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And so, on Friday night, Lasry will get his wish and suit up for Team USA for the annual celebrity game (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Toronto. Last year, Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera played in the exhibition and impressed, making 5 of 6 shots and even throwing down a dunk in warm-ups. Pera, though, was 36 at the time. Lasry is 55. Pera is also very dedicated to basketball, having an indoor replica of the Grizzlies floor installed at a gym attached to his house. Lasry plays tennis three times a week but only plays pick-up basketball once a month or so.
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“When the Grizzles didn’t make it in Vancouver, there was a feeling that maybe the Raptors would also being leaving,’’ said Tas Melas, a Toronto native and part of the quartet of Canadians who comprise “The Starters’’ on NBA TV. “But Vince Carter, more than any other player, brought such a level of excitement and popularity to the Raptors, he might well have prevented the Raptors from leaving Toronto. That’s how big he was for the city. He really did put the Raptors on the map. He made them relevant.’’
Toronto is hosting the 65th annual NBA All-Star Game this weekend, the first time it’s being held outside the United States. As impactful as Michael Jordan was on the game of basketball, he never did all of that. “It’s surreal,’’ Carter told Forbes the other day after a game in New York playing for the Grizzlies (how ‘bout that, Vancouver?). Now 39, he isn’t up in Toronto to bask in the glory this weekend. Family obligations have him in Florida. “Coming into the league at 21, I was just trying to establish myself. I was just trying to make my way and show the world what I could do,’’ he said. Then, reflecting on what he did for basketball in Canada, where a generation of kids had his poster on their bedroom walls, he said, with a smile, “It’s freakin’ awesome. It’s hard to believe.’’
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Will Mike Conley find his way to the Big Apple this summer? The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets may seemingly be in disarray now, but don’t count out the possibility that one of the two teams lands him in free agency. A source close to Conley believes the Memphis Grizzlies point guard will be more receptive to playing for the Knicks and Nets than most think.
Storyline: Mike Conley Free Agency
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Mike Mazzeo: Impending free agent Grizzlies PG Mike Conley on the Nets firing his former coach Lionel Hollins and it potentially impacting his decision to possibly sign with Brooklyn over the summer: “It’s tough but at the same time like I said I’ll give everybody their fair shot. Lionel being here obviously was a big reason to look (at Brooklyn) but still at the same time with him gone I’ll give everybody the same look.” The Nets have an obvious need at PG and could go into free agency with around $40 million in cap space.
Storyline: Mike Conley Free Agency