Toronto Raptors will stay based in Tampa, Florida for entire 2020-21 NBA season

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday that they will finish the 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida. Because of ongoing border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mindful of public safety measures in Canada, the team has decided they will continue to play their home games at Amalie Arena.

“Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie – we’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto. We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again.”

The Raptors initially announced in November that Amalie Arena, in downtown Tampa, would serve as their home court for the first half of the 2020-21 season. A schedule release for the second half of the season is expected in the coming days.

Wizards rookie Deni Avdija plays well in NBA preseason debut

Washington Wizards rookie Deni Avdija looks very good in his NBA preseason debut yesterday. Via the Washington Times:

Even for Deni Avdija, a rookie who comes to the Washington Wizards already with professional experience in Israel, it took a moment to settle in after stepping onto the court for his first NBA preseason game Sunday night.

“In the beginning, I’m going to be honest and I’ll say, like, ‘Whoa,’” Avdija said postgame. “Like, you’re in Barclays Center and you’re playing against all those players you saw on TV.”

But Avdija wasn’t star-struck — at least not for long — in a matchup against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. In Washington’s first preseason game, the first-round draft pick soon came into his own, showing a confidence that helped buoy his team during the 119-114 loss.

The 19-year-old finished with 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting to go along with four rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. While Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook didn’t play — meaning Wizards fans didn’t get a real hint of what the squad might look like this season — Avdija’s debut shows early promise that he could be a key contributor in his first year.

Facundo Campazzo signs with Nuggets in the NBA

The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Facundo Campazzo to a multiyear contract.

Campazzo, 5-11, 194, most recently appeared in 20 games (16 starts) for Real Madrid of the Spanish Liga ACB in 2020, averaging 10.2 points, 5.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 41.0% from the field in 24.1 minutes per game. The 29-year-old is a two-time Euroleague Champion (2015, 2018) and a three-time Liga ACB winner (2015, 2018, 2019) while also winning the Liga ACB finals MVP in 2019.

According to the Denver Post, “despite his 5-foot-11 frame, Campazzo’s a gifted passer known for his flash and creativity. The Argentinian guard has been with Real Madrid since 2014, where he was once teammates with Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic.”

The native of Cordoba, Argentina went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft and signed with Real Madrid in 2014. Over five seasons he appeared in 270 games (175 starts), averaging 8.6 points, 4.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 41.9% from the field in 21.2 minutes. Campazzo has played in 63 games for the Argentine national team including eight games in the 2012 London Olympics and led them to a silver medal at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

More from the Post: “He’ll likely share backup point guard duties with Nuggets reserve Monte Morris, who’s made himself a vital part of the rotation.”

Heat sign forward Paul Eboua, who spent recent seasons playing in Italy

The Miami Heat have signed forward Paul Eboua, who has spent the last four basketball seasons playing overseas.

Last season, Eboua played in Italy. In 18 games (12 starts) for VL Pesaro of the Lega Basket Serie A, he put up modest stats: 7.4 points, 5.3 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game, on 45.9% shoooting. His season-high in scoring was 20 points, on January 5 against Trieste. His season-high in rebounding was 12 boards on January 19 against Sassari.

Toronto Raptors will begin 2020-21 NBA season based in Tampa, Florida

The Toronto Raptors will start the 2020-21 NBA season using Tampa, Florida as their home base. This is because the coronavirus pandemic has made travel more complicated, especially in between different countries.

STATEMENT FROM RAPTORS PRESIDENT OF BASKETBALL OPERATIONS MASAI UJIRI

“The Raptors worked diligently with public health officials at the local, provincial and federal level to secure a plan that would permit us to play our 2020-21 season on home soil and on our home court at Scotiabank Arena. These conversations were productive, and we found strong support for the protocols we put forward. Ultimately, the current public health situation facing Canadians, combined with the urgent need to determine where we will play means that we will begin our 2020-21 season in Tampa, Florida.

We want to thank all levels of government and their public health officials for their dedication to this process, and for looking after the health of Canadians. We commit to continuing our work together, planning for a safe return to play in Toronto. And as an organization, we remain committed to doing all we can to promote and demonstrate public health measures to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

So we’ll be away from our home and our fans for now. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure that’s possible for us – we love Toronto and Canada, and we know we have the best fans in the NBA. For now, I’ll ask you to cheer for us from afar, and we’ll look forward to the day we are all together again.”

Wizards select Deni Avdija at No. 9 in 2020 NBA Draft

The Washington Wizards selected Deni Avdija (pronounced Denny AHV-dee-uh) from Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Avdija, a 6-9, 225-pound forward, becomes the highest-drafted Israeli player in NBA history. He averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals to earn MVP honors at the 2019 FIBA U-20 European Championships and helped Israel win the gold medal in back-to-back FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019.

“We were absolutely thrilled to get the opportunity to select Deni at the ninth pick and add his versatility, toughness and effort on the defensive end to our roster,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “While he is a young player who is still developing, he has great experience playing at a high level both professionally and in international competition.”

Avdija has played professionally the last three seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.6 minutes in 2019-20 Israeli League play, shooting .555 overall from the field while ranking third in two-point percentage (.673) and 21st in three-point percentage (.375). Avdija was named MVP of Basketball Without Borders Europe in 2018 and the BWB Global Camp in 2019 and earned All-Event honors at the 2018-19 EuroLeague Next Generation Tournament while playing for Maccabi’s Under-18 team.

“I love Deni’s competitive spirit and feel for the game and I’m excited to help him continue to improve when we begin camp in a few weeks,” said Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks. “His toughness and overall skill set will allow us to use him in multiple lineups and allow him to seamlessly blend in with our team.”

And from the Washington Post:

Now 19 and 6-foot-9 with a guard’s ballhandling skills, Avdija should be able to bolster the Wizards’ defensive presence on the perimeter and, at times, play alongside forward Rui Hachimura, the international pick the Wizards took at No. 9 last year.

Washington loved how many different boxes he ticked. Sheppard called Avdija a “blend player,” and Wizards Coach Scott Brooks highlighted his professional experience playing in pro leagues and for the Israeli national team.

“I love his toughness. I love his IQ. As a coach, you never have to worry about a player playing hard,” Brooks said. “That’s what [Avdija] does. He steps on the court and he competes. He’s going to make our practices better and our games better. … The thing that I like is most of his career you play against guys who are older than you. He’s played against men in the leagues that he’s played in.”

The youngest player to ever play for Maccabi’s Senior Team (debuting at 16 years, 320 days), Avdija played with several former NBA players during his tenure, including Amar’e Stoudemire, Omri Casspi, Quincy Acy and Tarik Black. His father, Zufer, won bronze at the 1982 FIBA Basketball World Championship with Yugoslavia and was a pro in Serbia and Israel in the 1980’s and 1990’s while his mother, Sharon Artzi, is a former championship runner.

In EuroLeague news, Jordan Mickey signs with Khimki Moscow Region

Here’s Euroleague.net reporting on Jordan Mickey:

Khimki Moscow Region and center Jordan Mickey are together again after the sides put pen to paper on a new one-year contract on Tuesday. Mickey (2.03 meters, 25 years old) arrives from Real Madrid, where he averaged 9.0 points on 67.7% two-point shooting, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 26 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games last season. He also helped Los Blancos win the Spanish Copa del Rey title.

Mickey played briefly in the NBA between 2015-18, suiting up for the Celtics and Heat, for a career average of 2.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 7.5 minutes per game.

Coach Martin Schiller leaves Salt Lake City Stars for job in Lithuania

Martin Schiller has been named the head coach of Lithuanian basketball club Žalgiris Kaunas, which competes in the Lithuanian Basketball League and EuroLeague, the team announced today.

Schiller, who spent the past three years as head coach of the Salt Lake City Stars (NBA G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz), compiled a 73-69 (.514) record and improved his win total each season, twice earning playoff appearances. He led the Stars to the top of the Western Conference last season with a 30-12 (.714) mark and was named the 2019-20 NBA G League Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year.

Under Schiller’s guidance, the Stars won the MGM Resorts NBA G League Winter Showcase Tournament in December in the midst of a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the NBA G League last season and tied for second-longest in a single season in league history.

Below are statements from the Jazz and Stars organization on Schiller:

Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz Head Coach): “We are truly excited, as well as proud, that Martin has accepted the opportunity to be the head coach of Žalgiris Kaunas, one of the top programs in the EuroLeague. Additionally, the coaching job he did with the Stars was recognized by his selection as G League Coach of the Year this past season. Not only did the Stars have success, but he also had a significant impact on the Jazz program with his role in the development of the team’s young players. All of us wish Martin and his family the best as he moves forward with this exciting next step.”

Bart Taylor (Utah Jazz Director of Scouting/Salt Lake City Stars Vice President of Basketball Operations): “Martin guided the Stars to marked improvement each season, culminating with his well-deserved Coach of the Year honor last month. He should be proud of what he accomplished during his tenure with the Stars, as he leaves behind a winning culture and a pronounced impact on the Jazz organization through development of players, coaches and staff. We thank him for his dedication to our program. He will be missed.”

Jonathan Rinehart (Salt Lake City Stars President): “I’ve had the privilege to witness firsthand Martin’s passion and drive touch every aspect of our organization over the past three years, from the upward trajectory of our on-court performance and increased connectivity with the Jazz to our efforts in the community. He has been a true asset to the Stars franchise, which has grown immensely during his time with us, and has become a friend to many along the way. He will always be a part of the Jazz and Stars family, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best moving forward.”

In EuroLeague, Toko Shengelia signs with CSKA Moscow

Here’s Euroleague.net reporting on a former NBA player signing a new deal overseas:

CSKA Moscow solidified an already-strong roster by signing one of the premier players on the continent, former All-EuroLeague First Team selection Toko Shengelia, to a three-year contract on Thursday. Shengelia (2.06 meters, 28 years old) arrives from KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, where he spent the last six seasons. He averaged 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28 EuroLeague games last season

Shengelia played briefly in the NBA, between 2012-14, mostly for the Nets, plus nine games for the Bulls, for a career average of 1.3 points in 5.5 minutes per game.

In EuroLeague, Brandon Davies signs contract extension with FC Barcelona

Here’s Eurocupbasketball.com reporting on a former NBA player:

FC Barcelona and center Brandon Davies reached an agreement to extend his contract through the end of the 2021-22 season, the club announced Wednesday. Davies (2.08 meters, 28 years old) was already under contract for one more season and this deal will keep him at the club for an additional year. He averaged 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 28 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games last season, his first in Barcelona.

Davies, listed at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, played briefly in the NBA between 2013-15, mostly for the Sixers, plus seven games with the Nets, for an NBA career average of 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game.