With the unfortunate loss due to injury of 7’0″ Kelly Olynyk (recent shoulder surgery/5 months of rehab) and the advance to the NBA Finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers putting the timing of 6’10” Tristan Thompson‘s participation in question, Canada’s projected roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Manila in early July – especially at the forward spots – remains in flux. Going forward, the team is set to assemble in the next couple of weeks to prepare for their first 2 games of the tournament: Tuesday, July 5th vs. Turkey (6:30 AM Eastern time start) and Wednesday, July 6th vs. Senegal (6:30 AM Eastern time start) – just 5 weeks from tomorrow. No word yet on whether or not these games will be televised live.
Here is one view of the depth chart that Canada’s coaching staff could be looking at presently (* – denotes potential new addition to last summer’s roster):
Point Guards: Cory Joseph, Tyler Ennis*, Phil Scrubb, Kevin Pangos
Shooting Guards: Nik Stauskas, Brady Heslip
Wings: Andrew Wiggins, Melvin Ejim, Aaron Doornekamp, Dyshawn Pierre*
Bigs: Tristan Thompson, Trey Lyles*, Anthony Bennett (free agent), Robert Sacre
Among the Unknowns: Andrew Nicholson (restricted free agent), Dwight Powell (restricted free agent who does have a qualifying offer on the table), Jamal Murray* (NBA Draft eligible on 23rd June 2016), Kyle Wiltjer* (NBA Draft eligible).
Cory Joseph remains as loyal to the Canadian program as any player in recent memory; the Toronto native confirmed his participation in the wake of the Raptors game six loss vs. Cleveland. Joseph is in fact the only “name” player with meaningful senior team & NBA experience to thus far publicly state his commitment to Coach Jay Triano‘s side for this summer. When queried last month regarding his participation, 6’7″ Andrew Wiggins came back with a “cross that bridge when we come to it” response; the same level of clarity on Wiggins status exists today. Cleveland’s Thompson sits near the same loyalty scale as Joseph, his very reasonable sit-out last summer for contract reasons notwithstanding and most expect the rim-protecting rebounder to suit up, although maybe with some rest prior to the actual qualifying tournament. Milwaukee’s 6’3″ Tyler Ennis, who missed last summer with a shoulder injury, is healthy and is expected to play for Canada this summer, supported by comments in mid-March by his father Tony McIntyre, when the Bucks were in town to play the Raptors.
6’10” Andrew Nicholson‘s contract status remains uncertain. According to an April 7th article by Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins, beat writer for the Orlando Magic: “It’s unclear whether (the Magic) will make a qualifying offer to Nicholson, a 26-year-old power forward.” Nicholson, who also has been a loyal player with Canada, shares the same agent (Mark Bartelstein) as fellow Canadians 6’5″ Nik Stauskas – who has yet to confirm that he will play this summer – 6’10” Kyle Wiltjer and 6’3″ Kevin Pangos. Wiltjer and 6’5″ Jamal Murray both are likely to wait for the NBA Draft on June 23rd before committing (note that the Draft is only about 16 days before the actual games in Manila). Many expect Murray to not be available, at least for the early portion of the summer, given the timing of the Draft.
Dallas Mavericks 6’9″ reserve forward Dwight Powell, a restricted free agent but who does have the option to sign a $1.2 million qualifying offer for this upcoming season, has the potential to fill 25-30 minutes per game for Canada – he was plagued by nagging injuries last summer that restricted his time. 6’9″ Trey Lyles, the 12th pick in the first round of last season’s NBA draft by Utah, signed a multi-year contract with the Jazz but has also yet to publicly confirm his participation this summer.
To summarize, in just 5 weeks from tomorrow (Tuesday), Canada plays their first game of the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Manila and just one of our core NBA players who have played for Canada in the past (Cory Joseph) has officially committed to playing. Other NBA notables (Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Andrew Nicholson, Dwight Powell, Trey Lyles) have not confirmed participation, with Thompson clearly and legitimately first focusing on an NBA championship run with the Cavs.
With Canada set to assemble for camp in early June to start preparation for late June pre-tournament games and subsequent travel to the Philippines for their first game only 5 weeks for tomorrow, there remain more questions than answers regarding the 12-man roster for the Qualifier. Coach Triano and staff can only hope that more clarity is achieved sooner than later as Canada tries to erase the terrible memories of Mexico last summer and qualify for Rio 2016.
To get ready for the OQT, Canada will gather for a week of training on 10 June in Toronto. The squad will then leave for Europe and take part in an exhibition tournament in Italy, arriving in the country on 17 June.
Their friendly games against Croatia will be on 20 June and 23 June. Two days later will be a clash with China, following by a game the next day against an opponent that is still to be confirmed. Canada’s last friendly will be against Puerto Rico. They will take on the Boricuas on 29 June before leaving for the Philippines.
Canada, meanwhile, have announced that Dave Smart, David Vanterpool and Bryan Gates will serve as assistant coaches to Triano.