Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Tristan Thompson #13 of the Texas Longhorns walks off the court after their 70-69 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Tom Pennington/2011 Getty Images)
Tristan Thompson #13 of the Texas Longhorns walks off the court after their 70-69 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Tom Pennington/2011 Getty Images)

JEFF BLAIR

Raptors run rule over Canadian prospects Add to ...

It is a false sense of perfection for us little people.

Watching Chris Bosh leave the floor in tears and LeBron James take turns drowning first in an embarrassing NBA Finals defeat and then in a post-game puddle of his own loopy logic was - let's face it - the happiest sports event in years. Good not only kicked the hell out of evil, it got in the car and backed over it for good measure.

But now it's time to talk about labour negotiations - ick! - and even the upcoming draft is hardly enough to get folks in these parts all ginned up about the possibly not-so-upcoming season. The Toronto Raptors didn't do much of anything well this past season. They tanked ahead of one of the most shallow drafts in recent memory and then the draft lottery gods flipped them the bird. Picking fifth, they'll get maybe the second- or third-best point guard available, or another big European.

So it was nice on Wednesday that Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph could return to their home and work out for the local NBA team at the Raptors practice court at the Air Canada Centre. Truth is, it was a corn-rowed forward from San Diego State (Kawhi Leonard) who was the most likely out of draft-eligible players to figure in the Raptors' thinking, but the crush of local media at least led to musing about how a fairy-tale story could end: Thompson and Joseph return to Toronto and lead the team to an NBA title - extending what they describe as a "brotherhood" that took them to a United States basketball factory (Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.) and then to the University of Texas, where they blossomed under head coach Rick Barnes's Utah Jazz-style offence.

Thing is, the Raptors aren't good enough for Thompson, a 6-foot-9 forward from Brampton, Ont., who was Big 12 freshman of the year, averaging 13.1 points (second on the Longhorns) and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game, and has been listed between 10th and 13th on most mock drafts - the consensus is the Phoenix Suns at 13. The Raptors already have enough players with his skill set and the simple fact of the matter is his jump shot - as was revealed again Wednesday - needs a lot of work. The Raptors need somebody who can play. As in, play yesterday.

Raptors senior scout Jim Kelly says that Joseph, who at 6 foot 3, 186 pounds is five months younger than the 20-year-old Thompson, has turned into a true point guard and while that is an aching need for the Raptors, Joseph is not a first-round pick. Of the two Toronto players, Joseph might have been better served staying in school instead of declaring early but he was clearly comfortable with the decision Wednesday, acknowledging that Europe or the D-League might be his ultimate destination.

Basketball has grown in this country, but there's still a pipeline element to the game that sees the very best players end up at U.S. prep schools that are also basketball factories. Thompson first went to St. Benedict's in Newark, N.J., but ran afoul of coach Dan Hurley and he and Joseph ended up at Findlay. So, too, did another Toronto player - Myck Kabongo - who is also going to Texas.

Thompson and Joseph worked out together for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks as well. They returned to Toronto a few days before the Raptors session. Thompson changed his phone number; Joseph spent Tuesday night in a downtown hotel as both attempted to focus on the session, which was watched by the entire Raptors front office including former head coach turned adviser Jay Triano and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum. Some familiar local faces were also on the sidelines, and Joseph smiled later when he said: "I know a lot of those guys on the sidelines, or the guys I was playing against from AAU ball, things like that.

"Having a life-time friend with you kind of eases the process," Joseph said about taking the next step with his friend close by.

"I was excited the whole day," Thompson said, "but like any day, it's business. You have to come in and do your job. Another team in the NBA you got to work out for. I'm in grind mode right now; we're in job interviews."

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories