A giant roar for MagloireT.O. fans should give native son some love
By BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN
There is a feel-good story this season for Toronto basketball enthusiasts and obviously it has nothing to do with the Raptors. Jamaal Magloire, a Toronto kid who plays centre for the New Orleans Hornets, made the NBA's Eastern Conference all-star team.
He arguably was the best player in the all-star game last month in Los Angeles and he likely would have been named the MVP had the East won.
This afternoon Magloire will make his first appearance in Toronto since his all-star coming-out party. Hopefully his recent accomplishments will be raucously recognized by the crowd at the Air Canada Centre when he gets introduced.
"The fans in Toronto always have treated me well," Magloire said. "It's always nice when your accomplishments get acknowledged in the city you grew up in. And Toronto is my city."
So now that Magloire is a big-shot all-star, do his friends and family try to take him down a peg?
"No, everything is pretty much the same," Magloire said with a laugh. "I always look forward to coming home. It's nice to see my family and friends and I'm sure they'll treat me the same. But I have noticed lately that people I see around the league have been congratulating me a lot more."
In 62 games with the Hornets this season, Magloire, a four-year pro and a product of Toronto's Eastern Commerce high school, has averaged 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds. Both those numbers would represent career-highs if maintained. Heading into play yesterday, Magloire ranked 13th in the league in rebounds per game, ninth in offensive rebounds per game and ninth in double-doubles.
Magloire, 25, has played exactly 300 regular-season games in his NBA career and hasn't missed a game since his rookie year. But the all-star experience has taken his notoriety to an entirely different level.
"There's a price to be paid, though," Magloire said. "I do see a lot more double-teams now and a lot of different defences. But I get the feeling the other players are showing me a lot more respect, so that's a good thing."
Yours truly has been among those in the past who has urged Magloire and Canada Basketball to work out their differences so Magloire can participate regularly in the national-team program. Magloire believes some of the criticism he has received is unfair, but he should understand the emotional nature of the debate amounts to a huge compliment for him.
In a lengthy session with the media during the all-star weekend, Magloire was blunt when stating his concerns about the plight of young basketball players in Toronto ("the city does not have the facilities to accommodate this generation") and the national team ("it has to better understand what the players of today need").
The wish here remains that Magloire and the national team someday will come to an agreement. It would be wonderful if Magloire got involved and tried to change the things about the program that he doesn't like. That greatly would benefit the next crop of Toronto hoops dreamers, so this situation still can have a very positive result.
But that's a discussion for another day. Presently, Magloire's game continues to expand as the Hornets steel themselves for the rigours of a playoff run.
Magloire, an intensely proud Torontonian, truly is a local kid made good. He has excelled in a sport that has not welcomed many Canadian pros.
The Toronto basketball community has had few occasions to celebrate recently, given the state of the Raptors. But Magloire's presence this afternoon will provide a rare, legitimate opportunity to cheer for something tangible.
Toronto fans always have greeted Magloire warmly. Hopefully they can do better than that today.