By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on January 23, 2024.
Joel Anthony still fondly remembers all the veteran players who helped him through his NBA career and the local stars who inspired him as a young kid growing up in Montreal.
Now he wants to do the same.
Anthony played 10 seasons in the NBA, winning two championships with the Miami Heat, but is now the general manager of the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Montreal Alliance. He said that one of his motivations for getting involved in the summer-season pro league is to showcase high-level professional basketball in the Montreal area and inspire the next generation of NBA-calibre talent.
“That was honestly a big reason that I wanted to be a part of this is because of the impact that it could possibly have on our basketball community in Montreal,” said Anthony. “We’ve always felt Montreal has always been more of an underdog city and you see it with the type of players that have come out of here.
“They haven’t received as much notoriety coming in. A lot of undrafted guys, or guys that people just didn’t know much about.”
Anthony points to current and former NBAers like Samuel Dalembert, Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, and Lu Dort as examples of unheralded players from the Montreal area. Only recently, with the emergence of Bennedict Mathurin, has the perception of Montreal seem to have changed.
“Now you’re at the point where you have someone like Ben that’s coming in straight through the front door,” said Anthony, nothing that Mathurin was drafted sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2022 NBA draft. “To me, that was huge, because you see this progression of players coming from our city and I think it’s great to see for the fans.
“Now with the Alliance, what you’re able to have is really high-level basketball where before it was, really just like USports, it was just university basketball.”
Boucher, who is now a forward with the Toronto Raptors, said that seeing Anthony’s career path made him realize that becoming an NBA player was a possibility for him.
“(Anthony) was playing with LeBron James and that was during that time when I was trying to figure it out if I wanted to play basketball or not,” said Boucher, sitting at his locker in Scotiabank Arena. “Seeing him and the impact that he had, and it’s not like he was shooting the ball or whatever, but he was really an anchor defensively and getting rebounds and he won two championships.
“So I was like, ‘OK, he did it once, he did it twice,’ it really showed a lot of people in Montreal that we could find a way to get there.”
Although Boucher feels that Anthony opened the door to him and other future NBAers, they didn’t actually meet until Boucher’s career was well underway. Anthony’s hope that the Alliance’s presence in Montreal will create a centralized basketball community, instead of people forging their own paths.
“They could share in a moment, maybe network, have ideas, and just be here for the love of the game,” said Anthony. “That’s why the name is so perfect with the Alliance where we can combine all this and give everyone an outlet to enjoy and express this game at a high level.”
Free agency begins at the start of February in the CEBL, with the season beginning on May 21 when the Calgary Surge host the Edmonton Stingers at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Montreal’s campaign starts on May 23 when it visits the Vancouver Bandits.
BARRETT ROLLING – RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., has averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in his 12 games with the Raptors after the New York Knicks traded him to Toronto on Dec. 30. That’s a significant improvement over his numbers with New York, where he averaged 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists this season. Barrett said it’s just a better fit for him in Toronto.
“I didn’t change a thing. This is who I am,” said Barrett after scoring 29 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. “This is how I play and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to showcase that.”
THOMPSON SUSPENDED – Cleveland Cavaliers centre Tristan Thompson was suspended 25 games by the NBA for violating its anti-drug program on Tuesday. The league said that Thompson, from Brampton, Ont., tested positive for ibutamoren and SARM LGD-4033. His suspension will begin with Wednesday’s game between Cleveland and the Milwaukee Bucks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.