Gallagher: Triano unruffled at Team Canada basketball squad’s no-shows
No Wiggins, Thompson or Bennett, but gruelling international tour will help the core team bond
Canada’s men’s basketball team is about to depart on a 20-day, 11-game European road trip to help prepare the team for the world championships next year. While a notable trio of Cleveland Cavaliers — Tristan Thomson, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins — will not be on the trip, the core group will be, including North Van’s Rob Sacre (above) and Kamloops’ Kelly Olynyk. — Getty Images
Photograph by: Rocky Widner, NBAE/Getty Images
For Canada Basketball coach Jay Triano, getting full participation in the senior men’s basketball team for this year’s tour of 11 games in Europe has been a difficult yet welcome chore.
For many of the players he really wants, the mind is said to be very much willing but the logistics are weak.
As his team set off for Europe Tuesday for their tour, which will include games against eight teams that will be participating in the world championships this year, Triano did not have any of the three top lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft - Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas or Tyler Ennis.
Neither will he have Anthony Bennett or Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the latter with a contract problem and the NBA team not wanting the 2013 first-round pick overall to go, preferring he stay home for the Aug. 2 orientation program for rookies once again.
Despite these problems, which may well continue next year, particularly during any exhibition game schedule they might try to put together prior to the Pan-Am games and Olympic qualifying tournament, Triano remains resolutely upbeat.
“Ideally it would be great to have them, but at the same time we talked to the NBA teams (in Las Vegas) and we have to have a good working relationship with those teams,” he said Tuesday from Toronto.
“Otherwise, in another year they’re going to say, ‘We don’t want them going, you tired them out,’ or, ‘They got hurt playing for you last year.’
“I think we have a good relationship with most teams. Steve (executive director Nash) can help our staff when he talks to these teams. I talked with the general managers and coaches and we’re building a relationship. But these players are on board. There’s not one of them that hasn’t committed. Tyler Ennis and Anthony were both there watching practice from the side today.”
Triano was quick, however, to point out that many of the players who will in fact be in the mix they will be counting on for the country to qualify for the Olympics next yea r will be going on this year’s trip.
“We’ve got (Melvin) Ejim here and (Jordan) Bachynski and Dwight Powell will be with us, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson and Robert Sacre — so we’ve got a good chunk of them. It’s just guys who are having contract issues and so on with their teams in the NBA who aren’t here.”
The tour features all of the quirky, bizarre aspects of international basketball intentionally built into the schedule, including six games in six nights at one point, so as to get the players used to this type of scheduling.
It’s something they are entirely likely to see in next year’s qualifying tournament, if last year’s world championship qualifying tournament was any indication. And while the Canadian team would have preferred to have this trip later in August so more of their players could attend, this is the only time it worked for the European teams participating in the World Championships to put Canada on their exhibition schedules.
The real push is definitely next year when the real test comes and all the good intentions of these budding stars will have to translate into action.
Who will be there when the chips are down? We know the hardcore dedicated guys, like Joseph and the pride of Kamloops, Olynyk, will be front and centre.
But who is just posing, stringing the country along with a line of verbal good intentions? After all, this is the second year without Wiggins. How committed is a guy who could make as much as $10 million U.S. this year when salary and endorsements are totalled? He’s talked a good story, and that’s appreciated, but so far has not shown up.
“One of the advantages is that next year the Pan American Games are before the qualifying tournament, and with the Pan-Ams being here in Toronto, we should be OK,” said Triano. “I’m not sure whether we’ll have all the guys because it’s close to summer league, but maybe the second-year guys will be able to play one or two summer league games and then join us for the Pan American Games.
“We’ll definitely have some games to help prepare. Getting on the floor with the team for the first time trying to qualify would definitely be a tough spot to be in.”
Fortunately for Triano, he expects to be able to escape that spot.
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