Nick Nurse plans to take matters into his own hands following Canada’s underwhelming performance at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
In the wake of lopsided losses to Australia and Lithuania, much of the reaction has manifested in anger and disappointment. It’s not so much that Canada lost — it’s the feeling that the Canadians never even had a chance to compete with so much of their top talent missing in action. To that end, Nurse wants to see change.
"I think I have got to try and develop some relationships with some of these guys and see where they are at," Nurse told the Canadian Press. "But I need more information. I need a better understanding of why or why not? Will they or will they not participate, and why or why not?"
In the months leading up to the tournament, the promise was that Canada would field close to an entire 12-man roster of NBA-level talent. However, most of Canada’s top talent dropped out before training camp, and the tattered group that ultimately made its way to China — with Cory Joseph and Khem Birch as the only NBA representatives — quickly bowed out in the group stage.
Each player had their own reason for sitting out. Kelly Olynyk was committed, but suffered a knee injury in an exhibition game. Jamal Murray, Dillon Brooks, and RJ Barrett had their own leg ailments to overcome. Others like Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t provide much of a reason at all, while Dwight Powell ducked out to “focus on the upcoming season” with the Dallas Mavericks. In other cases, several of the seven Canadians selected in this year’s NBA draft weren’t even named among the 29 invites to training camp.
Whatever the case may be, the reality is that those absences left Canada with an uphill battle for a long overdue return to the Olympics. Despite crashing out of the World Cup, the Canadians still have an outside shot of snagging one of four remaining spots for Tokyo 2020 in next summer’s qualifiers. The story will be the same — Canada won’t have a shot unless its top players commit — and Nurse is going to do his part to deliver Canada its first Olympic men’s basketball berth in two decades.
"I love international basketball," he said. "I don't have to tell you the goal of me being a head coach of a team going to the Olympics is a personal life achievement or a personal goal I'm shooting for."
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