The world, as we need a reminder after the last 15 months or so, is not perfect, so it should come as no surprise that the still-evolving edition of Canada’s men’s national basketball team isn’t perfect either.
It probably never will be, and come to accept that it should be an admissions test for Canadian basketball fans.
On paper, a ‘Dream Team’ version of the best of Canada is loaded into each position and sprinkled with the kind of elite players who make a difference that allow teams to win at the highest level.
It is intoxicating.
Just close your eyes and imagine Kelly Olynyk grabbing a rebound and throwing a strong out pass to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who then throws it to Jamal Murray with a no-look bunt pass that carries the Nuggets star to a pitch. triple open.
It may never happen. Murray will not play for Canada this summer due to a torn ACL; Gilgeous-Alexander has been closed for months with plantar fasciitis and has been ruled out. Olynyk, who has played 12 summers with the senior team, is a free agent poised to sign what could well be his last long-term NBA contract and with memories of the knee injury he sustained while with the national team ago. two summers probably front and center, that was absent Wednesday.
There are other key players missing for different reasons. It is the way of the world.
So it was for good reason that the men’s national team general manager, Rowan Barrett, began his comments after the first day of training camp in Tampa before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament from June 29 to July 4 in Victoria, expressing appreciation for those who were in the camp and understanding. for those who weren’t.
“I want to start by honoring our players who are sacrificing themselves to be here. I don’t use that word lightly, when you think about the condensed season our players have had to play as a result of COVID, the historical injury rate depending on which league you look at, ”Barrett said. “Some of them haven’t seen their family for weeks, even months, over a year … but they still choose to play for their countries.
“Committed to a full summer with us until August, some of them will have to leave the Olympics and return directly to their professional teams in Europe, as well as shortening the time they have off for those entering the NBA. . [So] I want to start by making sure to honor those players. “
The players had to arrive in Tampa on June 12 for testing and quarantine and, assuming Canada reaches Tokyo, they will be together until August 7. It does not work in the emergency room during a pandemic, but almost two months out of season. of what are typically short and dangerous races for a professional athlete is not asking for anything either.
Do you feel the ancient need to judge those who cannot or choose not to?
Save your breath. It’s not 1984 when Canada could bring a team of part-time professional and Canadian college players to the Los Angeles Olympics and finish fourth, losing in the bronze medal game to mighty Yugoslavia. And this is not hockey where the NHL and all the major leagues in Europe pause competition to allow players to play in the Olympics.
Players who are not available have reasons. Those who are willing to play must be recognized. The choice is not easy. Players have families, pesky injuries, weddings, or babies on the way. They work for teams with millions invested in them and have agents who cannot help but advise their clients to make safer decisions that maximize their professional potential.
“I think in any situation, no matter the reason, when you are asked to spend seven weeks on someone else’s schedule, it is challenging and especially in these strange times of the COVID pandemic,” said Dwight Powell, who hopes to reach out to the Olympic Games. after coming so heartbreakingly close in 2015 when he was in Mexico City and Canada lost a semifinal to Venezuela on a phantom foul on the buzzer after dominating the tournament. “We’re going to be under pretty strict protocols to make sure everyone is safe and we can keep all of our guys together. But, when that reason is to compete for your country, the decision is a little easier … we are all very excited about this opportunity because that is what it is, first and foremost. So the sacrifice is secondary to the fact that this is an opportunity to represent our country and compete for something that we all hold very close and dear to our hearts. We know that we can make our families and our country proud. That’s really the main focus. “
But Powell was on the other side of that coin in 2019 when he had every intention of playing for Canada in the World Cup, but withdrew when Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle visited him in Toronto to let him know. in person how important Powell was to what the Mavericks wanted to do that season. “Yeah, it’s a very, very difficult situation,” Powell said. “… You have to sit with your family and your camp and with yourself in silence and discover what is the best situation to make the most of your career. Over time, that will translate into helping the national team, hopefully at some point. But yes, those are some of the toughest decisions an athlete faces in terms of their career path and in terms of their legacy. That’s really … I’m sorry for anyone who’s in that position because I know what it is and it’s very, very difficult. “
Which players head coach Nick Nurse will have to turn to in Victoria and, if Canada wins the six-team qualifying tournament, at the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to August. 8 is a moving target. Tristan Thompson and Dillon Brooks are believed not to play, while Olynyk and Khem Birch, fans of the show in recent years, are outstanding free agents who nonetheless indicated they wanted to play but were not on the court Wednesday.
But there will be very good players. From a Canadian basketball perspective, perhaps the most talented team in history with eight current NBA players and two more with recent NBA experience is projected to be in the 12-man rotation. A starting five by Cory Joseph, Lu Dort, Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett with Powell in the middle should be taken seriously. Trey Lyles, Mychal Mulder and Nickeil Walker-Alexander give Canada an eight-man NBA rotation, while some seasoned international pros with long ties to the national team – Andrew Nicholson, Phil Scrubb, Owen Klassen, Melvin Ejim – should. complete the equipment very well. .
“I am very grateful to the guys who are here. We are as a Canadian basketball organization, ”Nurse said. “Its alot [and] there’s a lot. We’ve been to the Orlando bubble, a lot of these guys were there too. We have played in front of no fans. We have been through all these protocols. There has been testing, like, 400 days of testing in a row or whatever. And we’re back on pretty heavy protocols again, and not to mention contracts and body and rest and family, and the list goes on and on and on and on.
“Then [if the question is] What does that mean? It means everything they have done.
“It really does.”