For two straight years Drake’s annual OVO Fest has garnered a lot of attention from basketball fans. Last year the Toronto Raptors official Global Ambassador was fined $25,000 by the NBA League Office for ‘tampering’ when he gave a shout out to NBA All-Star Kevin Durant in attendance. Durant will be an restricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
At first, this may seem like an innocent gesture by a performer acknowledging a celebrity at the show, but whether people like it or not, Drake as the Raps Global Ambassador is basically a card-carrying employee of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE). He’s no longer just Drake the Rapper, he’s Drake the Raptor.
Well, it looks like the usual suspects were seen together once again. Kevin Durant attended this year’s OVO Fest to watch Drake in concert. What makes Raptors fan salivate over this sighting is the fact that Durant was watching the show with none other than Raptors guard Demar DeRozan. And Durant was sporting a Toronto Blue Jays jersey.
The Raptors landing Durant in the 2016 is seemingly a long shot. The Raptors certainly don’t have a proven track record of attracting big time free agents, any All-Star the Raps have had on its roster was added to the team via the NBA Draft, with the exception of Kyle Lowry who re-signed as a free agent after being traded to Toronto.
With Toronto hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Drake with a Raps logo on his sleeve and hopefully a successful re-vamped Raptors team, Toronto may well be putting itself at least in the Durant conversation. Many believe he’ll return to his hometown of Washington, D.C. to play alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wherever Durant ends up, I don’t see him re-signing with the Oklahoma Thunder.
But ever the optimist, I’ll gladly speculate over these sightings, and may the Basketball Gods look kindly on the Raptors in 2016.
It’s no secret that Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is a defensive-minded coach. The old adage Offense wins games, defense wins championships applies directly to Casey considering he has a 2011 NBA Championship ring for his work with the Dallas Mavericks as a defensive assistant coach. Casey was hired in the summer following the 2011 championship by the Toronto Raptors. He’s had the head coach position in the organization ever since.
I’m not a fan of Casey. I’ll come out and say it. However, I’m very curious to see how he and the players perform next season after all the offseason moves made by Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri. The Raps GM went out and signed defensive centre Bismack Biyombo, gritty forward DeMarre Carroll, veteran forward Luis Scola and Canadian guard Cory Joseph. With the exception of Scola, all of the aforementioned are known for being good defenders.
Casey has been preaching defense ever since he got to Toronto, something I do support. My biggest issue with Casey is his lack of good offensive judgment. I’ve seen a lot of questionable play calls by Casey on that end of the court. To a further extend, I’ve noticed a lot of questionable substitutions throughout the season by Casey. There’s no doubt that a team with hustling players clamping down on defense is a good thing, but the biggest thing to watch for next season with the Raptors is how well they do offensively. With the departure of shooting guard Lou Williams, you’ll see less isolation offense, but that just means that other players might play more ISO themselves.
If the Raptors don’t produce this season, Coach Casey is going to be short on excuses. This current roster was designed for him and his defensive tendencies. I’m very critical of Casey on the offensive side of the floor. In theory, Casey should be able to concentrate more on the offensive side of his coaching this season considering that the Raptors brought in natural defenders that won’t necessarily need buy-in on the defensive end.
Management has done what it needs to do to set Casey up with a team to his liking, all while being financially savvy so that the Raptors can be in play in big free agency summers of 2016 and 2017. This is the direction of the organization now, and Casey will have an entire season to fine-tune his offensive coaching. It’ll be interesting to see if Casey can translate his defensive success to the other end of the hardwood.
In this summer’s NBA free agency, there were only two players that warranted considerable media attention. The signing of LaMarcus Aldridge to the San Antonio Spurs after leaving the Portland Trail Blazers went exactly as predicted. Aldridge returns to his home state of Texas and will play beside — and eventually replace — future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and keep that San Antonio dynasty rolling. With the Spurs re-signing 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and two-time NBA All-Star Manu Ginobili, and the free agency signing of David West from the Indiana Pacers, things look awfully good in Texas right now. The Spurs organization gets an A+ for landing LaMarcus Aldridge, retaining talent and adding new pieces to its team.
While things look more than promising in San Antonio, you could still say that something is rotten in the state of Texas. A ridiculous amount of drama went down in Houston, the hometown of our next player. Seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan was the second-best big man available in this summer’s NBA free agency. It is well known that Jordan did not get along with Clippers teammates last season, point guard Chris Paul specifically. He was pursued by many teams but verbally agreed to a four-year $81 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks on July 3. But guess what? Jordan will return to LA next season, and for three more after that. Players can make verbal agreements with teams starting on July 1, the first day of free agency, and can officially sign on July 9 after the free agency moratorium is over.
In between verbally committing to Dallas and eventually re-signing with Los Angeles, there was a flurry of twitter emojis and one massive change of heart. Jordan ended up going back on his word with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a move that left Mark Cuban reportedly driving around Jordan’s hometown of Houston looking for him on the eve of the moratorium deadline.
Jordan is within his rights to rethink his decision before signing anything, which is the whole point of having a moratorium period. However, it rarely ever happens. So rare that this indecision sent shock waves through the league and sent Mark Cuban’s blood to boiling temperatures. DeAndre Jordan picked the better team at the end of the day. That rejection is something that Cuban and his organization are going to have to get over.
Jordan is public enemy #1 in Dallas, and a hero in LA. Such is the life of a professional athlete. Look for the NBA Front Office to capitalize on this new rivalry with a carefully scheduled Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers match up early on in the season, possibly an opening night tip-off.
When I think of tonight’s 2015 NBA Draft, all I can think of is Drake. Let’s completely forget that Drake is the Toronto Raptors’ Global Ambassador. I’m talking about that classic Started from the bottom anthem. I feel all of tonight’s draftees can relate to that track, well, to a certain degree.
By simply calling out their name during the draft, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will turn a select few from being unpaid student athletes/student employees to professional basketball players in the world’s best basketball league, and finally earning money they deserve. That truly is starting from the bottom and ending up at the upper echelon.
You might note that I referred to the draftees, or more specifically those who are coming out of college, as student employees. This could not be truer. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is multi-million dollar, well-oiled machine. It’s actually closer to a billion dollar industry citing its 2014 fiscal year revenue estimated at a whooping $989 million. That’s a lot of capital for not-for-profit organization.
The NBA Draft is a high energy affair with lots of young guys with high hopes. This year’s draft doesn’t have the dramatic Andrew Wiggins – Jabari Parker debate of who goes No.1 overall and who goes No.2, but there are enough pieces involved to make it interesting.
I’m really curious to see what the Los Angeles Lakers do with its No.2 overall pick. Rumours have been swirling all week that it may be traded away for current Sacramento Kings Center DeMarcus Cousins. A move like that would dramatically change the current dismal LA situation. With an aging Kobe Bryant in the twilight of his career and the need for the Lakers to take advantage of whatever is left in his tank, the beast of Cousins would certainly have an immediate impact unlike a draft prospect. It’ll be interesting to see, and I like to be entertained, so I’m leaning towards Cousins in a Lakers uniform next season.
Looking for a dark horse? Have a look at Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis; a 7-foot-1 big man of mystery, much like other draftees from Europe. It all depends on if teams feel like gambling or picking a player they’ve seen countless times in the NCAA. The one-and-done players coming out of college and turning Pro tonight will set the stage for another exhilarating season of NBA basketball.