NBA Notebook: US senator seeks safe passage for Kanter
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants to ensure Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, a Turkish star whom Turkey wants arrested for his criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be able to safely travel to Canada for a possible NBA championship series against the Toronto Raptors.
The Oregon senator wrote Tuesday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking that his government facilitate Kanter's safe passage to and from Canada if the Blazers advance to the title series.
The Blazers opened their semifinal series against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. The Raptors face the Milwaukee Bucks in the other semifinal series. The finals begin May 30.
Turkish officials have sought a "red notice" — an international wanted notice — for Kanter through Interpol. Kanter's Turkish passport was canceled in 2017.
Bucks, Raptors to begin Eastern Conference finals
There's a one-name superstar on either side: Giannis and Kawhi. There's a Milwaukee franchise that hasn't been to the NBA Finals in 45 years, opposite a Toronto franchise that has never been to the title round. The Bucks have a coach — Mike Budenholzer — with an economics degree who wasn't there last year; the Raptors have a coach — Nick Nurse — with an accounting degree who wasn't the boss last year.
Similarities abound between Milwaukee and Toronto.
Over the next couple of weeks, one team will separate itself.
The top-seeded Bucks play host to the second-seeded Raptors on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. They had the best records in the NBA this season — Milwaukee went 60-22, Toronto went 58-24 — and one of them will have home-court advantage for the NBA Finals starting May 30.
"You can't get caught up in people's expectations," Raptors star Kawhi Leonard said Tuesday. "You've got to worry about self-expectations, team expectations, and winning, and that's what we have to focus on."
Milwaukee has the best record in these playoffs so far at 8-1, and confidence is not in short supply. The Bucks' only blemish in these playoffs is a Game 1 loss at home against Boston in the second round, a mistake that will be on their minds Wednesday.
"Against Boston, you can go down 1-0 and you'll still be fine," Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Tuesday. "But against Toronto, it's hard to be in that spot, to lose the first game in your home."
Texas governor, lawmakers honor Nowitzki
Retired Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki has been honored by Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas lawmakers for his outstanding 21-year career with the same NBA team.
Nowitzki was in Austin on Tuesday to visit Abbott, who introduced the German-born athlete as the greatest player in the history of the Mavs and one of the greatest in the league.
The 40-year-old Nowitzki, who retired in April, also appeared in the Texas House and the Senate where he was congratulated by legislators and posed for photos.