Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are All-Stars in the East, and Canadians Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles and Dwight Powell will play for the World team in the Rising Stars Challenge. “It’s incredible that a young player in Canada can turn on the TV and he’s got a better than 50% chance that he see will an NBA player from Canada playing,” Nash told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s definitely changed. That was rare when I was in high school and college. Now, it’s expected and commonplace.”
“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.’’
Sources tell ESPN.com that the Raptors, emboldened by that success after establishing themselves as the foremost challenger in the conference to the Cavaliers, have been active in assessing their trade options in advance of the Feb. 18 trade deadline as they search for an upgrade at power forward. The Raptors, sources say, have had exploratory discussions to gauge the possibility of acquiring Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Brooklyn’s Thaddeus Young and the Phoenix duo of Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker.
Storyline: Markieff Morris to Raptors?