Canada Basketball Must Avoid Repeating Mistakes Before Tokyo 2020

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The Canadian National Basketball Team has done what most basketball fans was impossible; they failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. The country that has had a surge of basketball talent in the last couple of years has yet again failed to put it all together. The team management of Steve Nash and Rowan Barrett have continuously said that their goal is to make the 2020 Olympics. But for the team that has the second highest number of NBA players, failing to qualify has to be considered a disaster. Canada Basketball will have to rectify a number of key issues to improve.

Canada Basketball Must Avoid Repeating Mistakes Before Tokyo 2020

The Rio Qualifying Process

Early last Sunday morning Canada played in a do-or-die game against world number five France in Manila, Philippines. Both teams were missing a number of key contributors but it was the stellar play of their France’s stars Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum that aided the French to qualify for Rio 2016. Although Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph put up a valiant effort, his 20 points were not enough. The lack of depth, scoring and shooting was evident with this team.

This Canadian team fought hard all tournament and cannot be blamed for their effort. Every player on the team played their heart out and sacrificed their time and energy to proudly represent their country. So where does the blame lie? Who can Canadian basketball fans accuse for this failure.

Ultimately the blame rests on the players, specifically those who refused an invitation to don the maple leaf. Jay Triano and his staff brought five NBA players to Manila. Tristan Thompson; Cory Joseph; Joel Anthony; Anthony Bennett and Tyler Ennis all made the trip. They were accompanied by players like Melvin Ejim and Khem Birch who although may not have played in the NBA are certainly NBA level players. This leaves nine NBA players who refused an invitation. How is Canada expected to win when their best talent refuses to play? Talisman Andrew Wiggins; Nik Stauskas; Andrew Nicholson; Robert Sacre; Kelly Olynyk; Dwight Powell; Trey Lyles; Olivier Hanlan and Jamal Murray all rejected an offer to play.

Committment from NBA Players

While some have excuses as to why they did not participate, many simply refused to play. Citing they were focusing on improving for the upcoming NBA season. Players like Olivier Hanlan and Jamal Murray are in Summer League trying to make an NBA roster. Others such as Robert Sacre were without an NBA contract throughout the tournament have legitimate excuses. Others should be ashamed for cowering when their nation needed them. Andrew Nicholson and Dwight Powell were without contracts when the tournament started, but both signed before last Sunday’s game. France’s Nicholas Batum was without a contract but signed before the tournament ended and made the long trip to the Philippines to be a key contributor to his team beating Canada. So why could Nicholson and Powell not do the same as Batum?

Nik Stauskas and Trey Lyles might claim Summer League took them away from the tournament. But this too is not an excuse as neither player is in doubt of making their respective rosters and could easily have opted out and gone to Manila. Then there are is Kelly Olynyk and Andrew Wiggins, arguably Canada’s two best players were not without a contract, are not injured and are not unsure of their place within their respective teams. If Steve Nash truly believes Canada can make the Olympics in 2020 they will need better commitment from their stars.

Management and Coaching

While most of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of the players, questions must be asked of the Canadian management and coaching staff. The international game is a more physical and rough game than that of the NBA. Because of this it was clear that Steve Nash and Jay Triano decided to load their frontcourt with physical specimens. Anthony Bennett; Melvin Ejim; Tristan Thompson and Khem Birch is as athletic a frontcourt as you will find anywhere in the world. The issue with that is none of them are excellent floor spacers. Bennett and Ejim can hit the occasional three pointer. Yet they do most of their damage diving to the rim and finishing through players.

This would generally not be a problem if you have guards who are capable of making jumpers, something none of Tyler Ennis, Cory Joseph, Thomas Scrubb nor Phil Scrubb are incredibly adept at. This is why there were some curious exemptions from this team Canada. Oregon Ducks star Dillon Brooks and Harvard sniper Corey Johnson were both available to play for this team yet neither were selected. Brooks would have been another player who could create his own shot and score for himself, while Johnson is one of the best three point shooters in all of college basketball. If the argument is that they are too young then why add highschooler Shai Alexander on the squad. Yes he is an incredible talent and could very well be in the NBA someday but Brooks and Johnson would probably have been more valuable now.

The Next Steps

So what is next for team Canada? The immediate future is bleak for the country as there is officially no way for them to make the 2016 summer Olympics. Long-term there is a lot of hope. Every player Canada has in the NBA with the exception of Joel Anthony is 26 years old or younger. They also have some exceptional college athletes like Dillon Brooks; Montaque Gill-Ceasar; Corey Johnson and Chris Boucher.

While their highschool prospects are even more appealing. The star is Rowan Barrett Jr. who is being called the next Andrew Wiggins and is the number one player in his draft year. But there is also NBA potential in Oshae Brissett; Shai Alexander; Simisola Shittu; Justin Jackson and Andrew Nembhard to just name a few. The goal for team Canada is the 2020 Olympics. If they wish to qualify successfully then the staff will need to make smarter decisions when selecting the roster. But they are still one of the top countries in the world and should qualify with relative ease.

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