With notable top NBA players missing from camp, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse will try to lead Canada to an Olympic berth at the FIBA World Cup.
The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. Canadian basketball is at its absolute peak with a ton of young rising stars in the NBA. So why is it so hard for Canada to put together a FIBA World Cup team?
The tournament kicks off in China on Saturday, Aug. 31 and will be coached by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. There was a ton of optimism leading up to the tournament on the type of roster Canada would be able to put together.
With so many great players to pick from, who wouldn’t be excited about Canada’s chances? Then the names of the players who WOULDN’T be playing started to come out. Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, R.J. Barrett. It didn’t stop there though. Jamal Murray, Dwight Powell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have all backed out. As have Dillon Brooks, Trey Lyles, Brandon Clarke, and Nik Stauskas. Some due to injuries, while others are due to personal reasons.
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However, this isn’t strictly a Team Canada issue. The U.S team has many notable star players who will be absent from their roster; the difference is the amount of depth that each team has. While Canada should have a talented group of players to pick from, it’s nowhere close to the embarrassment of riches that the Americans have.
Two players who are familiar to Canadian basketball fans will be there though, as both Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk have been confirmed to be at camp. Joseph has been a part of the national program for years, and Toronto Raptors fans will remember his brief stint in Southern Ontario, when he played for the team for two seasons during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 campaigns.
Team Canada finds themselves in Group H with Australia, Lithuania, and Senegal. A top-two finish in the group guarantees them an entry to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, while anything less would not only be a disappointment; but would also force them into another qualifying tournament to compete at the games.
It’s frustrating when one of the top players in the league comes out and says “I would exchange the MVP title for the gold medal in China”. That’s what Giannis Antetokounmpo said when asked about competing for Greece at the FIBA World Cup. It would be nice to see this kind of commitment and determination from some of Canada’s top stars. Unfortunately representing an entire country just doesn’t seem to be as much of a priority for some players as it is for others.
What are your thoughts on players not playing for Canada at the FIBA World Cup? Does Nick Nurse have a tough job ahead to get the team into the 2020 Olympics? Let us know in the comments below.