It was a disappointment when Canada — working hard to build up its national basketball team — failed to make even next summers pre-Olympics second chance qualifying tournament this summer. Canada was just not impressive at the FIBA Americas tournament.
Of course, they were without the best Canadian player, Steve Nash. Or Tristan Thompson. Or Jamaal Magloire. Or a number of other of Canada’s best.
Now Nash wants a larger role with the team.
No, not as a player. He wants more of a front office type role, according to the Globe & Mail. (Who does he think he is, Wayne Gretzky?)
“I wanted to consider playing this summer. But the truth is I was rehabbing an injury all summer and couldn’t have played regardless,” Nash said Tuesday as he pressed the buzzer at Toronto’s stock exchange to kick off trading….
“At some point, I’ll definitely be part of the program,” he said. “I’m not sure what capacity yet and I’m not sure when, but this is my country and this is my program. I spent 13 years as part of it, and I’d like to be a bigger part of it, in a bigger role at some point, when the time is right … not just so that we can make Olympic Games, but so we can get kids playing the sport and learning and growing and participating and improving their lifestyle.”
Canada’s national team faces the same challenge Team USA did a few years back — it’s hard to get the big stars to come out and play. (The USA just has a deeper talent pool to draw from.)
What changed it? America’s biggest stars — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and others — agreed not only to play but to play in the qualifying, the World Championships and the Olympics (credit Jerry Colangelo for convincing them) . America’s best players came out and played, they didn’t just cheer from the sidelines. That changed the dynamic.
Canada and Nash can take whatever lessons from that they wish.
Coming in to the FIBA Americas tournament, anything less than making the championship game — and with that earning a berth in next summer’s Olympics — would have been a let down for Argentina. They were the best team in the tournament on paper with a lineup that included Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andreas Nocioni.
Brazil had a harder road. Their best players — Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa — all declined to play. It was Tiago Splitter and a bunch of guys you don’t know.
It didn’t really work out exactly that way, Brazil was the best team in the tournament and Argentina looked vulnerable. But in the end those are the two teams that earned the automatic berths by making the finals of FIBA Americas with wins on Saturday.
Brazil did it by being the top seed and beating the Dominican Republic 83-76 in the semi finals. Argentina had a harder road, relying on a couple of late free throws (and some Puerto Rico missed shots) to get an 81-79 win.
The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — along with fifth place finisher Venezuela — will compete in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer.
The Dominican Republic — coached by Kentucky coach John Calipari — was the only team to beat Brazil in the group stage. They got a solid 18 points out of Atlanta’s Al Horford, but Brazil was too balanced with great guard play from Marcelinho Huertas and Marcelo Machado.
Argentina and Puerto Rico were tied at 79-79 but while Argentina was able to get to the free throw line (Ginobili had the winning point from the stripe) Puerto Rico had two missed shots from Carlos Arroyo and one by J.J. Barea in the clutch and fell short.
Teams now qualified for the London Olympics are the United States, Tunisia, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and host Great Britain. Two European teams will join that list next week.
It all comes down to one game. Well, two games, actually.
Brazil vs. the Dominican Republic. Argentina vs. Puerto Rico.
Those are your two semi-finals of the FIBA Americas tournament on Saturday. But if your goal is a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, these are the big games. Win Saturday and you are in, lose and you head to a pre-Olympics qualifying tournament next July to slug it out for a second-chance berth against other teams that just missed out. Sunday the two winners will play for the Americas championship.
Brazil — playing without Nene, Anderson Varejao or Leandro Barbosa — are the top seed and have lost only one game all tournament. That was their previous meeting with the Dominican Republic. The D.R. is coached by John Calipari and has Al Horford, who has been very good all tournament. But how the D.R. does in this game swings on Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva — when those two are on this a very hard team to beat, but those two have been wildly inconsistent. Shocking with them, I know. Brazil has been playing better the last week, but if it’s an on day for the Dominican Republic’s swing guys, they can win this.
Argentina came into this as the favorite and with the most stacked roster — Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andreas Nocioni. Argentina’s only loss is to Brazil, and they beat Puerto Rico 81-74 when they met in the group stage. Puerto Rico features J.J. Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman — all good players who need exceptional games if the island nation is to pull the upset here.
Check back with PBT on Saturday and we will recap these games. And if Puerto Rico wins we will run a photo of Barea’s girlfriend.
In his third and final dairy entry for SLAM Online about the FIBA Americas tournament, Nuggets player Gary Forbes had some interesting things to say. Forbes played for Panama, who was 1-5 at the time of Forbes’ third diary entry, and Forbes believes that the team’s lack of resources were a major cause for their lack of success:
I have to be honest with you guys. Team Panama is struggling on the court due to behind the scenes issues. Our team is the only team not backed by our government and probably the only team without any sponsors. Our president, who I will not name, has put the team in a lose/lose situation in my eyes. Our practice facilities are subpar, practicing on 9-foot baskets, as your regulation baskets are 10 feet. Panama has a facility, “Roberto Duran” Coliseum, which we can’t use because it is a government owned facility. There are two federations in Panama and basically we are a private club team. Crazy, huh?
Panama also only has one coach and no assistants, and many of the players were forced to tape themselves up because of Panama’s lack of a proper training staff. Forbes says that he had “no idea” what the conditions would be like when he signed up to play for team Panama.
Hopefully, Forbes’ honesty will help to improve the national team’s resource situation. In the meantime, I’m sure Forbes is missing the full training and coaching staff, chartered flights, and 10-foot practice rims of the NBA.
The final four for the FIBA Americas is set — Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will play Saturday for berths in the 2012 London Olympics. If you haven’t been watching (what, you don’t stream international hoops games at your desk in the morning?) just know that this is fitting — they’ve been the four best teams in the tournament (and all of them are stocked with NBA players such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola for Argentina, Al Horford for the Domincan and more).
The seedings (who will play whom Saturday) is the only question that remains and will be determined by games later Thursday. But we know two of those four teams are moving on — winners of the knockout games Saturday are in. Those two teams get to travel to London, march in the opening ceremonies, live in the Olympic Village and hit on Czech pole vaulters. They get the full Olympic experience.
The losers head to the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. That is where the teams from around the globe that just missed out on getting bids this summer will battle each other for one of the final spots in the games. Not an easy road but these are teams that will be a threat in that tournament.
Venezuela finished fifth and also gets invited to the pre-Olympics tournament. Venezuela secured the spot by beating Uruguay 92-80 on Thursday. Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez had 18 points to lead Venezuela.
Canada had an outside shot at this if they had won on Thursday, but they fell to Panama 91-89. This was a disappointment for a Canadian team that may not have been ready for the Olympics but expected to at least make the Qualifying Tournament next season.