The preseason game played between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks at the Bell Centre in Montreal was about much more than basketball. It was about two teams trying to make final adjustments before the real games start, it was about Samuel Dalembert coming home to play in front of his hometown for the first time and most of all it was about Montreal showing enough passion for a teams that they do not call their own in hope of one day having one for themselves.
The Knicks could have easily have won this game, a lack a consistent effort cost them a game which they easily could have won but instead lost 80-83. When asked about some of the team’s lapses throughout the game head coach Derek Fisher said, “We worried about not making shots instead of continuing to stops. The effort tonight was where it needed to be, but have to continue to clean up our execution.” Carmelo Anthony opened the scoring by hitting a three much to the delight of the crowd. The Montreal fans seemed to be split into three categories; 50% Toronto fans, 40% Knicks fans and 10% Carmelo fans. Though he was booed at the free throw line, the crowd cheered every time he hit a bucket. Along with hometown hero Samuel Dalembert and Toronto star DeMar Derozan, Melo probably received the loudest cheers throughout the night.
Just like Vancouver, Toronto’s preseason game was a sellout. However, Montreal fans did their best to imitate the Miami filling in slowly, but surely. By the second quarter the Bell Centre was full. The referees had a hot whistle for the game, giving a handful of technical fouls. For most of the third quarter both teams played their second units resting their starters. The Knicks however played Melo deep into the third giving him the entire fourth quarter off. Toronto meanwhile brought their starters back in for about half of the fourth before Coach Casey called it a night for them.
Before tipoff, Samuel Dalembert, a former Montrealer addressed the crowd in French to the delight to everyone in the building. “The crowd was really in it. They were cheering for both teams at the same time. I was excited. I was in front of friends and family. My first game in Montréal, hopefully next year too.” Though it was his first game in the city, Dalembert was not nervous nor was he distracted by family and friends trying to get tickets from him. “I buy them and then my cousin does the rest. I focus on the game,” he says. Despite the loss, Dalembert was smiling throughout the whole game and even afterward you could see it meant a lot for him to play in his city. A whole section on the west side of the arena was drapped in blue and lifted a banner that could read Dalembert’s Army. The Montreal native finished with 2 points, 2 steals, 3 assists and 10 rebounds.
For a second year in a row, Montreal sold out a preseason game. Last year, the Bell Centre was packed for the Timberwolves and the Celtics. Despite the debacle with the Grizzlies, Vancouver has long been seen as the first choice if a second NBA franchise were to be brought to Canada. However, Montreal should be seriously be considered a city that could have a team. Yes, Montreal is a Habs town, but Toronto is a Leafs city and the Raptors have one of the best attendance in the league. Montreal has also shown that it will ride and die with a team that is competitive.
The Olympic Stadium was sold out every night when the Expos were at their peak, like Habs season tickets, finding tickets for the Alouettes could often be like finding a needle in a haystack during the Cavillo years and the Impact had one of the loudest home crowds in North American soccer before the move to MLS was made. Of course, it will take time for Montreal to grow it’s own fan base for a NBA team. It took almost a generation for Toronto to have pure breed Raptors fans and the same could be said for the Ottawa Senators in the NHL. The game shown last night showed that basketball allegiances in Montreal are divided. That being by the fourth quarter the crowd was much more loudly than a playoff Brooklyn crowd; and it was a preseason game! There are a lot logistics to figure out for Montreal to become an NBA city but two of the biggest one have already been cleared; a downtown arena and a city passionate about basketball.
What the NBA needs to realize is that this game would have been a sellout even if it had been the Bucks and the Magic playing. Basketball is growing in Canada and whether it’s Vancouver or Montreal, Canadian basketball fans are begging for more basketball than the Raptors. Though there will always be love for “Canada’s team” from coast to coast, breaking the monopoly Toronto has on the NBA in Canada would not only be a great move for the league, but also for basketball fans.
Knicks RJ Barrett: Basketball + Business
Canadian RJ Barrett sits down for a very candid interview with agent Bill Duffy and “The Boardroom” host — former no. 1 overall pick Jay Williams to discuss basketball and his business ambitions and aspirations.
Barrett is expected to be amongst the highest global sponsorship earners of his generation and is represented by agent Duffy — who has done over 3.5 billion dollars in contract negotiations and also represented Canada’s greatest basketball player to date and RJ’s very own Godfather Steve Nash.
Under Duffy’s direction, Barrett is expected to capitalize on the immediate rise of Canadian Basketball and the national corporate entities looking for an immediate association with the rapidly growing sport.
Barrett has already inked deals with financial powerhouse Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and global leader in made to measure apparel company INDOCHINO — Which costumed designed his Draft night suit.
Globally, with Barrett’s ability to speak French, Duffy also sees a market in China but as well as untapped African market. After all, Duffy is somewhat responsible for Yao Ming’s massive success in the Asian-Pacific markets.
When it’s all said and done, Barrett stands a chance at being Canada’s top-earning athlete, both in salary earnings and corporate dollars.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Is The Real MVP
Santa Monica, California was on an award tour like A Tribe Called Quest for the NBA’s end of season grand prize spectacle last night. Hanging out in the coolest performing arts theatre in all of Los Angeles (my apologies to the Hollywood Bowl), the converted airplane Barker Hangar played host to the 2019 NBA Awards. The Emmy’s, Oscar’s and Grammy’s of hoops Tony.
The best of the Basketball best and the cream of the future hops crop descended on this hangar, suited and booted like they were flossing injured court-side.
Shaq sized in the perfect setting in a place that houses feats of brilliance that take flight like Mike, this event could only be hosted by the one and only, Big Aristotle of the Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal (sorry Drake. Although you troll NBA players better than Kevin Hart telling Kenny Smith he’s so ashy if he smiles his lips will bleed as he goes to take a sip of his water). And the most entertaining NBA player ever (give him his award) laughed, joked, sang, rapped and danced his way to an enjoyable evening in the place he racked up three rings on repeat.
But how about the prize giving? Well your real Most Valuable Player this year is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Say what you will about last year’s MVP and this year’s runner up in the closest of recent races as tight as the Rookie of the Year voting, James Harden racking up triple-doubles like Charles Barkley says Lonzo Ball does triple-singles, but it’s the Alphabet’s time now after slaughtering this season gone. Sure he didn’t come away with the ‘chip like worthy candidate Kawhi Leonard and his (we still hope) Toronto Raptors, but that is his next challenge for the Mamba Mentality tweeted in congratulation by Kobe Bryant who predicted this MVP years back. And in a beautiful and emotional speech, Giannis dedicated all this to his dearly departed dad and his brothers and mom in attendance as every eye not dry in the house got out their seats in unanimous ovation.
And in a truly global game flying the flag outside the United States for each category winner, Antetokounmpo almost doubled up, finishing in second place for Defensive Player Of The Year, under the stifling Eiffel of French fly swatter, Rudy Gobert. As Paul George after an incredible season-no lucky shot-came in third place like he did for the MVP voting. Toronto not only got the ‘chip in the Six however as their X-factor Pascal Siakam came up with the Most Improved Player award ahead of Sacramento sophomore De’Aaron Fox and Brooklyn’s own (if they play their free agent cards right), D’Angelo Russell.
Coach of the Year was bucked by Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer dry-erasing for the MVP. And Bradley Beal was passed the Community Assist Award for all the good this All Star has done. Give him a hand for all the ones he has. Whilst the Sportsmanship award went to new Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., who also racked up the Teammate Of The Year award for his grit n grind time with the Memphis Grizzlies. But who else for the Sixth Man of the Year award then the ‘6 Man’ of all-time, Lou Williams? Joining Clippers teammate Jamal Crawford as the only player to win the Sixth award three times over.
And the House Of Highlights Moment of the Year of course went to Derrick Rose. Can you guess for what game?
We have a ball rattling around the rim forever in Toronto that shoots for even more stars though.
But how about that Rookie of the Year award? Who you got? Because in narrowly beating out Atlanta Hawk Trae Young it’s clear the award belongs to superstar right now Luka Dončić after a Maverick season in Dallas. Where the Texan gunslinger from Slovenia is about to draw on them all next season. Look out for the kid like Pat Garrett, Billy.
Sager Strong, broadcaster Robin Roberts took home that award named in honor after the suited court-side with a microphone presenter. And her “make your mess your message” speech was the most inspiring of the night after her fight against breast cancer and bone marrow disease, raising awareness.
Executive of the Year went to Jon Horst of the Milwaukee Bucks (sorry Rob Pelinka…jokes) but the Lifetime Achievement? Well that went to a former President who has just left office. No not Obama (although POTUS does have game…WAP!). But the Magic man, Earvin Johnson. The Laker legend honored in California for all he’s done since starting the fast-break of Showtime, to changing the game behind the back without taking a single shot. All the way to walking away from it bravely when he was diagnosed with HIV and then making a comeback so beautifully for the man who will always be purple and gold with all this entrepreneur pulls out the empire of his top hat. Say what you will about his presidency residency but as we look to free agency this crazy off-season, remember who started all this off by bringing the King to Hollywood last Summer, waiting outside his house in his car at one in the morning.
Now that can’t be tampered with.
Apart from with this. How about one better? In a courtship of rivals and a year of what could have well just been shared MVP and ROY honours, Magic Johnson shared this award of a lifetime with his former, rival and friend Larry Bird. The college to big league opponent who was a Celtic classic legend from downtown Boston. All the way to the parquet green pride of more smoked Red cigars. Two lifetimes for the price of one. Now who cares whose coming in second place?
Because all in all last nights NBA Awards show of All-Stars showed us one thing like the NBA Finals. No matter who took home the gold, we all came away winners.