Saturday, September 10, 2011
Team Canada Headed Home From FIBA Americas Tournament Empty Handed
Sadly, it didn't happen. The teams that will move on to the FIBA Americas semifinal knockout rounds being contested later today are Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the host Argentines. .
Brazil will play the Dominican Republic and Argentina will face off with Puerto Rico with the winners qualifying for London and playing in the FIBA Americas title game tomorrow and the losers headed to the third place game and the Olympic Qualifying tournament next summer.
The Canadians got their FIBA Americas quarterfinal party started with a blow out loss on September 5 to the host Argentines 79-58. Because of the earlier loss to Venezuela in group play, they faced a must win game against a weakened Puerto Rico squad the next day.
Canada got off to another storng start only trailing 22-21 after the first quarter, but scored an abysmal eight points in the second to fall behind 42-29 at halftime. They did a better job in the second half outscoring Puerto Rice 47-35 in the second half but still fell 79-74.
The Road Warriors' then followed that up with a narrow 70-68 win over Uruguay to bring their record to 3-4 in the tournament.
Despite that, they still had a slim shot on September 8 of getting that fifth place spot that would guarantee them a place in next summer's Olympic Qualifying tournament if they handled their basketball business against a one win Panama squad and Uruguay upset Venezuela.
Umm no. Despite having four players in double figures, the Canadians regressed on defense with the ankle injury to Joel Anthony and watched the Denver Nuggets Gary Forbes personally wreck their 2012 Olympic hopes by dropping 39 points on them.
Eighteen of Forbes' points came in the fourth quarter, and after Canada tied the game with 1:30 left Forbes scored the next five points to stake Panama to a narrow 91-89 upset victory. The disappointing loss led to the resignation of Canadian men's head coach Leo Rautins after the game.
The sad part is that Canada could have made it to the FIBA Americas semifinals. Flip those four narrow losses to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in group play and the Puerto Rico and Panama ones in the quarters and they would still be playing this weekend. Once there, with some breaks Canada could have played in either the title game or the third place one.
Canada played defense well enough at times to get them there, but their offense got lost or was non existent for long stretches of games and it cost them.
The FIBA championship trophy is named for Canadian James Naismith who invented the game in the States and I find it ironic that Canada won't be there for next year's Olympic basketball tournament in London.
It'll be up to the Canadian women to defend national basketball honor when the FIBA Americas women's championship tournament kicks off in Colombia on September 24.
But back to the Canadian mens ballers. Despite Steve Nash's retirement from international play, they have talented players with international experience like Jevohn Sheperd. They also have NBA ballers such as Samuel Dalembart, Jamaal Magliore, Andy Rautins, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Joel Anthony that would make an interesting team. The San Antonio Spurs Matt Bonner is in the process of trying to acquire his Canadian citizenship so he can play for the team.
Dalembart, Thompson and Magliore weren't on this squad and seeing the way this tournament played out, they were needed.
The Canadian men's program does have serious young talent in their development pipeline.with players such as incoming Gonzaga freshman Kelly Olynyk, incoming Texas Longhorn freshman Myck Kabongo, Andrew Wiggins and Dwight Powell. But it's clear they will need a coach that can get the maximum output from these players.
Canada also needs an offensive and defensive system that will allow them to play the high caliber FIBA ball they will need to get to the Olympics and FIBA world championship stages, give them a chance to win and create a culture and buzz in their nation that makes it cool to play for the Canadian national squad again.