Before anything else, before the ball goes up and wins follow (or the heart breaks), before star players who pledge to dress do or don’t, and before long-delayed Canadian basketball dreams come true or not, a moment to pause and reflect:
What the Canadian senior men’s national team did on Tuesday under the guidance of general manager Rowan Barrett and coach Nick Norse was remarkable, potentially setting a precedent and (ideally) the start of a special era for basketball in the country.
There are no guarantees, of course.
After years in which recruiting top players for the national team often meant asking questions well, hoping for their appearance and often disappointed when they didn’t, the duo running the program changed their approach, choosing to challenge the country’s best players to be so. Part of something greater than themselves, make their commitment public – and presumably – to hold everyone accountable when the time for crisis comes.
When announcing the 14-player “summer core” — the players who signed up to play for Canada this summer in the FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers, the next summer for the Basketball World Cup and the 2024 summer for the Paris Olympics — I tried to solve the “will-is-play-or” problem. -No-Playing” by asking a simple question up front: Are you with us or not?
It seems that some really good players are all there. Heading the list is Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray, Oklahoma City Thunder guards Shay Gilgus Alexander and Logwentz Durt, Memphis Grizzlies winger Dillon Brooks and New York Knicks winger RJ Barrett, as well as veteran national team members Corey Joseph, Melvin Agem and Kelly Olynyk, among others.
Players who have submitted their names deserve credit for doing so. If they had a choice, they chose to play for Canada over play and the ultimate fumble and shadows.
Of course, some really good players aren’t on the list, most notably Andrew Wiggins, the NBA star who is peaking with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals right now. Wiggins has played for Canada in the past – most recently in the Olympic qualifiers last summer – but told the nurse he wasn’t ready to commit for three summers.
No hard feelings.
“I appreciate guys who say ‘You know what? I just can’t do it. I can’t commit for three years. And if there’s a place, I’ll go in and try to play.'”
“But we know we also appreciate the guys who say ‘I’m here, man.'” I want to play. I want this team to do well and we get exactly what you’re trying to do here.”
The door hasn’t been shut on Wiggins or others like Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors, veteran senior Tristan Thompson or sharpshooter Kyle Weltger, who has been a constant in Canadian uniforms over the years.
It’s just that if they wanted to play when the time came, they wouldn’t guarantee a place.
Our commitment to these players [announced Tuesday] Rowan Barrett said. “[If] I committed, you’ll be here [on the team] …”
Any late arrivals – Wiggins or otherwise – will have to rely on an open spot through injury or withdrawal.
The plan is to gather at a training camp in July before Canada hosts the Dominican Republic in Hamilton for the World Cup qualifier match on July 1 and again next summer before the World Cup and the following summer before the Olympics — providing Canada qualify for the World Championships in 2023 and doesn’t have to Taking on the challenge of an Olympic qualifying tournament one last chance like the one they failed in Victoria in 2021 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The plan is to see Canada’s apparent talent – the only country producing more NBA players at the moment is the US – come together on the floor after a decade in which the story was about who doesn’t play instead of who wears red and white.
Barrett and Nurse don’t have much to offer other than the chance to make history.
“One of the things I always share with the guys about this is, you know, you’re going to play for many years in the pro. You’re going to forget some of the guys you played with; you’re going to forget some of the games you played. Like, you’re going to forget these,” said Barrett who was the Olympic captain in 2000. The things”.
“[But] You will never forget your Olympic experience. There is no way. Every team will remember their game. You will remember every player on this team. You remember what it felt like to walk around the Olympic Village knowing that you are one of the best players in the world at what you do. This is a powerful thing that leaves an indelible mark and is something money cannot buy you.”
No member of the show has felt this way in a generation.
The men’s team has not qualified for the Olympics since 2000 – Canada’s only Olympic tournament since 1988 – even when players have been regularly drafted into the NBA Lottery, age-group teams have proven to be among the best in the world and the Canadian Women’s Program has moved up the rankings Qualification for three consecutive Olympics.
“All the young players and talents that keep coming up, playing, shining, getting better and better will make us stronger in many areas,” said Nurse, who is starting his second Olympics after joining the programme. in the summer of 2019.
“But then you have to have a great team that I think shines a light and I think so [the senior men’s team] He needs to play better, compete better and win more. We decided to leave Victoria [where Canada lost its Olympic bid in a semifinal game in overtime to the Czech Republic] is that we needed more continuity… we got to it [have] commitment.”
What does this commitment look like? It’s going to be interesting to watch, and one doubts that the actual roster coming up with the World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics in 2024 will be different from the 14 players announced on Tuesday, where life used to stand in our way while we make plans and everything. So.
The expectation is that for any of the official team events leading up to the Olympics, players are expected to be there for at least three days even if they are unable to play due to injury, contract status or family obligations. The hope is that physical presence will help players gain a deeper understanding of the nurse’s schemes and build some important chemistry as well.
But it’s not hard to imagine some hiccups.
How strong would Canada Basketball be if someone as integral as Murray or Gilgeous-Alexander was out of the World Cup, for example, but wanted to play in the Olympics? What’s Next?
Or if someone like rookie San Antonio Spurs guard Josh Primo breaks out, or if Ben Mathurin explodes, or if Gonzaga producer Andrew Nimbard makes a jump? Will they really be taken away from the team in favor of a player who is less committed to them up front?
Similarly, Purdue University’s Zach Edey center is on the list even if he’s only heading into his third season and is expected – at best – a second-round selection if and when he drops out of college. At seven feet four feet tall, it offers enormous size and the promise of a program that works a little depth for adults, but it’s easy to see a scenario where it isn’t ready to contribute to the Olympics by 2024. Will it be moved to Paris anyway, even if there is a great desire More at play?
These are mostly good problems, but they can be problems nonetheless.
The first glimpse we should get of the substance should come next month, but some of the facts of the plan will also be apparent. One player has already been excused because his partner expects him, and Murray, Durt, Gilgeos Alexander and Barrett have all finished their regular seasons with injuries to varying degrees, so it will be interesting to see if they are cleared to participate in training, let alone play – not that they will be required given Canada is qualifying 4-0 in the playoffs and has already progressed to the next stage.
Truth isn’t something ideal, and getting all the interested parties needed to sign highly paid professional athletes to play international basketball in the middle of the off season will always be an element of herding cats.
But for once, a line has been drawn: You are either in or out.
For a Basketball Association deep in Canada’s talent, this is a reasonable position to take.
Now we can see if this is the start of something special.