BUENOS AIRES (Martin Seldes' Brave New World) - "Frankly it's not cool to put yourself above the team, and I think our guys understand that," Steve Nash said.
"Our players understand that, you may not represent the country this year, but you are still on the team."
Steve Nash has been GM for Canada national team for the last two seasons. He has changed absolutely everything. Not only he has made the players join the team but also feel part of it. And that's not easy.
We've talked about this several times so what we can say now is how's Canada preparing to face their most important tournament since Mar del Plata in 2011.
Basically, they are preparing themselves with time and responsibility. Beside Nash advisory and presence, Jay Triano leads a team full of young talented players together with experienced guys that have been all around Europe in the last years.
It's true that the No. 1 overall selection of the NBA draft (first time for Canada's history), Anthony Bennett, and No. 13 pick, Kelly Olynyk, have ruled out of the team. But they had to because they were injured and both of them went to the training camp a couple of weeks ago just to say hi and give their support to those that were expected to be teammates. Not bad as a start.
Without them, four other NBA players are expected to make the team, while Carl English appears as the most famous of the names that play currently in Europe.
Cory Joseph and Joel Anthony saw their faces in the last NBA Finals. None of them played much but it has to be said that Joseph has become a reliable point guard and will probably be one of the best in a tournament with more absences than presences in the point.
Anthony can't give much more than what we all know: rebounds and good D. Actually, don't get surprised if he doesn't finish the games on court.
Tristan Thompson and Andrew Nicholson will probably be those that carry with Canada's low post in most of the important minutes of the tournament. If they adapt from the NBA game.
Thompson is a 2.06m power forward who has averaged almost 12 points and 10 rebounds per game playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. He can also play centre in FIBA competitions.
Nicholson is as tall as his teammate is but has a less "centre-style". According to themselves, playing together has helped them improve everyday since they started the training camp. His numbers for the Orlando Magic weren't bad at all but we won't see anybody that will open their mouths as soon as they see that a player scored 7,8 points and grabbed 3,4 rebounds per game in the NBA.
However, how many teams can say that they have two players like them, which, together with Joel Anthony, will make more than one team suffer on both sides of the court?
English is here not only to shoot the ball and he knows. He's also in charge of telling those young athletes that international basketball is kind of different from the NBA. Not only because of the goal tending rule or the travelling rule. They will just see the referees play different and they will notice defences can become really nasty after 40 minutes.
English -together with Jermaine Anderson and some other guys- is there to remind them that talent and their capacity to jump more than others is far from being enough against experienced teams and coaches such as the Argentineans, the Brazilians and the Puerto Ricans, just to mention some.
They won two games against Jamaica last week. They needed a little bit more from guys like Andy Rautins and Brady Heslip than from the NBA young guys. Because they still have to get used to everything.
Canada has everything to become the team-to-beat in the next few years in our region. A great first step could be to earn the ticket to the 2014 FIBA BAsketball World Cup in Spain and show the Americas that Canada is no longer there just to know South America.
Otherwise, Steve Nash and Jay Triano would have stayed at home.
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