Toronto Raptors

The Canadian Report: August marks a celebration of Canadian hoops’ past and future

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Free agency dims and pre-season looms. August marks a transitionary period for the NBA, as the heat of summer begins to fade and the anticipation of another year of basketball rises.

Here in the Great White North, the game has met the lull of the offseason with an intersection of the past and future of Canadian basketball. While legends achieve sport immortality, the next generation gets its first crack at world domination.

Calling Steve Nash to the Hall of Fame

Steve Nash's impact on Canadian basketball only requires one descriptor - he is only the second Canadian player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, named for the Ontario-born inventor of the now global game, James Naismith.

The recent surge in popularity and prowess that the game enjoys in Canada is owed to Nash and his illustrious career. By the time he called an end to his playing career in 2015, the up-tempo style of Nash had transformed the game and played a major role in changing the face of basketball in Canada.

Outside of his playing career, Nash continues to impact the game through his position as General Manager of the Canadian national team and as a development consultant for NBA powerhouse the Golden State Warriors.

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Career Highlights

Captain Canada: At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Nash captained the first Canadian team to qualify in 12 years. While the hard-charging Canadian underdogs were knocked out of the tournament in a tight quarter-final game against France, Nash hoped that their performance would inspire a new generation of Canadians to take up basketball. He would lead the team once again at the 2004 Athens Olympics and become General Manager in 2012 after many years of international play.

Most Valuable Player: Nash made history in 2004-05, becoming the first Canadian and third point guard to be named league MVP. He led the Suns to the top of the league in the regular season in his return to the team that had drafted him. After falling short in the playoffs, Nash and the Suns returned with a vengeance in 2005-06, and he picked up his second consecutive MVP award.

Helping Hands: Nash carved out a reputation for himself throughout his playing career as a small but aggressive point guard who could finish a play just as well as he could set up. As a playmaker, he is among the game's greats. Nash led the league in assists five times en route to becoming the fifth player to reach the 10,000-assist mark. He finished his playing career with the third-most assists in NBA history. He was no slouch shooting either, and currently holds the all-time NBA free-throw percentage record.

The Honour Is His: Alongside his double MVP honours, Nash racked up many accolades during his time in the NBA. With the Suns, he received the team's Ring of Honour and had his iconic No. 13 jersey retired. He was named an NBA All-Star eight times, the first coming in 2002 and the last coming a decade later in 2012. He's received several awards from his home and native land, winning the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2005 as Canada's athlete of the year and the Lionel Conacher Award as the country's male athlete of the year three times. For his work off the court, he received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2007.

Giving Back: As evident by his J. Walter Kennedy Award, Nash has been prominent in giving his time to both communities and charitable endeavours throughout his career. He founded the Steve Nash Foundation in 2001 with a focus on promoting healthy living and childhood development for children of various socioeconomic backgrounds and with a history of abuse or neglect. For his own charity and other charitable exploits, Nash was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007.

Steve Nash will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sep. 7, 2018.

Kia Nurse puts a bow on groundbreaking WNBA rookie season

After an esteemed NCAA career and emerging as a star with the Canadian national team, it was expected that Kia Nurse would have a similar impact on the WNBA. The Hamilton, Ont., hoopster lived up to the hype - and then some - in her rookie season.

As only the 16th Canadian to make a WNBA roster, the 2018 10th overall draft pick's reputation preceded her after her superstar tenure with the UConn Huskies. While the New York Liberty missed out on the postseason, it did nothing to detract from Nurse's exploits on the court in the Big Apple.

She set team records right out of the gate, including a franchise-high 34-point game against the Indiana Fever en route to ranking among the league's elite. Despite only starting seven games, she closed out the season with the second-most points on her team behind league veteran Tina Charles.

Already boasting two of the top-five highest-scoring games by a Canadian in the WNBA, including a season-closing 28-point performance against the Phoenix Mercury, Nurse now holds the top two spots. The player she knocked down from fifth to sixth? Herself.

With more national play and international opportunities coming her way, rest assured that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg that is Nurse's playing career.

Canada's next generation of talent shines in Jr. NBA World Championship

To represent your country with your craft is an honour. To do it at the ages of 14 and under is remarkable.

That was the task at hand for the Brampton Breakdown and Welland Warriors, the boys and girls U14 teams that made up their respective Team Canada's at the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship in Orlando, Fla. Each team fought for the right to represent their country, beating out Canada's toughest competition to punch their tickets to Orlando.

On an international stage, both teams continued this impressive performance as the boys team went 2-1 in pool play, while the girls team remained undefeated across their three matches. The finals started with both Canadian teams advancing, before the girls were eliminated in the second round. Canada's boys went all the way to the International semifinals, falling to Africa & Middle East.

Having earned the trip to Orlando and represented their country with pride, Team Canada's performance reflects the growth of the game in Canada and the success of the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship.

"It's great," Team Canada boys coach Kevin Cox told NBA.com. "What this Jr. NBA thing has done, it's almost like the Little League World Series for baseball. It gives these kids hope, it gives them something to strive for, it shows them that the NBA really cares about grassroots basketball. In Canada, this is epic."

Former Toronto Raptors superstar Vince Carter - who just signed with the Atlanta Hawks to play a 21st NBA season - surprised Team Canada with a pregame visit, adding a unique northern touch to their trip south of the border. That wasn't the only chance the players got to rub shoulders with the NBA elite, as Dwyane Wade also made an appearance at the tournament.

Tamara Tatham makes history on Raptors 905 coaching staff

Having already made her mark on the game as a two-time Olympian, Tamara Tatham is making history by becoming a mentor coach with the Raptors 905 of the NBA G League. The Toronto native's homecoming makes her the first Canadian woman to be named to the coaching staff of a team in a professional men's basketball league.

Tatham played her college career with University of Massachusetts, averaging 10.3 points per game across 115 games. After going undrafted in the WNBA, she pursued professional playing opportunities overseas.

Her international prowess did not go unnoticed back home, as she represented Canada on multiple occasions. Tatham wore the Maple Leaf at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and captured gold medals at the FIBA Americas Women's Championship and Pan American Games in 2015.

Tatham joins the Raptors 905's staff after serving as assistant coach of the U of T Varsity Blues women's basketball team since 2017.

NBA schedule release teases Canadian debuts

The eager wait for the NBA season to return is both soothed and teased by the release of the official schedule for 2018-19. As Canada's presence in professional basketball grows, there are many dates for fans north of the border to mark on their calendars.

Aside from the Canadian representation on the court, fans can look forward to basketball returning to the Canadian court. The Toronto Raptors host the Cleveland Cavaliers at Scotiabank Arena for their 2018-19 home opener on Oct. 17.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated Canadian debut is that of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 11th overall pick in this summer's NBA Draft could hit the pro court for the first time as soon as Oct. 17 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Moose sighting" in Toronto

How perfectly apropos that a man affectionately known as "Moose" has found his way to Canada.

The Toronto Raptors signed Greg Monroe to a one-year deal in mid-August, bringing the former Big East Rookie of the Year to Canada for the 2018-19 season. Towering at 6-feet-11, Monroe has had no trouble making a presence for himself in the league since being drafted seventh overall in the 2010 NBA draft as a highly-touted prospect.

"Greg is a proven big man in this league," Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster said in an official release. "We believe Greg's experience will be a great addition to not only our frontcourt, but to our team culture as we continue to build towards our goal of an NBA championship."

With those expectations in mind, Monroe has something else up his sleeve.

Having not scored a 3-pointer in his eight-year career, "Moose" has been putting work in during the offseason to improve the range of his game. About a week and a half after the signing, Monroe shared a training video to his social media that featured him uncharacteristically draining 3s left and right.

Monroe is showing both that the work doesn't stop when you get to the top, and that Raptors fans have a lot to be excited about in 2018-19.

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