Let's check in on the NBA's most interesting Canadians
Youngsters Gilgeous-Alexander and Barrett look pretty impressive on their new teams
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Canada's top NBA players are off to pretty good starts
The season is two weeks old, which is probably too early to draw any conclusions. But it's been long enough that we have a decent idea of who's playing well and who isn't. So let's check in on the Canadian players most worth following in the NBA this season (in no particular order):
The No. 3 overall draft pick's chances of winning the rookie of the year award went up when generational prospect Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury that will delay his NBA debut until probably around Christmas. Through seven games, Barrett is averaging 18.3 points per game for the Knicks. That's third among rookies — behind Memphis' Ja Morant and Miami's Kendrick Nunn, who are both averaging 19.5.
Morant is the early front-runner for the ROY because he's also averaging 5.5 assists, shooting very efficiently (an area Barrett could improve in) and just generally being the most fun to watch. He's a star already. Barrett's standout skill right now is stamina. The 19-year-old guard is averaging 37 minutes a game — nine more than Morant and the fifth-most in the entire NBA. Knicks coach David Fizdale is aggressively anti-load management, and New York is a rebuilding team, so Barrett should continue to get plenty of playing time — and the opportunity to put up big raw numbers.
A lot of hardcore basketball fans predicted a breakout year after the Clippers sent him to Oklahoma City in the Paul George trade. They were right.
SGA is getting a lot more playing time on a team that doesn't expect much from itself, and he's doubled his scoring average from 10.8 to 21.8. That makes him the highest-scoring Canadian in the NBA right now.
Last season's highest-scoring Canadian (18.2 points per game) is averaging just a touch more than that, and his Denver Nuggets are once again at the top of their division, as expected. So not much to talk about here.
The former first-overall pick is now in his sixth pro season, and most people have given up on him ever becoming a legit star. He's a sub-par shooter who launches too many long twos — the worst combination — and doesn't make up for it with passing or rebounding or defence or much of anything really.
But Wiggins has looked a little better this season. He's taking more threes (his accuracy hasn't improved, but this is still better than jacking up those long twos) and he's making his free throws at a much higher rate. Minnesota is off to a surprisingly good 4-2 start mostly because big man Karl-Anthony Towns is playing out of his mind, but at least Wiggins is contributing.
They're adopted Canadians, OK? And they're doing alright without Kawhi Leonard. Toronto is 4-2 and rising star Pascal Siakam is leading the way with 26 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are adding 24 and 16, respectively, and shouldering an insane workload. Lowry is logging 38.8 minutes per game and VanVleet 37.8. They're the top two in the NBA in that category. And they've played all six games. We'll see how long this lasts, but maybe load management went out the door with Kawhi.
The Toronto Wolfpack shocked the rugby world with a (reported) big signing. Toronto recently earned a promotion to the top-tier Super League, which is based in England. And today it reportedly signed a legitimate star in 34-year-old Sonny Bill Williams, who just got done playing for the powerhouse New Zealand team at the Rugby World Cup. The deal isn't official, but it's reportedly for two years and $8.4 million. That's an unheard-of amount in this sport, says rugby expert (and former Buzzer backup) Ben Blum. Here's some more insight from Ben: "If confirmed, this would be the equivalent of David Beckham joining MLS in 2007 — a well-known player whose best days are in the rear-view mirror, but can be counted on for some highlights and merchandise sales. Williams is a two-time Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand's vaunted national rugby union team and is also a two-time champion in Australia's NRL playing the 13-a-side game (oh, and he competed in rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics and dabbles in boxing in his spare time). Williams is also the master of one-handed offloads and bone-crunching tackles, as is evident in this Prodigy-scored highlight pack." Read more about the signing here.
Another NBA player got busted for failing a performance-enhancing-drug test. Something is up here, because a league that hardly ever used to catch anyone for banned substances has now handed out three 25-game suspensions already this season. First came Brooklyn's Wilson Chandler, then Phoenix's Deandre Ayton. Now John Collins, the second-leading scorer on the Atlanta Hawks, has been suspended for testing positive for a growth hormone. Read more about that here.
A Canadian is up for a baseball rookie of the year award — and, no, it's not Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Montreal-born (that's how we claim him) Blue Jays phenom did not get a nomination for the American League honour after an OK rookie season where he hit 15 homers. But Calgary's Mike Soroka was named a finalist for the National League Award after going 13-4 with a stellar 2.68 ERA for Atlanta. He won't win, though. The trophy is almost certainly going to the New York Mets' Pete Alonso, who led the majors with 53 homers. See who got nominated for all the big awards here. The winners will be announced next week.
Cam Newton's season is over. The 2015 NFL MVP came into the year facing questions about his surgically repaired shoulder, but it was a foot that did him in. More specifically, a Lisfranc injury, which involves the bones and/or ligaments around the middle of the foot. Newton tried to play through it for the first two weeks, but he looked awful and Carolina lost both games. Since then, the Panthers are 5-1 with Kyle Allen at QB, and today Newton decided to shut it down for the year. He has only one year left on his contract, so his time in Carolina might be over too.
Correction from yesterday's newsletter: I wrote that former Ottawa Redblacks coach Rick Campbell was fired. In fact, he decided to leave with one year left on his contract. Sorry about that, and thanks to reader Jack for pointing out the error.
Cat on the field! A black cat got loose during the Monday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Giants. Bad luck? Not if you had the good fortune to catch the radio call by Kevin Harlan:
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