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Fort Nucks: Basketball Jones

...a loose shootaround takes on a life of its own

by Derek Jory @NoJoryous / Canucks writer

Jake Virtanen is irked. Ben Hutton is peeved. Sam Gagner is vexed.  

All three want redemption.

Rewind to this past Monday: the Canucks practiced at Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena in Philadelphia because the 76ers were hosting the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center that night. It was a dress and drive, so the Canucks suited up in their equipment at Wells Fargo, before bussing to Class of 1923 Arena. But before getting dressed for practice, a few players noticed the 76ers court was empty… 

A handful of Canucks grabbed basketballs and started shooting around. A swish here, a swoosh there; no dunks, a few threes and plenty of laughs. By the time I arrived on the scene and started filming, it was less impressive.  

Tweet from @Canucks: Hey @JoelEmbiid & @sixers we could use some help out here...

Fast-forward to Tuesday night: the Canucks had just beaten the Flyers 5-2 in a solid overall performance to kickoff a six-game road trip. As I entered the dressing room to collect post-game quotes, Gagner called me out. "Come on man, are you serious with that basketball video? That's harsh. You roasted us." 

He was half kidding, half serious. He didn't laugh, but he also didn't slug me. Turns out the NHL had published a story carving the guys even more for their lack of basketball prowess. A Canucks post was one thing, this NHL story was another. It struck a nerve.  

I questioned a clearly perturbed Gagner on his level of seriousness. "I'm a baller. I can shoot. I'm a shooter. That video didn't do justice to our skills. I can't speak for the other two, but I've got game." He smirked, which was a relief, but after hearing it from Hutton and Virtanen as well, it's clear their basketball pride has been dribbled on.  

These guys are hockey players, yet basketball is near and dear to all three, especially Hutton who also considers himself to also be quite the baller. 

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Truth be told, moments after the shoot around video from Philadelphia ended, we were all kicked off the court because a senior men's team had rented it to shoot hoops. Normally I wouldn't have posted such an airball-laden video; I try to make the guys look good when I can and would have included a made shot or two. This wasn't their finest moment, nor mine. Self-inflicted wound indeed. 

There is hoop hope on the horizon. The Canucks have a day off Thursday in New York and if the weather is agreeable and we can get our hands on a ball, Gagner, Virtanen and Hutton will be hooping it up. 

Stay tuned.

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