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Courtside Column – Toronto Rapture

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Oh Canada.

In mid February of 2016 it’ll be almost 10 years since this love story began. Almost a decade since I started my lifes dream and rewoke a Basketball one by taking a years working visa to Canada and laying my sports cap in the great city of Toronto. 10 years since this man who has loved Basketball since he was 10, got to see his first, live Basketball game….well around 15 impulse buys of them to be exact (and that was just in the T-Dot, I took a spur of the moment trip to L.A. during that time too). A kid who previously only got to watch the odd late night T.V. show or pixilated internet video to get close to the game he loved more than his England countries national treasure of football. A kid who grew up playing with and collecting Dinosaur models, albeit with chewed tails, while having ‘Jurrasic Park’ as his favourite movie and mountie police series ‘Due South’ as his favourite show was obviously going to be attracted to the Toronto Raptors and the country of Canada. Besides it was almost a Tom Cruise mission to get to live and see all the other NBA teams in neighbouring America.

Still, Canada and it’s capital city was the place for me. Unfortunatly after coming home for Christmas with every intention to come back, one thing lead to another and my year and life in Canada didn’t happen. This was a regret until I realised there was a bigger plan for me and a better life than I could have ever imagined in the love of my life at home years later. A girl who I coincidentally met for the first time just a few months shy of my departure and now today I want to share the rest of my life with, especially a trip back to my second home one day. The best thing to ever happen to me who in the same month this year as I left in ’06 is about to embark on a travelling trip and amazing adventure of her own. I couldn’t be happier for her and I wish and hope she has a trip 10 times as good as mine. If it was even half as good as mine it would be the best one ever. I stayed close to my old friend Canada and Basketball by writing. It was something I always wanted to do and I started writing reports of games while in the T-Dot, for myself, sought of like a guys diary. I picked up the pen once gain in the U.K. when I realised the way I could stay close to the game and country I loved but couldn’t see was by the art of he creative word.

When you create work yourself thats when oppurtunites happen. Just ask the Marvel that is Clark Gregg’s Agent Caulson and the ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D’ Avenger series. Opportunities have happened for me via writing from everything and everyone from SLAM magazine to music/movie star Tyrese Gibson and Australian music site Music Feeds and Bleacher Report. I am eternally grateful for everything everyone has done for me and anyone who has taken the time to read just one of my articles. That was no plug though…this is. The one company that has stayed loyal to me over the years is the Canadian site Basketball Buzz and the great help of his founder Edilson Silva. What started as a couple of people and laptops is now growing before your eyes and some big announcements that I can’t say but you will know soon. I appreciate everything the site has done for my progression as a writer and even before all that it has just served as a beautiful, wonderful way to stay connected to Canada. It doesn’t matter how far away I am, the place will always have a space in my heart and the beat writing for the country helps keep that running strong.

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I even had the opportunity to meet another great writer and now great friend in Quett Walker, who is now part of the Buzz team and is worthy of the hype as the next great writer. He may not believe it yet, but you and him will see he really is. He makes me step it up and is the only guy I read regulary that’s not named Scoop Jackson (my writing mentor) and the late, legend and greatest to ever write it Jim Murray. I met Q in strange circumstances in his home city of London when he sold me an exhibition ticket to watch my beloved Lakers (hey, no one’s perfect) but we connected and stayed in touch by our love for Basketball (he’s a Rockets fan and is letting me hear it about Dwight Howard) and the fact that he too knows what it’s like to live and love Toronto. The guy misses the city like me, but through his writing the country will never have to miss out on what he has to offer…and that’s as factual as his deep and meaningful, introspective and inspired pieces of journalism.

It’s a funny old world isn’t it? So maybe, just maybe 10 years later all of these wonderful twists and turns of live will head down the epic road that leads to the view of the classic CN tower (oh yeah, I saw it in the background of ‘Due South’…I thought that show was set in Chicago? WInk, Wink!). I so want to see that view once again, it’s been way, way too long. But I can wait. Maybe if me and my girlfriend venture out to the cold of Canada around valentines but for a different reason we’ll meet up with the two friends that have kept me connected to this city and my Basketball writing. Maybe it will be meant to be and perfectly fitting that we take in a special game together to mark the occassion. Still, yesterdays good news for Toronto and Canada is bigger than me. It’s not about me. It’s bigger than all that but still special to me. It’s even bigger than the New York Knicks/Nets, battle co-hosting next February. Even bigger than my plan to finally see Tokyo in 2020 for the Olympic games. This is how much it means.

Bigger than the what could have been with country cousins Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady (what a team and legacy they could have made). Bigger than Air Canada or those arena shaking no contest dunks. Bigger than what could have been with the Chris Bosh, Phoenix Suns like great team that showed they where no purple Barney dinosaurs (featuring Calderon, Parker, Ford and Jorge the garbage man amongst others) that went so far but so near in the year I went to town in 2006 and could have been better than Vince’s time. Decisions, decisions hey?! Bigger than the smile of the friendly ticket tout who saw me approaching each game. Or almost as big as the heart of my good friend Dan Koufis who worked in the Toronto Raptors gift shop during my stay and was great to me (I miss you good buddy). Bigger than Toronto’s underground hoops hot-bead that proves it’s never too frozen-over cold to lace them up. Bigger than the fact that the Raptors are the only surving NBA team outside of America, now that the Vancouver Grizzlies are extinct and reborn in Memphis. Right now the biggest thing happening for Toronto 10 years later in 2016 is that they will hold and host the NBA All-Star game. No matter what’s been said or happened. I guess some things are meant to be and stay in Toronto. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

NBA

Millsap Mishap Could Keep Forward Behind 3 Months

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Poor Paul Millsap.

This campaign after becoming one of the biggest free agent pick ups of the offseason, one of the leagues leading Power Forwards has been put down on the medical report with an injury that could call him off sick for a quarter of a year.

The most reliable player over four periods has spent the bird share of his career helping his former Atlanta Hawks make it to the first round knockout stakes of the playoffs each year. But following the season where they didn’t make the cut of the second one, it was time for a change for the 32 year old number 4 who once looked to be the Utah Jazz, Karl Malone replacement Carlos Boozer didn’t turn out to be early in his career alongside former leading Point Guard Deron Williams.

And in the mile high city of Denver with a would be big-three of sophomore sensation Emmanuel Mudiay, dreaded defender Kenneth Faried and of course The Joker with the last laugh Nikola Jokic, these Nuggets in their new Nikes looked golden and finally past that baby blue Carmelo era (they may as well be as Anthony, now with the blue, white and orange of the Thunder isn’t even a Knick anymore (it’s ‘Old York’ now Knickerbockers)). But now like Ben Affleck looking at the ‘Justice League’ box office returns it’s time to ask the Nugs “why so serious” Batman as an injury to their versatile veteran forward of seasoned upon seasons of experience doesn’t exactly put a smile on their face.

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The All-Star was averaging a helpful handful of exactly 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists before tearing the ligaments in his left wrist in a 127-109 loss to the Lakers who themselves recently lost all dunking son Larry Nance Jr. to a broken wrist, but are thankful to be having him return after they cut the turkey this thanksgiving. Millsap and the Nuggets are looking at second opinions from docs offering the same sort of speedy recovery that doesn’t sap their frontline. But if they concur with the original diagnosis, it’s three months in a suit and tie and not to mention cast for Paul who will return in late February after the All Star break he normally never takes off.

The man with the three year, 90 mill deal helped make this outside eight seed threat Denver the new gritty, grinding Memphis of the West. Now without him the older than Richard Jefferson roster is thinner than the air up there in Colorado.

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NBA

Somebody Stop The Mask Of Kyrie Irving

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USP NBA: BOSTON CELTICS AT BROOKLYN NETS S BKN BKN BOS USA NY

Smokin’!

Even that phrase delivered at a perfect Jim Carrey pitch can’t quite put into perspective just how hot Celtic Kyrie Irving is right now. Especially in the Boston green, Rip Hamilton face-mask.

Maybe those three little letters would do more justice for this league leader?

You know Menacing, Versatile, Phantom?

No?

How about M-V-P?

Kyrie joins Kobe, former Cleveland Cavalier teammate LeBron James and the man whose about to pass him the Maurice Poldoff torch, Russell Westbrook to be an absolute menace in the Phantom of the Opera face-mask, leaving other teams dead on basketballs biggest stage. He may have fractured and broken some bones in his face, but that won’t stop him as he fractures and breaks the backs and hearts of the faces of all the other franchises he faces off with night after excruciating night.

Those who used to say it must be the shoes (and have you seen his best in show sneaker designs complete with shamrocks like Starbucks on St Patrick’s Day this season heads? Those halloween pumpkin ones were the spice), are now saying it must be the mask.

Sure the plastic profile guard makes for some meme worthy Pinterest fan art appreciation but this guard has made a point at hating it…the sweat inducing mask that is, not the love. These kind of covers can blind you, but like the concussed legend of Celtic great Larry, letting it fly like a Bird above the baskets in the Boston Garden all the way to the rafters (as he saw too hoops like 80’s girls earrings and just aimed for the top one), Kyrie plays through all the pain and frustration. Taking it out on the ball (like opponents on Lakers rookie Lonzo) and the other teams hoops that to him seem bigger than those ones Bruno Mars sang about.

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Take Dallas for example. Irving just masked all his pain by taking the Mavericks for 47 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists in the last contest that took the Celtics to a sweet sixteen straight. After dropping two games following Gordon Hayward dropping out of the new season before the second quarter of his opening game one even played out, everyone was calling time on these new Celtics as soon as Gordon turned his ankle counter-clockwise. But now one of the best in the association Kyrie is showing LeBron and them he’s just as good as them or anyone alone like this man from down under always wanted to prove. This definition of clutch, who leaves everyone else in the fourth with straws has already shown on a championship scale against Curry of all hot guards that he can take the last shot that really matters. Now forget the Most Valuable Player award for a waning second or even the time his dynamic duo partner in pine Hayward comes back, Irving has the power to dribble drive all the way to the crown on his own.

And it’s going to take more than a mask to stop him.

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The Wind Brings The 2020 All-Star Game To Chicago

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1973. And the first NBA All-Star Game to play in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois features the last All-Star game in the last season of two lasting Los Angeles Lakers legends. One man who scored 100 points in just one game, Wilt Chamberlain. And one man who was and still remains the one and only logo of this National Basketball Association, Jerry West.

1988. And arguably the greatest All-Star Game of all-time and an even better, best ever All-Star weekend sees Michael Jordan become Michael Jordan. M.J. scored 40 in an 138-133 O.T. A.S.G. win for the East meeting the West. But a day before all that he and the Slam Dunk Contest became even more legendary. As mere moments after storied Boston Celtic great Larry Bird asked “whose coming in second place” before raising his finger in victory before the ABA coloured moneyball ripped through the twine (no Nick Young swag), Money took off from the free throw line like a good doctor for his above the rim J and jumped over everybody including Atlanta Hawk wing spreading, sky-soarer Dominique Wilkins.

Now more than 30 years later after next years All-Star Game in the purple and gold city of Los Angeles and the 2019 one in the redeemed city of Charlotte, the 2020 and 69th All Star Game will be played in Michael’s old town of Chi-city. In the same year as Tokyo, Japan will hold the next Olympic Games, the game of basketball will go back to it’s 90’s roots and an inspired iconic landmark of hoop heaven that didn’t really have the same spirit in the seventies, but really Jumpman took off in the golden era eighties. So much so that the old ’88 All Star Weekend t-shirt is a historical thrift store must find for more than it’s 80’s Tron like, cool, retro logo.

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And with mid-February lovers big blockbuster basketball coming back to the city of wind like the river that runs through it, Chi-town needs this like out of towners need deep dish pizza. You only have to listen to the news or the Common album ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ (you know the legendary M.C. who used to wipe up Jordan’s sweat off the old Chicago Stadium hardwood has to perform at the mid-season classics halftime show) to know this classic city is marred by violence that burns through this second city like fire. The beloved Bulls have even become a “garbage team” to root for too, losing the big-three likes of last seasons Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade (who may even be on a farewell All Star tour once his hometown All Star weekend comes crossed off the calendar and everyone is united in the airlines center).

Now this team who relies on sophomore stud Denzel like Oscar hopeful movies will hopefully be back by the next few valentines. As the heart of the city in twenty twenty will want to see something as visionary as Sinatra’s kind of towns history.

That’s just the Chicago way.

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