Photo Couresy of:

Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canadian players making history in first week of the 2021-22 NBA season



Oct 22, 2021

One week into the 2021-22 NBA season and we’ve already had a Canadian first happen twice. During two different games in the league’s Wednesday night slate we saw lineups that featured three Canadians on the court at the same time, playing for the same team. In Detroit it was veterans Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles sharing the floor together for the first time as NBA teammates, rather than Team Canada veterans.

The milestone happened again in Toronto, as rookie Dalano Banton joined big men Chris Boucher and Khem Birch to make another little piece of Canadian Basketball history.

“I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” Birch said. “Last night was the first time we had three Canadians on the same team [at the same time]. This is history, right now. I’m just embracing it.”

Wednesday also marked the first NBA game to be played in Toronto since Feb. 28, 2020. It was a huge night for Banton, the rookie who became the first Canadian drafted by the Toronto Raptors when he was selected 46th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Rexdale native who was a huge Raptors fan himself growing up, had a night he won’t soon forget, earning the loudest ovation during pre-game introductions.

Banton showed his appreciation to the fans for the warm welcome home, providing a huge boost for the Raptors when he entered the game near the end of the third quarter. His first career points came on a halfcourt buzzer-beating three to end the quarter. The crowd reacted accordingly.

Though the Raptors fell 98-83 to the Washington Wizards in their season debut, Banton finished with seven points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal in his first 12 minutes of NBA action. He also was a team-best +8 in the game.

“Just to play in front of the home crowd and hear that noise was great,” Banton said after the game. “I appreciate all the fans just for loving me and taking me in with such open arms.”

Around the league on opening night, Andrew Wiggins contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in a Warriors victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, RJ Barrett had 19 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in a double-overtime New York Knicks victory against the Boston Celtics, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 23 points in his season debut for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Toronto native Joshua Primo became the youngest player to hit a three-pointer in his NBA debut last night in a San Antonio Spurs victory against the Orlando Magic.

Primo, selected 12th overall by the Spurs in the 2021 NBA Draft, is the youngest player in the NBA.

Kevin Pangos made his long-awaited NBA debut, hitting the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. After six seasons playing in Europe, the 28-year-old point guard signed a two-year deal with the Cavaliers in September. For more on how Pangos ended up in Cleveland, Chris Fedor of chronicled the history between the Cavaliers and Pangos, dating back to the team bringing him in for a pre draft workout six years ago, in 2015.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stuffed the stat sheet for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, finishing with 29 points, six rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a blocked shot while teammate Luguentz Dort added 13 points. Third-year Gilgeous-Alexander is leading all Canadians in scoring through the first week of action, averaging 20.0 points per game over Oklahoma City's first three games of the season.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, is second. Alexander-Walker has opened the season strong in New Orleans, averaging 17.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest through four games for the Pelicans.

Though the Detroit Pistons fell 122-104 to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Kelly Olynyk gave Pistons fans a glimpse of his all-around game, contributing 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in the loss.

Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray is still sidelined as he continues to recover from ACL surgery, but we would be remiss not to mention that the rehab is going well. Check out this video shared by the Nuggets official Twitter, via Murray himself.

As the NBA begins its second week of the season, every franchise has high hopes for all that this year could bring. One thing that's already for certain is that there will be plenty of Canadian content along the way. With a record-number 18 Canadians on NBA opening night rosters, Canadian fans can catch Canadian hoopers in action on 13 different teams across the NBA this season.