VICTORIA—It has been virtually six years since this opportunity was final introduced to Canada’s senior males’s basketball staff — six lengthy, disappointing years to consider a wonderful Olympic alternative squandered.
The scene is completely different, this idyllic British Columbia metropolis versus the bustle of Mexico Metropolis. The circumstances are tougher, one Video games berth obtainable as an alternative of two. And lots of the names have modified; at most there will likely be 5 gamers this week who performed in Mexico.
However the stakes are unaltered. Win the six-team event and qualify for the Olympics for the primary time since 2000. Lose and face the identical questions on this system, about Canada Basketball lacking one other probability to leverage one in all its marquee groups with sponsors and followers.
Win and the summer time will get prolonged by means of the Tokyo, with visions of medals forming. Lose and begin once more for Paris in 2024. Who is aware of what the basketball world will appear like when that point rolls round?
No, if there may be to be golden age of Canadian males’s basketball, it has to start out right here. This week. With this group.
Twelve gamers will emerge Monday, when rosters must be finalized for Tuesday’s opener in opposition to Greece, and coach Nick Nurse will likely be a comparatively small however athletically gifted group.
It does no good to match it, talent-wise, to different Canadian groups; a lot of them had distinctive gamers, as this one does. It’s how they mesh, how they deal with the strain that issues most.
Mexico Metropolis holdovers like Cory Joseph, Andrew Wiggins and Dwight Powell ought to do a lot of the heavy lifting. There will likely be intense strain on RJ Barrett, enjoying in his first important senior event, together with NBAers Lu Dort and Mychal Mulder and promising guards Trae Bell-Haynes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Andrew Nembhard.
There would appear to be adequate expertise for Canada to earn the one obtainable spot. Nurse’s greatest activity is discovering a gaggle he trusts to deal with the psychological and bodily stresses of the final, typically frantic seconds of shut video games.
Not like the NBA, with a number of timeouts obtainable to every staff and limitless critiques that enable groups to make use of timeouts they don’t have, FIBA video games typically devolve into frenetic finishes solely within the fingers of the gamers on the court docket. Groups are restricted to once they can name timeouts — solely in dead-ball conditions and solely from the bench — and they’re allowed simply two per half that aren’t transferable from one to the opposite.
It places a premium not solely on the fast pondering of gamers within the warmth of the second, however on the preparation drilled into them for weeks.
“It’s actually one of many issues that’s on the prime of our precedence record,” Nurse stated. “Loads of these video games are going to return down to those performs and with the ability to execute them. We’ve acquired to do the very best we are able to to have a gaggle of fellows that we expect could be (the very best) in these conditions.”
The event was delayed a 12 months due to the worldwide pandemic and the residual affect of COVID-19 remains to be being felt. The six groups and prime officers are sequestered in their very own lodge, there are strict testing protocols for anybody with something to do with the occasion, and the primary two days of competitors will likely be held in an empty facility.
British Columbia well being officers will enable 10 per cent of capability on the 7,400-seat Save-On-Meals Memorial Centre for the ultimate day of group play July 1 — Canada doesn’t play that day — in addition to subsequent weekend’s semifinals and championship recreation. That can give event organizers an opportunity to recoup the $3 million “internet hosting price” it took to get the occasion in Canada.
A have a look at the opposite groups within the Olympic qualification event that begins Tuesday in Victoria:
- Greece: Lengthy considered Canada’s greatest risk, Greece arrives with out Giannis Antetokounmpo and his older brother Thannis, who’re attempting to get the Milwaukee Bucks into the NBA Finals. The staff can be lacking the enduring Vassilis Spanoulis and former Raptors draft choose Georgios Printezis due to accidents. Nonetheless, head coach Rick Pitino has a strong roster anchored by the youngest Antetokounmpo, Kostas, ex-NBAer Nick Calathes and nationwide staff veteran Georgios Papagiannis. Greece is attempting to get again to the Olympics for the primary time since 2008.
- Turkey: Nobody ought to sleep on Turkey which is attempting to finish an Olympic drought that’s been in place since 1954. There’s a surfeit of NBA expertise in Fukan Korkmaz of the Sixers, Ersan İlyasova of Utah and ex-Cavalier Cedi Osman, who averaged practically 21 factors a recreation on the 2019 World Cup. It’s an older staff however the craftiness that comes with FIBA expertise shouldn’t be discounted. There’s additionally Shane Larkin, the expatriate American who has settled in as Turkey’s ground chief.
- Czech Republic: The Czechs haven’t appeared at an Olympics because the breakup of Czechoslovakia and are lengthy photographs this time. However they’d a stirring run to a sixth-place end on the 2019 World Cup which ought to give them a lift of confidence in Victoria. Essentially the most acquainted identify is Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky, who averaged 13 factors, 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds on the World Cup. Veteran seven-foot centre Jan Vesely provides the Czechs some measurement and worldwide expertise.
- China: Will probably be a wierd Olympics if China isn’t represented because the nation has been in 9 straight Video games stretching again to 1984. However the qualification course of has modified and host Japan is getting the Asian berth that traditionally has gone to China. Essentially the most recognizable identify may need been ex-NBAer Yi Jianlian however he’s injured. Search for six-foot-3 guard Quia Wu, the Chinese language Basketball Federation MVP, to be the staff’s most essential participant.
- Uruguay: This may be the least-known staff within the event and ranked No. 45 within the FIBA rankings, it’s the staff with the least probability at surviving the week. Veteran guard Esteban Batista, 37, could be probably the most acquainted participant to long-time FIBA observers however teen Bruno Fitipaldo was the staff’s main scorer in AmeriCup qualifying final 12 months. Uruguay hasn’t been within the Olympics because the boycotted 1984 Video games in Los Angeles.
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