The FIBA World Cup was expected to be a coming-out party of sorts for the Canadian national team, with so many promising young players representing the country at the same time. However, that excitement has turned into doubt in some cases, with many of the nation’s top NBA talents either being unable or unwilling to participate. The question now is whether or not someone can step up and fill the voids left by those stars to give Canada a solid showing on the world stage.
When basketball fans think of Canadian basketball players, they don’t necessarily think of a rich history. But this year’s FIBA World Cup squad was set to change all of that. With Canada boasting talents like Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, RJ Barrett, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, they were poised to be one of this tournament’s most exciting teams. But a combination of injuries and a lack of desire to play by some has left the squad a shell of its potential self. The latest casualty to the squad was Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, who went down with a knee injury in a tune-up game.
The remaining players on the roster are still of high quality of course. Players like former Gonzaga Bulldogs Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer can certainly make an impact, as can Cory Joseph, who is hoping to make his way back from injury to join the team. After an exhibition loss to Nigeria, team Canada appears to be in need of a steady hand like Joseph’s still.
It should be noted that Canada is not the only team dealing with roster issues ahead of the FIBA World Cup. The United States is dealing with a similar situation with most of their star players pulling out of the event. And the same can be said for Canada’s fellow Group H competitor Australia, who will be without their star player in Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons. That withdrawal is a big reason why Canada’s odds to win Group Hare still relatively strong.
Another reason that Canada is expected to exceed expectations despite their roster situation is the presence of head coach Nick Nurse. Nurse is fresh off of an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, which has already made him a national hero of sorts. His ability to handle changes to a roster was well documented this past NBA season, as his team made several trades and didn’t miss a beat en route to the title.
Nurse may have a tougher job on his hands here, as Canada has lost nearly every NBA player that was eligible to compete for them. But with plenty of talented players competing internationally on the Canadian roster, it is still entirely possible that Nurse can get this team organized well enough to enjoy a nice run at one of the more wide-open FIBA World Cups in recent memory. With so many star players around the world focusing on winning the NBA championship this upcoming season, Canada still can’t be counted out of this tournament.