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Canadian Round-Up: Canadians go head-to-head in the WNBL Finals, SGA's home debut and a chat with the CEO of the CEBL

#CanRoundUp

Canadians in WNBL Grand Final

Kia Nurse and her UC Capitals have advanced to the Grand Final (Final series) in the WNBL playoffs.

Nurse, playing in her first year in the Australian women's pro league, averaged 18.6 points per game which was good for fourth in the league.

Nurse's Capitals swept their semi-finals matchup with the Perth Lynx and will take on the Adelaide Lightning in the best-of-three finals series.

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The Lightning also features a Canadian of their own with Kayla Alexander (12.2 points, 9.0 rebounds per game) on the roster.

The Capitals will have home-court advantage by virtue of finishing with the league's best record. The Lightning finished in third place and upset the Melbourne Boomers in their semi-final match.

Game 1 of the Grand Final series is set for Saturday, Feb. 9th with tip at 5:30 p.m. local time. (1:30 a.m. Eastern on Saturday)

SGA's homecoming

SGA played his first-ever professional game at home in Canada. He told NBA.com that the first game he attended at Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) was a game in which the Raptors played the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gilgeous-Alexander said that he had little memory of the game itself but remembered it was close, and LeBron 'went off.

SGA finished with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the Clippers' 18-point loss to the Raptors.

NBA.com's Gilbert McGregor did a deep dive on how SGA's home country debut stacked up against other notable stars.

MORE: Is Shaun Livingston the best comparison for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?

The Canadian rookie also got word that he'll be participating in the Rising Stars challenge representing Team World and Canada at All-Star weekend in Charlotte.

More to come on his experiences there as a part of his blog for NBA.com.

Tyler Ennis the podcaster

Tyler Ennis, who is currently rehabbing from a gruesome leg injury he suffered playing for Fenerbahce in the Turkish pro league, has been spending some time podcasting with Sportsnet's Donovan Bennett on the Free Association Podcast.

Ennis has been awesome on the podcast and it's worth your time, especially if you haven't yet heard his debut on the show talking about the injury, his time in the NBA and the difference between the world's best league and a pro league in Europe. Go out of your way to spend some time with it, it's good stuff.

Canadian Round-up Q&A: Mike Morreale

This month's Q&A is with Mike Morreale, the CEO of the new Canadian pro league set to tip in May - the CEBL.

Morreale who made his mark in the CFL for 12 seasons took on a role as the CFL Player's Association Director of Marketing and later was named CFLPA President. He now has his sights set on making the CEBL a destination for Canadian players, coaches and fans.

Here's our chat:

NBA.com: At the introductory press conference for the CEBL, you mentioned you were happy to get back into sports. Why now and why with basketball?

Mike Morreale: This goes back about two and a half to three years now and a chance meeting between myself and our founder Richard Petko - who at the time owned a team in another league here in Canada and understood my background with the CFL, with the player's association - actually remembered me from my Toronto (Argonauts) days, which I don't get that often usually people remember me from my Hamilton (Ticats) days but he's a Mississauga guy.

We connected and he kind of used me as a sounding board regarding his team and what was going on and how stuff related to marketing - I did hold the post of V.P. of Marketing with the player's association with the CFL before I became president and he just kind of spitballed things off of me back and forth. At one point he said 'listen I want to put your name forward to you know be the commissioner of the league that I'm in' and I met with all the particulars, the ownership either in person or on the phone and just wasn't prepared to make that jump.

I just wasn't sold on the process and I let Rich know that and that led to another discussion of 'ok what if you were going to do it the right way what would the right way be?'. That began the whole process of what is now the CEBL. To Ricard's credit, he's a bit of a visionary, he sees things differently, a young guy, he's got a European background so he's familiar with international basketball, loves the sport - doesn't understand why it wasn't working or hasn't been working here in Canada.

I think just him and I connecting at that time, along with a couple other personnel that he had on board with his existing team we said 'ok this is how it should be done, this is what we would change, this is how we make it better' and he said 'ok let's put something on paper' and said ok it's yours let's run with it and it was like alright I guess this is for real, we're going to get it done.

But that's a coles notes version of how it began and then from there we just knocked on doors and talked to people and let people know what we wanted to do. And if I go back you know two and a half, three years ago the first little while people thought we were crazy and then they would compare us to all these other leagues that had failed - and then you'd realize why they failed and they'd think we're still crazy. Then we became less crazy six months in and a year in even less crazy and then people started saying 'hey there's something going on here, these guys are doing things right' and then you know like anything it's a proof of concept we haven't tipped off yet, we haven't done a darn thing and we've been able to hire really good people - it was one of the best things that we've done able to do is secure a bunch of talented executives and then staff - a bunch of young...you know if anyone tells me that millennials don't know how to work then they haven't been to our office because we have a great crew here of guys and girls that just want to work hard and really love what we do. And we just kept knocking down doors and our alignment with Canada basketball is massive. Our alignment with other premium brands in the basketball space is huge and we just kept moving forward. I know what our goals are - every Friday we kind of revisit what the week was like and every Friday it feels like we accomplished a lot of them. It's not going to be easy there's going to be bumps in the road but we've done a tremendous job so far.

NBA.com: What excites you most about this league?

MM: I get excited by the ability to showcase our Canadian talent, the ability to provide our fans with a new entertainment option - we call it the new basketball experience. So we build on (what) good leagues and teams have done. So you take a little bit...you know our model is based a little off of the MLS in terms of our ownership structure, it's based a little bit off the CFL in terms of our ratio - our Canadian to international ratio. Our entertainment side will be based on some of the things the Raptors do…it's going to be highly entertaining because we know that our crowd, our fanbase is going to be a mix of diehard basketball people that come to watch basketball and a bunch of people and families that just want to experience a cool and different entertainment option in the summer. The FIBA rules allows for a nice quick highly entertaining, highly energetic game. We're doing pregame activations, during the game and postgame activations. We feel like our fans can come in and within a couple hours be in and out and enjoying a beautiful summer night.

NBA.com: What are your expectations for year one?

MM: I'll give you a couple of answers because there's a bunch of things I'm trying to achieve. One is obviously to have a strong and passionate fanbase that really enjoys what we are doing and that's going to be something we have to grow like any new league, any new team. We have to wow people, we always say when someone is at the game it's going to be their first time seeing the product, it's going to be their last time seeing the product or it's going to be their only time seeing the product, so we have to make sure that we really take care of our fans.

So that in some respect is highly important that speaks to the entertainment side but then we have to get to the community and that's important too. All (of) our players will be mandated that they need to get out and do stuff on behalf of the club and if they read between the lines (it) is only beneficial for them because it now gets them out and in front of people. In front of business people, in front of decision makers and not only that it helps them in the community and I think it's something that they should do.

Then we're trying to build new developing Canadian talent and we're trying to really bring home and showcase a whole laundry list - hundreds and hundreds of international or professional Canadian players that no one has had the opportunity to really see outside of the (guys in) the NBA because they've had to go overseas to play and get paid. We're hoping that we become a place for them to play in the spring and summer.

NBA.com: What does the CEBL mean for the Canadian basketball fan?

MM: For the actual basketball fan, you know from my discussions with fans, the stakeholders in basketball, people are really excited. They look at what we're doing, they want us to succeed and I think that's a big thing. There's going to be naysayers like anywhere but even the people that are...concerned let's say...they still want it to succeed. I think they understand that this is long overdue in Canada, actually in North America.

You know outside of the NBA there really isn't any sort of true domestic professional leagues, certainly not in Canada that plays FIBA (rules). And in the U.S. you have tons of different leagues but none that the U.S. federation has really got behind. So you know our association with Canada Basketball and our partnership was massive for many reasons. We believe it's a really good partnership that we can help one another and secondly we believe that we are doing them a service that is traditionally done across the world where the federation runs the domestic league, so we feel like we're being advantageous to Canada basketball and at the same time they're being a tremendous partner for us as well. So it's a really good situation we can help grow the next level talent for Canada and Canada Basketball.

NBA.com: I know you probably get asked this a ton but how will fans be able to see games? Are you in conversation with the traditional broadcasters?

MM: Great question because we get it often, so there will be no traditional broadcast. We've made the decision that we are going to invest in our own live stream network, CEBL TV. We've gone out we've purchased cameras, all the necessary equipment so that each of our venues can produce a high...a really good official and professional looking live stream that we can share without any kind of limitations to who can see it.

If you look at the traditional landscape of broadcast now and I think broadcasters themselves will tell you they've started to invest heavily for years in kind of the live stream and digital packages because the way that we consume and fans consume anything nowadays is different than sitting on a couch. A lot of them are on their laptops or phones...their tablets etc. So that lends to the idea of us having our existing live stream network.

We won't charge for it. I don't believe that is something that we can do because I don't believe that we've earned our stripes yet. I think we need to go out and let people see what we're doing and if in the future it becomes a point we feel it's necessary to do it we will, but in the foreseeable future, that's not going to occur. We're going to allow complete free access to our live stream so that everybody has an opportunity to watch whether you live in Canada, the U.S., Turkey, China, Australia it doesn't matter. We'll also have our league app and team related app(s). We'll have of course all of our social media platforms but our dedicated broadcast at this point will be a live stream.

We're in consultation with hosting our championship weekend, which we'll announce relatively soon - on a traditional broadcast. So those discussions have taken place but I knew full well that we would do this on our own to start and feel very comfortable doing it.

NBA.com: Five years from now, where do you see the CEBL?

MM: 12 teams across the country all playing in major venues. All a staple for the spring and summer - for the entertainment dollar in each of the communities we play in. We'll be truly coast-to-coast, from B.C. through to the Maritimes. We'll have representation in places we aren't currently (in) like Manitoba, like Quebec. I hope to sprinkle in another team or two in Ontario in Alberta, in B.C. and of course the Maritimes. So that's where I want to be from a geography point of view.

From a league point of view, I want it to be the destination for the best Canadian talent to come to play. Whether that's existing or up and coming and I want to be the place to develop the support system for Canada Basketball, whether it's training staff, it's coaches, assistant coaches, management…My goal is for it to be the best homegrown domestic professional league that we can possibly be and to be recognized as a major sport and entertainment package in the spring and summer across the country.

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