scream.
He uses words sparingly, keeps his guard up, lets his game speak.
So far, it works.
At just 23, he is arguably the best Canadian player in history other than Steve Nash.
He is the highest-paid Canadian athlete ever, a potential all-star on a promising Minnesota Timberwolves squad that figures to be contender long into the future.
He is probably not the next LeBron James, as headlines led us to believe when he was destroying rims at Huntington Prep. He was a better-than-average college player, and he is a better-than-average pro.
Still, when his game speaks it says: “Kobe in his prime.”
It says: “Ridiculous potential.”
It says: “Biggest thing out of Toronto since Drake.”
And through it all, Wiggins says very little on his own. He has mastered the art of the boring non-answer, the kind of rote response that send reporters elsewhere when they need quotes.
He makes as much noise with his absence as he does with his presence, and that is why his absence was all anyone talked about when Canada Basketball announced its preliminary roster for the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament this week.
The list is full of big-name players who, pundits say, are proof of a golden age of Canadian basketball.
Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets star. Tristan Thompson, NBA champion. Cory Joseph of the Indiana
Pacers. Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies. Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat.
Chris Boucher. Khem Birch. Dwight Powell.
NBA players, all.
Everyone else on the list is a second-tier pro, either in Europe or the G-League. They could realistically qualify for the FIBA World Cup, and then possibly the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Most of the big names were there.
Wiggins’ was not.
Basketball writers felt his absence, heard his silence, and filled it for him.
They struggled to understand why he would not play for his country.
TSN’s Josh Lewenberg cited multiple sources noting his “strained relationship” with head coach Jay Triano, apparently over a benching at the 2015 FIBA Americas in Mexico City.
“His initial desire was to play,” said Rowan Barrett, assistant GM and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program, according to the Canadian Press.
“I do think he had some circumstances come up that are going to limit his ability to play for us in June. The door is open for September potentially as well.”
Canada plays three games in British Columbia and one game in Toronto in June, concluding the first round against the U.S. Virgin Islands in Ottawa on July 2.
“The new qualification structure has showcased the depth of our program, that we have grown over several years,” said Barrett in a statement.
“Hosting meaningful games at home on Canadian soil is an experience our players won’t ever forget.”
Triano reportedly downplayed Wiggins’ absence.
“My goal is to focus on players that are here,” he told reporters in a conference call. “Guys are going to miss for different reasons.”
There was speculation Nik Stauskas, the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard, was also unhappy with how Triano used him in 2015, prompting another no-show.
But most of the media blather focused on Wiggins, the freakishly talented small forward who would likely have been a centerpiece of the team.
“Two weeks in late June — all in Canada — doesn’t seem like too much to ask,” wrote Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.
Which begs the question: Who are we to say?
But this is what happens when Wiggins makes his absence felt, when his silence hangs in the air.
He is the quiet superstar, the medalist-in-waiting, the generational player who could solidify Canada as a basketball superpower.
The good news is, he is still just 23 years old, likely half a decade away from his prime, and arguably the second-best player this country has produced.
His game continues to speak, telling us more than he is likely to reveal with words.
Our task is to watch, to listen, and trust that when the time is right, he’ll say his piece.
Lance Stephenson Makin’ ‘Em Dance In China
Remade in China.
From playing with LeBron and the Lakers last season. To getting an early start in the Far East for this one. Getting in opponents faces like he used to do when he went up against the King. Blow in his face all you want…but its just hot air.
Lance Stephenson is back baby!
Like you’ve never seen him before. Running his town in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards.
To quote Charlie Murphy talking about Prince in an infamous Hollywood stories episode of Dave’s ‘Chappelle Show’, “this cat can (still) ball man”!
To those who think a couple of strings have popped off Stephenson’s guitar then just watch him play and strum along. Lance is still makin’ ’em dance with the NBA’s most famous celebration…except the league just lost it and one of their premier performers and fondly favourite, cult celebrities in the amazing association of epic entertainment.
Turns out the Lakers should have held on to their veteran big name meme team a little longer. Although they did re-up with pure point Rondo running the show and the centre who should start in JaVale McGee. But in not keeping one of their biggest bench presence spark plugs of camaraderie and chemistry since the days of Rony Turiaf or even Mad Dog, Mark Madsen, this is almost as heart-breaking as losing all the kids in the Hollywood divorce for Anthony Davis. But we love reunions almost as much as we love redemption in this league and with BIG3 MVP Joe Johnson inking a deal with Detroit that is going to see the Motor City Pistons assembly line cut former Laker Michael Beasley. We may just see this fellow wild card, big contributing star head back to the Chinese league he finished out the season with like he hasn’t just flown home already. We know one Leopard who would welcome him with back open paws and any other player with a name beyond a meme, not caring if he never changes his spots.
Just when you thought Ice Cube’s inspired BIG3 was the only prescribed route for former NBA players to EA get back in the game like museum exits via the gift shop then check out this exhibit. You only have to check a FIBA feed and see how France French kissed the United States out said tournament a year before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan to see that this game is truly global. It’s far more than just the United States. It’s the whole wide, watching and welcoming world. And one of the biggest hubs like everything in this world from business, to commerce and innovation is in China. Now that’s some development even the G-League can’t give you old man.
Coney Island’s own legend Stephon Marbury became an icon here, remaining after he retired…and this guy was a superstar under the Times Square, World’s Most Famous Arena lights of being a New York Knick in the Madison Square Garden of hallowed hoops Eden.
Are you listening Carmelo?
You too Dwight…give it a couple of months.
With 35 and 10, double decadence in the playoffs, Lance just put an end to San Miguel like last orders at the bar and now next rounds on him as he mime guitars until the fat lady falsettos in her stilettos to everyone raising a glass in toast.
The all dunking and big shot scoring player looks like he’s stepped into a rejuvenation machine…until you see just how much he afforded with his spare chance minutes last year on the biggest stage in Hollywood. He looks like he’s having a Swayze. And Chinese Basketball in turn the time of its life.
All Stephenson needed was another chance. And boy is he taking it right now. At this point Lance will be back in the league before you can say “it’s opening night at the STAPLES Center.” But at this point would he even want back, causing big trouble in a not so little China?
(As a matter of fact after press Lance Stephenson lead his Leopards over Seoul to win both the Terrific 12 and the tournament MVP…like Jay what more can we say?)
España FIBA Campeon Del Mundo
When Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa almost a decade ago this writer was in London seeing a friend from Seoul, South Korea. From Oxford Circus to the fountain tops of Piccadilly Circus there looked like a million Spanish people lining the streets that all lived here in the Big Smoke (F### Brexit! Multicultural is beautiful). And despite the honking horns and raised glasses it was the most peaceful, beautiful sports celebration I have ever seen. No hostility, just community. A Spanish man fell to his knees in front of me like he’d just scored and grabbed my hand with both of his in prayer. The most beautiful Spanish woman I’ve ever seen in her nations strip and scarf walked past me whilst trailing her fingertips across my arm and asked me flirtatiously whilst giggling, “who won the World Cup!”
Just an old memory to reminisce as we begin.
No Muleta could ever stop this raging red Spanish bull.
Ever since way before Kobe and Pau went from teammates to rivals every Summer, Spain have been one of the biggest nations in Basketball and certainly the most complete team. And now even without the older Spanish G.O.A.T. Gasol watching at home in his uniform and with Team USA given freedom by the bronze placed France, Spain proved once again that they aren’t only the most consistent and best team in Europe…but the greatest in the whole wide world.
Right now and forever more on the way to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This FIBA tournament has been something else in its self. And if this writer wasn’t about to start his own road to Japan he would have been able to enjoy it even more. But shout out to editor Edilson Silva’s wrists for keeping us in touch with the tournament on Twitter.
Even without the power of Pau, or many big names in the legendary legacy of the last decade of the Spanish side (no Sergio Rodríguez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Nikola Mirotic, or Serge Ibaka), the Spanish team still ruled like soccer or their basketball brother team Barcelona. As legends like Rudy Fernandez, Ricky Rubio and of course Marc Gasol cut South America’s Argentina down to 20 point blowout, 95-75 size like Luis Scola’s trademark hair (but what a run of play for a member of the team of the tournament).
Marc made his mark as the second player in history to be an NBA Champion and a FIBA World Cup one in the same year, although unfortunately fellow Toronto Raptor Ibaka couldn’t join him. But what a Summer for the first player to do this since the Lakers Lamar Odom almost a decade back in 2010. Only a year after Marc Gasol’s draft rights were traded by the purple and gold for brother Pau.
“The rest of the world have been caught up for quite some time”, like Kobe Bryant said. “The days of the ’92 Barcelona Dream Team are gone”.
Now that’s as true as the U.S. coming in fourth place like half the States had a dance recital.
Congratulations to the real Dream Team…yeah I said it.
Ricky Rubio had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists and no one deserves it more.
Marc Gasol had 14 and 7 in both rebounds and assists.
Sergio Llull had 15.
Rudy Fernandez 11, 10 and 3.
And both Juancho and Willy Hernangomez both had 11 too.
Now what more can you possibly say like reacting to that practice pregame half court heave underarm…from behind the back like a Globetrotter?
Gabriel Deck led the way for Argentina with 24 whilst the likes of old rivals and friends Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker watched from courtside in a sold out arena in Beijing. Whilst Scola scored 8. Argentina were valiant in the final like they were the whole terrific tourney until they were slain by Spain.
Now expect Spain to control the Japanese Olympics in Tokyo next year like a matador.
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