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TORONTO, ON–The president of the National Basketball League of Canada would like to invite locked out NBA players to come to Canada and continue professional play, should the NBA season not start as many are predicting.
“What a great opportunity for NBA players,” says Andre Levingston. “NBL Canada can provide them with highly competitive play in professional arenas with great fan bases, while still being relatively close to home.”
Two of the founding NBL Canada teams sport head coaches with NBA experience. Mike Evans, the head coach of the Halifax Rainmen was formerly the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, and has also served as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors. The Saint John Mill Rats head coach Jaren Jackson won an NBA World Championship as a key contributor on the 1999 San Antonio Spurs.
“I am confident that NBL Canada can give NBA players an environment that will help keep their skills sharp and maintain their physical conditioning until the NBA resumes play,” stated Coach Evans.
Three of the NBL Canada teams suited up former NBA players last season in a prior league.
The Saint John Mill Rats featured 6’11 former Toronto Raptor centre, Toree Morris, while the Quebec Kebs had former Portland Trailblazer, Erick Barkley, running the point. The Halifax Rainmen dressed another former Trailblazer, 6’7 sniper shooting guard, Desmond Ferguson, as well as former Houston Rocket and Utah Jazz forward, Kirk Snyder.
It was an unprecedented NBA Draft for Canadian players this year as two Toronto natives were taken as first round picks. 6’9 forward Tristan Thompson was selected #4 in the draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his 6’2 point guard teammate, Cory Joseph, was taken #29 by the San Antonio Spurs.
NBL Canada held their first league owners meeting this past week in Toronto and is currently working towards releasing the 2011-12 season schedule. The league is set to tip off in November 2011 with a 36 game regular season schedule ending in March.