Mavs’ Dwight Powell among Canadians cherishing all-star weekend

Mavericks forward Dwight Powell, left, looks to pass against Nikola Mirotic of the Bulls earlier this season. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

TORONTO — Dwight Powell has the shoes to prove he’s part of NBA all-star weekend.

Bright green and size 16, they were a gift from Nike. But the biggest perk for the six-foot-11 Dallas Mavericks forward, a participant in Friday’s Rising Stars game, is being part of the festivities in his hometown of Toronto.

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When he found out he was going, the first thing he did was call one of his best friends.

"We just kind of laughed for 15 minutes," Powell said after a relaxed World team practice at Ricoh Coliseum. "He reminded me of the mornings at 6 a.m. here in Toronto when it’s blizzarding outside and he would come pick me up and we’d go to practice.

"Just thinking how we went from there, now I’m putting tickets for him at will-call at all-star weekend."

Drafted in the second round, 45th overall, by the Charlotte Hornets in 2014, Powell was traded three times — from Charlotte to Cleveland to Boston — before the start of his rookie season. Part of the deal that brought Rajon Rondo to Dallas from the Celtics, he has found a home with the Mavericks.

"I’m grateful for the path that I had, even though there was some adversity and bumps in the road," he said. "I’m sure there’ll be more. But I’m definitely proud of this moment."

The 24-year-old Powell is one of three Canadians in the Rising Stars game. Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Trey Lyles of the Utah Jazz are also part of the World squad. Wiggins was MVP of the game last year.

All have their own story to tell.

Wiggins is the hotshot kid from the University of Kansas who was taken first overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who then traded him to Minnesota.

Wiggins, who turns 21 on Feb. 23, drew a crowd upon his return to what he called "my favourite city in the world."

"It feels good to be able to play in front of my family and friends," said the pithy Wiggins.

The 20-year-old Lyles is the rare NBAer from Saskatchewan, born in Saskatoon to an American dad and Canadian mom. Father Thomas Lyles was playing for the Saskatoon Storm of the World Basketball League.

Lyles was seven when he left Saskatchewan. But he wears his birthplace proudly.

"I’m the only guy that’s made the NBA from there. So it’s a big thing for me."

He too was sporting the green Nike shoes Friday.

"They gave us some new kicks to wear," he said with a smile. "I’m into the bright colours, the different colours so I like them."

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