NBA stars commit to Canada Basketball for three years, set to play July 1 in Hamilton
Canada Basketball has secured summer commitments of 14 key players for a three-year cycle as the senior men’s team attempts to make its first Olympic Games since 2000 in Sydney.
The organization announced Tuesday morning that rising NBA stars Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett have answered the call for multi-year commitments starting this summer and running through 2024 in Paris, if Canada qualifies.
Veteran regulars like Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Pangos, Melvin Ejim and Khem Birch are also among the 14, along with NBAers Oshae Brissett, Lu Dort, Dwight Powell, Dillon Brooks and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Middle schooler Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 center who will return to Purdue for the upcoming season, is the only middle schooler and will bring the necessary height.
All 14 players have agreed to attend at least training camp for all three summers, even though they are injured and unable to play. Murray, who stood out in the NBA bubble for the Denver Nuggets, missed the entire 2021-22 season.
Canada Basketball will draw from its vast non-NBA pool during winter qualifying periods, such as the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers in November and February 2023.
Canada will host a World Cup qualifier against the Dominican Republic in Hamilton on July 1 and play in the US Virgin Islands on July 4.
Senior men’s general manager Rowan Barrett told a press conference on Tuesday that ‘systematic change’ was needed following the astonishing two-point extra-time loss to the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament Last Chance Olympic Games last July in Victoria.
Despite producing more NBA players than any other country except the United States, Canada hasn’t been able to consistently field its best players over the the last decade. This has led to a lack of continuity, with opponents, many of whom have played together for years and know each other’s nuances and preferences inside and out, taking advantage to bridge the talent gap.
Many factors prevent every Canadian star from being available for every window. Contracts, injuries and family matters are still in play. But this approach at least guarantees a great squad for years to come.
It’s also still possible that players unable to commit to multiple summers at the moment, including Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, who was terrific for Canada last summer after returning to the fold and is currently bursting into the NBA playoffs, and free agent Raptors big Chris Boucher, could play at some point, according to Canada head coach Nick Nurse. But the 14 on the roster and some winter participants will get priority, according to Nurse, who has advocated this approach for some time, as has Barrett.
“If you commit you’re in, if you don’t commit you’re going to have to hope there’s a place,” Nurse said at the press conference.
“If you look at this list and the guys on it are valid and ready to go, there will be no more room,” Barrett added.
Canada will compete in the FIBA AmeriCup in September and are 4-0 with their winter contingent so far in World Cup qualifying games.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR FIBA MEN’S BASKETBALL
2022 FIBA AmericaCup (September 2022, in Brazil)
FIBA World Cup 2023 (in Asia)
Paris 2024 Olympic Games
Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games
Senior Men’s Team Summer Core (in alphabetical order):
Nickeil Alexander Walker
Birch of Khem
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