1. INTERNATIONAL PRESEASON GAMES: The Raptors fly to Japan on Saturday for two games against the Houston Rockets next week. It’s so cool that fans all over the world can witness the greatness of NBA players. The league has really done a terrific job of selling the sport around the globe. It’s so important to keep growing the game. The travel is a grind for players and staff, but the overall benefit to everyone involved in the league is significant. It’s worth it.
2. MATT THOMAS (Raptors): I was impressed with his smooth shooting stroke at training camp in Quebec City. It’s so important in today’s NBA to have as much shooting on your roster as possible. Floor spacing is critical for offensive success. You can never have enough of it.
3. MARKELLE FULTZ (Magic): The Orlando guard will play in the first preseason game this weekend. Needless to say, hoops fans in central Florida are crossing their fingers that the former No. 1 pick is ready to get his strange and disappointing Philadelphia run behind him. D.J. Augustin is a sound and serviceable point guard, but if Fultz can ever reach his potential it will be a significant upgrade for them.
4. ZION WILLIAMSON (Pelicans): I had to laugh at the news that his actual height is “only” 6-foot-6. I’m getting a kick out of the new NBA rule about proper heights and ages being listed for the players. I think fans in New Orleans will be more than happy with him outjumping and blowing by opponents no matter how tall he really is. It’s about what you do rather than your size.
5. COACH’S CHALLENGE: I’m pleased that this new element will be in place this season. Obviously there will be a learning curve for coaches, officials and the league in general. Anything that will gradually improve the percentage of correct calls is a step in the right direction. As we all know, the correct usage of the challenge and the impact it will make is certain to grow as we get into the meat of the season.