At the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season, a record-high 12 Canadians were on opening-night rosters. Nearly eight months, more than 2,500 games and three playoff series later, only one Canadian is competing in the Finals.
We wrote in the April Harvey's Canadian Report, only the Raptors and the Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson (Brampton, ON) provided the Canadian content in the NBA playoffs, and they were about to go head-to-head. While many said this would be the Raptors' year to win the Eastern Conference, Cleveland (and especially LeBron James) had a different plan and rolled over the No. 1 seed in a four-game sweep.
Thompson had a productive game in the series opener with 14 points, but was relatively quiet for the final three, netting two, zero and five points respectively. The series sweep marked another disappointing postseason exit for the Raptors and a third consecutive sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Raptors Go Another Direction
A mere three days after the loss, the Raptors relieved Dwane Casey of his head coaching duties.
Casey was named Coach of the Year by his peers only days before being fired in recognition of his work in leading the Raptors to their best-ever regular season. Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games and was the top seed heading into the playoffs, but four straight losses against LeBron and the Cavs prompted President Masai Ujiri to relieve Casey of his duties less than a week after the second-round series ended.
Raptors announce firing of coach Dwane Casey. A fantastic run in Toronto, and a wonderful regular season. But in the end, LeBron himself may as well have written this press release.- Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 11, 2018
This marks the end of Casey's seven-year tenure with the Raptors, where he leaves behind a 323-238 regular season record, and 21-30 record in the playoffs. He is the most successful coach in franchise history.
Ujiri said parting ways with Casey was the hardest thing he's done in his life.
"What an unbelievable human being. It's the hardest thing I've done in my life." - Ujiri said of Casey "I've never met anybody that classy in my life. … I don't know if I'll work with a better person."- (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) May 11, 2018
Casey is expected to be named Coach of The Year at the NBA's year-end awards in June.
Cavs Continue to Roll
After displacing the Raptors, the Cavaliers went on to face the Boston Celtics in a seven-game thriller to decide the Eastern representative in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland dropped the first two games on the road in Boston, making it look like no Canadians would appear in the final. Game 3 was a turning point for the Cavs, as they roared back with a 116-86 win to cut Boston's series lead in half.
After the win, Kevin Love said a key to getting back in the series was Thompson's defence on NBA All-Star Al Horford. In Game 3, Horford was held to seven points and went two-for-four from the field, while Thompson scored 10 points at the other end of the floor and grabbed seven rebounds.
Horford refocused in Games 4 and 5 and netted 15 points in both games, but followed up with a six-point game in a 109-99 loss to the Cavs to push the series to a seventh game. Thompson, who was relatively quiet in Games 5 and 6, rebounded with 10 points and nine rebounds as the Cavs shut down the Celtics in Boston for that Game 7 win.
Keeping Up With The Canadians 🇨🇦- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 28, 2018
Tristan Thompson | vs @celtics
10 points and 9 rebounds in the @cavs Game 7 W!#WhateverItTakes pic.twitter.com/muqa1il3wG
In this postseason, Thompson's efficiency has risen as he's averaging 6.1 points and rebounds per game while shooting 62 percent from the field and 79 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers are up from 56 percent and 54 percent respectively during the regular season.
With the dominant sweep of the top-seeded Raptors, and an even more dramatic seven-game series triumph against the Celtics, the Cavaliers and Thompson are headed to the NBA Finals.
While the Raptors may be out of the playoffs, they are still making headlines as postseason awards and special teams are announced. For the first time in his career, DeMar DeRozan was named to the All-NBA Second Team for his standout season leading the Raptors to first place in the East.
The 2017-18 All-NBA Second Team! @Giannis_An34 @russwest44 @JoelEmbiid @aldridge_12 @DeMar_DeRozan pic.twitter.com/3XLGZq4XPk- NBA (@NBA) May 24, 2018
DeRozan received two first-team votes, 39 second team and 38 third team for 165 points, narrowly defeating Steph Curry for the final second team spot.
This marks the second consecutive season he has earned All-NBA honours after being named to the third team last season.
"Being recognized among an elite group of my peers is always rewarding," said DeRozan.
"Knowing where I started and the work I've put in each year to improve makes this even more humbling. Thanks to my teammates and the Raptors organization for all their support."
No Canadian-born players were given All-NBA honours, including Mississauga's Dillon Brooks who was noticeably absent on the All-Rookie teams after a successful rookie campaign.
Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons unanimously headline 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie First Team! pic.twitter.com/XNmLHgEqiU- NBA Draft (@NBADraft) May 22, 2018
Brooks was the only rookie to appear in all 82 games for his respective team, the Memphis Grizzlies. The 22-year-old was a starter in 74 games.
Wow...- Dillon Brooks (@dillonbrooks24) May 22, 2018
Duly noted..- Dillon Brooks (@dillonbrooks24) May 22, 2018
Raptors' rookie OG Anunoby, who quickly become a go-to defensive specialist in Toronto was also left off the elusive list.
Yea eh 🤔- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 22, 2018
» https://t.co/ZVcoz3wXnt pic.twitter.com/5ilmGUsdee
Denver Nuggets' guard Jamal Murray may not have won any All-NBA honours this year, but he did have the honour of winning the K-W Athlete of the Year Award from his home city in Kitchener, Ont.
This is the third year in a row Murray was nominated for the award and the first time he has won.
Murray posted six 30-point games this season and fell just short of the playoffs after the Nuggets fell to fellow Canuck Andrew Wiggins in the Nuggets' final game of the season.
University of Connecticut and Team Canada standout Kia Nurse made her WNBA debut with the New York Liberty on May 20.
Nurse, who came off the bench in her first game, netted 17 points, added three assists and two steals.
Kia Nurse finished with 17 points, 3 assists & 2 steals in her @WNBA debut with the @nyliberty! 🇨🇦 #WatchMeWork pic.twitter.com/oz1KEniTeg- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 21, 2018
Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, ON., posted a career-high in the Indiana Fever's second game of the season on May 19.
Achonwa had 21 points and 12 rebounds in the Fever's loss to Washington. The Fever opened their season with five games in eight days, and have yet to register a win.
Basketball Canada name Team Canada roster
Canada's road to the Olympic Games begins in June, and on May 28, Canada Basketball announced its training camp roster.
The 18-man roster includes stars from the NBA, the G League and Europe.
🇨🇦🏀 SENIOR MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM JUNE 2018 TRAINING CAMP INVITEES ANNOUNCED. Read more: https://t.co/UP4seJAnve #WeAreTeamCanada #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse pic.twitter.com/BU86K1fOkO- Canada Basketball (@CanBball) May 28, 2018
Highlighting the roster are NBAers Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, Dwight Powell and rookie Dillon Brooks. European standouts like Melvin Ejim and Kevin Pangos are also included on the roster alongside G League players and former U Sports stars Aaron Best, Kaza Keane and Philip and Thomas Scrubb.
Despite the absence of former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, this is arguably the best roster the team has ever had as the talent pool of Canadian basketball players continues to deepen. Also unavailable for Team Canada this summer are NBA players Trey Lyles, Tyler Ennis and Nik Stauskas.
The team will face off against the Dominican Republic in Toronto on June 29 and then square off against the U.S. Virgin Islands on July 2 in Ottawa. The Canadian crew will also play two exhibition games against China on June 22 and 24 in Vancouver and Victoria respectively.