USA Basketball is struggling to gets its top players to compete in the upcoming World Cup.
The United States isn’t the only country with that issue.
After initially announcing a training-camp roster featuring 17 NBA players, Canada is down to five NBA players in contention for the World Cup roster.
Team Canada’s best player (Nuggets guard Jamal Murray) and most highly touted young player (Knicks guard R.J. Barrett) will both attend training camp. But dealing with injuries, neither will go to China.
Other Canadian NBA players no longer in the roster pool:
Nik Stauskas is both longer in the roster pool and no longer in the NBA.
That leaves the only NBA candidates for Team Canada as:
Other Canadians heading to training camp: Aaron Best, Melvin Ejim, Brady Heslip, Kaza Kajami-Keane, Andrew Nembhard, Duane Notice, Eugene Omoruyi, Kevin Pangos, Addison Patterson, Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb and Kyle Wiltjer.
That could still be a decent team, but Canada has definitely lost a lot of bite.
Marcus Morris backed out of a two-year, $20 million agreement with the Spurs to sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks. (Don’t blame Rich Paul.)
Occasionally, teams allow committed players to look elsewhere. But that apparently wasn’t the case here.
Frank Isola of The Athletic:
the Spurs didn’t like it.
“They’re pissed” is how one general manager described it.
Pissed at Morris? Pissed at the Knicks? Pissed at both?
I don’t blame the Spurs for being upset. They traded Davis Bertans in anticipation of signing Morris and watched other quality free agents go off the board. San Antonio settled for Trey Lyles.
At some point, Morris should explain himself. It’s a major breach of decorum to renege on an oral agreement in free agency. Why did he feel strongly enough about ditching the Spurs for New York to go back on his word?
The Knicks should also explain themselves. They got extra cap space when Reggie Bullock‘s spine injury shuttered his original deal. But poaching an already-committed player at least raises eyebrows.
Unfortunately for San Antonio, there’s nowhere productive to direct this anger. Shortening or eliminating the moratorium would help in some similar situations. But Morris agreed to terms then backed out all after the moratorium.
The Spurs just have to eat this one.
No Andrew Wiggins, no problem.
The disconnect between Wiggins and Canada Basketball seemed like a big deal when Wiggins looked like a budding star from a country without much basketball pedigree. But Wiggins has stagnated. Canada, on the other hand, looks like a rising international power.
Canada Basketball announced its training-camp invitations for the FIBA World Cup. The list includes a whop 17 NBA players:
Though the Nuggets clearly expect Murray to reach the next level, this group is short on star power right now. Don’t expect Canada rival Team USA. But this is a deep pool of solid players. They should be competitive in the tournament this fall in China.
This group is also pretty young. Players like Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, Barrett, Alexander-Walker and Clarke could take Canada to an even higher level in years to come.
And then the generation that’s growing up idolizing the championship Raptors will come through. Expect Canada’s climb to continue.
The other 12 players invited to Canada Basketball’s training camp: Aaron Best, Aaron Doornekamp, Andrew Nembhard, Andy Rautins, Brady Heslip, Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, Melvin Ejim, Naz Mitrou-Long, Oshae Brissett, Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb.
Marcus Morris will be a member of the New York Knicks next season.
That left the San Antonio Spurs scrambling because Morris had previously agreed to sign with them. Their answer turns out to be Trey Lyles, and the Spurs officially pulled their offer to Morris to make it happen, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Lyles has shown flashes in Denver of the player they traded for on draft night in 2017 (sending a pick to Utah that became Donovan Mitchell). However, last season Lyles regressed almost across the board, averaging 8.8 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting overall and 25.5 percent from three. More concerning, the Nuggets were -11 per 100 possessions when Lyles and Nikola Jokic shared the court. They just did not mesh.
So the Nuggets move on and the Spurs make a bet that those flashes of a quality power forward can be brought out in a different system.
At Summer League, there was a lot of discussion about what bad form this was by Marcus Morris and his agent Rich Paul — and people I spoke with from some teams were angry. Players have agreed to contracts only to get a better offer back out before, but when Morris agreed to terms with the Spurs for two-years, $20 million, the Spurs traded Davis Bertans to have the cap space to give Morris his money. It’s a move they could not undo.
Morris did back out to agree a one-year contract with the Knicks, something reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
This is a better deal for Morris: He makes more money, he should get a lot of touches (although Julius Randle is clearly the starting four in New York), and he re-enters free agency in a year, when it is a down market and there will be less competition for his services.
The Knicks get a solid veteran who can stretch the floor and shot 37.5 percent from three last season. Morris averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season in Boston. More than buckets, Morris brings grit and toughness that Knicks fans will love. Plus he can solidly defend the four spot. This is a good pickup for the Knicks.
And it leaves the Spurs scrambling (they snapped up Trey Lyles in a separate deal).