Following Rule 3, I took a seat courtside at the Canadian Tire Centre Wednesday afternoon and waited for the goodness to unfold. What I witnessed was the Vancouver Canucks at their best – young, wild and free, playing a sport they don't usually get to compete in.
If you’re like me, you had no idea until now the National Basketball League of Canada existed, let alone featured nine teams, including the Ottawa SkyHawks, who are competing in their inaugural season. The SkyHawks host the Moncton Miracles Wednesday night, meaning the Canucks skated at the Senators’ nearby practice facility.
The court was vacant pre-practice and a game of bump ensued. It was fast-paced, hilarious, aggressive and ugly (unless air balls are your thing); Zack Kassian cheated, Ryan Kesler took it too seriously, Kevin Bieksa lost his cool and punted a ball across the court and in the end, Ryan Stanton beat Dale Weise for the title of Bump King – that doesn’t sound right at all actually, let’s just say Stanton won.
Trash talk was to be heard on the bus ride to the Bell Sensplex and again back to the Canadian Tire Centre. The court was again empty post-practice and next thing I knew, a game of half-court 3-on-3 was forming. Offence versus Defence – Kesler, Burrows and Kassian vs. Bieksa, Stanton and Tanev.
Rules to play by: 1 – Game is up to five, win by two points, 2 – If you score, you keep possession, and 3 – Eating yellow snow is still a no-no.
There was no jump ball, just Burrows shooting a free throw, which he swished, for first possession.
Sitting courtside, I was privy to all the trash talk these six had to offer and I finally understand why Burrows gets under the skin of his opposition: he never stops talking.
To start, Burrows’ play did the talking, however. Burrows put Team O up 1-0 with a money lay-up; Tanev responded by undressing Kassian before putting in a lay-up himself.
Burrows’ solid defensive play led to a mean block on Bieksa, and he proceeded to celebrate with some choice words, arm flails and a hip shake before realizing the game was still going on. As karma had it, Bieksa scored to make it 2-1 Team D.
“Can we slow it down now, my heart hurts,” gasped someone from the paint.
“Let’s make it 4-on-4,” replied Sestito, who joined Team D, while Dalpe became property of Team O.
Buckets from Burrows and Dalpe had Offence ahead 3-2, but Sestito and Tanev replied to make it 4-3 Defence. At this point there was a time check and with 19 minutes until the bus departed for the hotel, there was plenty of time to finish the game off right.
Don’t forget, win by two.
Also don’t forget, when Kesler goes Beastmode, it doesn’t matter what sport he’s playing, he’ll dominate.
Kesler hit a spin jumper to tie the game 4-4, then went nothing-but-net from the top of the key to help Team Offence pull ahead 5-4 and finally put the nail in the coffin when he drained the winning jump shot over Tanev.
Burrows and Kesler jumped in celebration before hearing coach Tortorella was already on the bus – they were off the court in a flash, victory in hand.
Player of the game for Team Offence was Kesler, with honourable mention to Burrows, the self-proclaimed “dishing machine” who played high school hoops growing up.
Player of the game for Team Defence was Tanev, with no honourable mention because Tanev is really, really good. He played basketball in middle school, but said he learned to ball on the streets.
If I don’t obey the rules, I don’t sit courtside. If I don’t sit courtside, I don’t witness the Canucks 3-on-3/4-on-4 goodness. If I don’t witness the goodness, we don’t all learn something new about Tanev: he’s a baller.
Photos by the one and only Jeffrey Vinnick.