After a brief hiatus, the NBA Canada Series is back and that's much-welcomed news for basketball fans in two of the country's largest cities.
The ever-popular series was cancelled last year due to the shortened preseason, but will be returning for a two-game stint this fall. Both games will feature the Toronto Raptors, with their first opponent being the Portland Trail Blazers. That game will tip off at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on September 29.
Game 2 will be played at the Bell Centre in Montreal on October 10, as the Raptors will face the Brooklyn Nets.
As it stands right now, there will be no homegrown talent hitting the floor although that could change with offseason trades and free agency, which begins on Canada Day.
History of the Series
The first Series debuted in 2012, and for five seasons the NBA took exhibition games to Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The games were often played in front of sellout crowds, and featured teams with and without Canadian ties.
In the 2012-2013 season, there were eight Canadians on NBA rosters. As the NBA Canada Series went on, young stars like Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray hit the hardwood and the games only became more popular.
This past season 12 Canadians were on opening-night rosters. And, with more players from our home and native land becoming draft eligible and even more polishing their game in the G League there will undoubtedly be more Canadian talent to come - and more to play in the NBA Canada Series.
Until then, here is a look back at some of the highlights from the first five years of the Series:
NBA adds Canada to its global preseason schedule.
The first-ever NBA Canada Series was announced in July 2012. The series marked the first time that games were held in Canada as part of the league's international schedule. Before 2012, teams played preseason games in China, Europe and Mexico.
The first game between the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks was played on October 19 in Montreal. The game featured the Raptors' regular starters like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and then-rookie Jonas Valanciunas along with Raps alumni such as Andrea Bargnani, Landry Fields and Amir Johnson. Meanwhile, the Knicks started big names like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
Canada's NBA team delivered a 107-88 triumph in front of a sold-out Bell Centre crowd of 22,144. After the game, then-Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said "it felt like we were in an NBA city."
The Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves, minus the injured Kevin Love, squared off at the MTS Centre Winnipeg on October 24. Chase Budinger came off the bench to score 21 points in Minnesota's 95-76 triumph.
"I didn't know there were that many Minnesota fans out here but it's good," said Derrick Williams of the T-Wolves. "It felt like a home game."
Mr. Wiggins goes to Winnipeg
Wiggins, fresh off his rookie of the year campaign in 2014, made his NBA Canada Series debut in Winnipeg on October 10, 2015, as the Minnesota Timberwolves met the Chicago Bulls.
The MTS Centre was sold out with 15,294 people in attendance. Wiggins finished the game with nine points in 24 minutes of action. Sam Mitchell, the former head coach of the Raptors, had been named Minnesota's interim head coach after the late Flip Saunders was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The Bulls, minus former MVP Derrick Rose, outscored Wiggins and the T-Wolves 114-105 with E'Twaun Moore scoring a team-high 18 points.
A meeting of Canadian-born NBAers
Days after losing to the Bulls, the T-Wolves were in Ottawa to play against the Raptors in their second NBA Canada Series. For the first time in the Series, two Canadians went up against each other with Cory Joseph - who came home after signing a free-agent contract with Toronto in the summer of 2015, facing Wiggins.
Better than the game itself, the two Canucks took time to give back to the community in their country. Along with Jim Naismith, grandson of basketball's founder Dr. James Naismith, the young stars met at a local YMCA to help out with the refurbishing of a basketball court.
KD makes Warrior debut on Canadian hardwood
In the Raptors' fourth appearance of the NBA Canada Series, the team took on two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors - who were coming off a historic 73-win season in 2015-2016. The game also marked Kevin Durant's debut with the Warriors after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent.
The game tipped off in Vancouver on October 1, 2016 to - not surprisingly - yet another sold-out Canadian crowd at Rogers Arena.
Durant was held off the scoresheet until just over a minute remained in the first quarter. His first two points as a Warrior was a transition dunk (after a nifty cherry-pick in the offensive zone).
Durant finished his curtain-raiser with Golden State scoring nine points on just 2-of-9 shooting. The Raptors won the game 97-93.
Canuck Jamal Murray makes his preseason debut
The Kitchener, Ont., native, made his NBA preseason debut in his home country as the Denver Nuggets faced the Raptors in Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 3, 2016.
The seventh overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Murray scored nine points in 17 minutes against the team he grew up watching while also jumping around in his bedroom pretending to be Vince Carter.
The game was another Canadian matchup with Cory Joseph on the other side wearing a Raptors jersey. The Nuggets won the game 108-106.