NBA: In the wake of March Madness, several Canadian players are reportedly set to declare themselves eligible for the NBA Draft set for June 26th, (some have already declared). Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) has declared and is expected to go in the top three and maybe even first overall. Cleveland has again won the first pick and Wiggins could join Canadians Anthony Bennett (last year’s #1 and Tristan Thompson). Joel Embiid, a Cameroon native and a team mate of Wiggins suffered a stress fracture in his back causing him to miss the Jayhawks’ last six games including the team’s loss to Stanford in the 2nd round. Brampton’s Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) declared less than a week after his rookie season ended. Toronto’s Nik Stauskas also declared. Dwight Powell (Stanford), Khem Birch (UNLA), Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State) are also expected to declare.
Andrew Wiggins (Vaughn, Ontario) has chosen Bill Duffy as his agent over Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Duffy also represents Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo (Boston) and Steve Nash (Lakers).
Hall of Fame: Alonzo Mourning, 7-time NBA All Star and twice-named Defensive Player of the Year and Mitch Richmond who played his last season with the Lakers, are among the inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held August 8th in Springfield, Mass. Mourning was also elected to the Board of Georgetown University, his alma mater.
Rapper Drake is carving a significant niche for himself outside of the music business. The rapper, singer and actor has an affiliation with the Toronto Raptors and has just been named the host of the 2014 ESPYS, ESPN’s sports award show. A huge Toronto and Canada booster, he was prominent at the recent NCAA Finals and was courtside for all of the Raptors playoff games. The ESPYS will be held July 16th at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and will also be broadcast live.
End of an era: Joe Dumars, who has spent his entire career as a player and in management with the Detroit Pistons has stepped down. Drafted by the Pistons in 1985 he played 14 seasons winning NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. He became Detroit’s VP of player personnel during the 1999/2000 season before being promoted to President of Basketball Operations. He was named NBA executive of the year in 2003. Detroit reached the finals every year from 2003-08 but the team’s efforts have deteriorated since then. Several attempts to bring the team back on track failed (i.e. the Chauncey Billups deal that brought in Allen Iverson didn’t work, neither did the signing of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueeva (’09) or Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this season. Detroit has missed the post season for the last five years. Dumars served the organization well but it’s time for a change. Dumars will remain with the organization as a consultant. Stan Van Gundy (371-208 career coaching record) has a five year $35 million deal to coach the Pistons and to serve as President of Basketball Operations.
Awards and Changes: OKC: Kevin Durant finally won the NBA MVP Award. He led the NBA in scoring four out of five years and is a worthy recipient. OKC is currently in the Western Conference finals with the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State Warriors: Coach Mark Jackson was fired after the Warriors lost in the first round of the playoffs to the LA Clippers. Jackson was a favorite with the players but with management and staff – not so much. Former player Steve Kerr, lately a TNT analyst has been given a five year $25 million deal to replace Jackson as coach. Cleveland’s Luol Deng won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding community service. Deng has had a long commitment to philanthropic work in his native South Sudan. Rumors persist that Deng will be playing for a different team next season.
Boxing: Two prominent boxers have died. Ruben “Hurricane” Carter on April 20th from prostate cancer at age 76 and Jimmy Ellis, former Heavyweight Champ at age 74. Ellis who trained with Muhammed Ali and fought top contenders of his era, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.