Posts Tagged ‘Steve Nash

Canada out and Rautins is too

- September 9th, 2011

Thursday was an extremely dark day for basketball in Canada.

The senior men failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics thanks to a devastating 91-89 loss to Panama, ranked five spots lower in the standings, but much farther apart talent-wise based on performances during the FIBA Americas tournament (Canada kept games close while Panama made getting blown out by 25 points or more a habit). Panama got a ridiculous performance from Denver Nuggets guard Gary Forbes. Sometimes that happens.

It’s a huge disappointment though. Not sure what else to say about it. While 2016 was the realistic goal, at least making the last-chance qualifier was huge for the program, since I have heard from various sources that Steve Nash was 50/50 to take part and Tristan Thompson and Matt Bonner likely would have been on-board as well.

It was also disappointing to see a man who, despite what his critics have said, has given his all for the program.

Leo Rautins was a dedicated and tireless worker for Canada Basketball. Like everyone he had his faults, but what he had going him constantly seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Being unable to work with Samuel Dalembert hurt the team even if the blame can be shared between both men.  I have been told, however, that the absence of Syracuse star Kris Joseph wasn’t on Rautins.

In a perfect world, the idiotic move to dispatch Jay Triano in 2005 would never have been made and Rautins could have come on board as an assistant coach/backer of the program.

That would have kept Nash, the two-time NBA MVP on board and probably would have been enough to get young kids more interested in playing than they are now.

Canada Basketball has a tough challenge ahead of it. The young players must be convinced to buy into the program (since Canadian pride doesn’t seem to exist in the same way as it does for members of other countries) but they must not be coddled. It’s a fine line. They need to be made to commit to 2-3 years with the program. The program must also be more willing to take outside opinion than it has in recent years. Constructive criticism, while criticism, can be handled much better.

As Rautins said in his exit conference, the FIBA schedule makes things insanely difficult. Players need to sacrifice to play. Their time with family, their bodies, etc. Most, like most people, want to advance themselves and see playing in camps or other events as more beneficial than suiting up.

That needs to change.

Given the talent in the pipeline – Thompson, Khem Birch, Andrew Nicholson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Kyle Wiltjer, Kris Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, Justin Jackson, Andy Rautins, Jevohn Shepherd, Myck Kabongo, Cory Joseph, Kevin Pangos and more! there is no reason why Canada shouldn’t be not only in the 2016 Olympics, but a top 5 contender.

But they all need to be properly reached out to and they need to play.

Here are some of the words from the post-game press conference:

Leo Rautins:

“Disappointing, we’ve all put a lot into this. These guys have worked their tails off. For some reason, different things catch up with us. Losing a few guys, we’re not good enough at this point to absorb that. A lot of good things have happened unless you’re close to this program you’re not going to see. To continue the things that need to be done, I’ve made a decision that this team needs a new voice in the locker room.

I think it’s time, I’ve gotten a great deal of support from within the organization, I think the players have given me everything I’ve asked. For the benefit of this program going forward, a new voice in the locker room will be the best thing.

I love this program. I didn’t take this job to enhance my reputation, to become an NBA coach, to use this as a launching pad, I took this job because I love the program and I want to see the program succeed. I know what this program can become.”

“I’ve got nothing but support from Wayne or Maurizio. I never felt any pressure, anything in any way from Wayne here.I went to Wayne and said this needs to be done.

In light of new occurrences where program had to spend a lot of time defending me, I didn’t want to put the program in that position anymore. Sometimes you just need a change. There will be a lot of speculation. Most important thing is the players. The young players the future, that’s all that matters to me. Right now this is the best, in my opinion.

We’re playing against the best in the world, we compete with what we have. I think the structure of FIBA has to change. You have players dropping like flies. In what technically is their offseason. It would be wonderful if we could put our best players on the floor. I’m never going to be critical of those who don’t Everybody’s got career, families, injuries that they’ll have to consider before playing.

Having said that, it’s a great opportunity that players should take advantage of.

We have to look as playing for the national team as an honour and something beneficial.

There’s two ways to represent your country, in war and in sports and I think this is a hell of a better way to do it.

I’d love to see all our players take part and I think it’s going to happen.

I had a lot of fun with this group. Nobody cared about who started, how many minutes, these guys just came out and played.

I was part of this program as a youngster where we were amongst the best in the world and that’s where I see this program.

What’s next for me is doing whatever part I can to make that happen. That’s priority for me.”

Jesse Young:

“Definitely not the place where we though we would be today. We fought all tournament and sometimes bounces don’t go your way. Every one of us put everything into it to try to get us in a position to qualify. Everyone’s pretty down right now.”

Wayne Parrish:

“There is a lot of work to be done.

Real focus and target is 2016 that hasn’t changed we’ve been able to build into the program elements and features that have gotten us along that trajectory.

We all hope that we would be positioned to be in the qualifier at least next summer, the fact that we aren’t doesn’t change the success that has been borne.

Need to become one of the teams that others are fearful of.

Leo has been for many many years the heart and soul of this program and I don’t think that is going to change. Know success this program is going to have in the future is going to be tied to what Leo has achieved to date and what he will continue to help achieve in the future.

Program isn’t about one person, but its built on some real key values and principles.

We’ll sort those things in the next few weeks, my focus is so we don’t lose any of that.

Discussions have been over the past hour or couple of hours.

Level of competition at this level, at this event is high. Anyone that has not been here, cannot fathom.

We came up short and we have to change that.”

Monday musings

- October 18th, 2010

Let’s start with Canada Basketball, before moving on to the Raptors and the NBA in general.

- Leo Rautins is going to get a two-year extension today. A lot of fans might not be happy with the move, but the organization has shown a commitment to Leo and the Dalembert incident aside – he has done a passable job with the team. He got them into the World Championship when nobody thought they’d get there. Yes, they were pretty terrible once there, but they weren’t exactly running out an imposing roster. Let’s see what he can do with some talent, before we write him off.

The one problem with that line of thinking is I have heard chatter from a handful of people who happen to have the ears of some of Canada’s up-and-coming star-calibre prospects, and the word is some of them would prefer to play for a younger coach that they have more of a connection with. That would make developmental coach Greg Francis the guy in my eyes, but I’ve heard he might not be who they want to play for either. Who is? No idea.

I’m going to side with Canada basketball on this one. You can’t have the players running the show, no matter how talented and promising they are. Once they start calling the shots on any team, you’re done. Ask the Raptors how letting Carter or Bosh run things went.

Leo has improved as a coach over the years and he will have to get a lot better yet in order to last the next two years. He will be the guy that will try to get Canada into the 2012 London Olympics. It is possible, but more realistic is 2014 (worlds in Spain) and beyond. By that point, Canada, talent-wise, should be top 5 or 6 in the world. Right now we’re more like 15-25.

- As for the Raptors, still not feeling the Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans version of the starting lineup. I see the logic – Evans’ rebounding helps make up for Bargnani’s failings in that regard and Amir Johnson is rolling with the second unit, but I’d still rather see Johnson – who also plays great with Bargnani – starting.

The argument for Calderon is he isn’t doing terrible, he doesn’t turn the ball over and Jarrett Jack is running the bench brigade brilliantly. I understand that, but at this point, to me, Jack is a much better player than Calderon, particularly defensively and I think it is going to get ugly if Calderon is starting against guys like Paul, Williams, Rondo, Collison, Holiday, and on and on. He’s far more suited to guarding backup point guards.

- Time to admit I was wrong about Linas Kleiza. He is a much better player now than he was before heading over to Europe. I was judging him on his years in Denver. He’s not the same guy. Is it crazy to think Kleiza might be the team’s best player? I don’t think so. He can score in a variety of ways, hits the boards and competes hard, is a good passer and isn’t completely useless defensively.

- Still can’t believe Phoenix agreed to (A) Take Turkoglu and (B) send back Barbosa. Highway robbery. I feel bad for Steve Nash. By next year at the latest I expect him to be sent elsewhere. He will get extremely frustrated trying to carry Turkoglu on his back.

On Barnes, Canada basketball and Raps vs. Suns in Vancouver

- July 21st, 2010

Some assorted thoughts today:

First, Matt Barnes to the Raptors still looking very unlikely. Originally, Toronto offered a starting role, a great fit and the most money. Now that the Raptors can only offer what everybody else can (and the Cavs can still and are willing to offer nearly double what anybody else can) don’t expect Barnes to join the list of toughest Raptors ever with the likes of Charles Oakley, Reggie Slater, Gary Trent, Alvin Williams, Reggie Evans, Alvin Robertson and others. It just no longer makes sense for him.

Glad to see Wayne Parrish will be sticking around in less than a figurehead capacity with Canada Basketball. He’s helped them do a lot of good things over the past two years. Hopefully the senior men’s squad will be competitive at the worlds in Turkey later this summer, but if not, as I’ve been saying for a long time now, Canada is not that far off.

There are almost a dozen five and four star prospects that are one to three years away from joining and significantly upgrading the Canadian squad. Toronto’s Andrew Wiggins is the highest-rated prospect for his age in the world, Brampton’s Tristan Thompson was once No. 1 in North America and he will join another NBA prospect, Pickering’s Cory Joseph at Texas this fall. Toronto’s Myck Kabongo will join them in a year and is one of the top prospects in North America for his age group. And that’s just the short list, there’s also Montreal’s Khem Birch, Syracuse standout Kris Joseph, Kyle Wiltjer, Mo Walker, Dwight Powell, Andrew Nicholson, Kevin Pangos and Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynk. Apologies to the many other solid prospects I’m neglecting to mention off the top of my head. The point is, this is the brightest time for basketball in Canada’s history and it’s nice to see.

Hoping to make the trip to Vancouver to cover Raptors vs. Suns Oct. 6th. Never been to lovely B.C., would be very cool to see Mr. Nash there.

Previewing Suns-Lakers and Magic-Celtics

- May 14th, 2010

I’m going to hold off on commenting on LeBron James, he gets enough attention.

If you’re desperate to read about the King Without a Ring, here‘s a great take on it.

The NBA’s Final Four is one of the most intriguing in years.

I said at the beginning of the year at full health, the Celtics still had enough in them for one more run. But I think Orlando is just playing too well right now to be beaten.

Big fan of Kendrick Perkins, but Dwight Howard is going to overpower him. Yes, Rajon Rondo should eat up Jameer Nelson, but Mr. Howard will be waiting at the rim. Ray Allen and Vince Carter go back a long way so that will be an intersting matchup to be sure. Kevin Garnett and Rashard Lewis are two very different players, but both are keys for their team.

In the end, I take Orlando in six because I don’t see how Boston stops Howard at one end and I don’t see how Rondo dominates with Howard protecting the rim.

In the West, a Suns victory would be what most of the free world is rooting for, but again, in the NBA, size matters, and I feel the Lakers are too big to be beaten by the Suns.

The Suns have nobody who can stop either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. If both are at their best, this will be over quickly. If Bynum goes down with yet another injury, Phoenix has a legit shot. I also like the huge advantage Phoenix has at the point and in terms of pace.

The Lakers struggle against great point guards, Steve Nash is one of the best. I expect him to do damage even if Kobe or Artest try to check him. The Lakers also are at their weakest when teams push the pace agains them. The run-and-gun Suns must attack as much as possible and keep the Lakers on their heels if they are to have a chance.

The Suns have a chance, but if the Lakers stay healthy, they will win in six and we will see an NBA Finals rematch.

This time the Magic just might come out on top.

What  summer it would be for Raptor fans if Vince Carter wins a title and Chris Bosh bolts. And you thought the riots in Montreal were bad.