Team Canada gears up for 2020


Looking beyond the Toronto Raptors, several NBA players have expressed interest in joining Team Canada this summer. Will we see Canada Basketball at its finest?

Oh Canada! We’ve got a major snowstorm coming to Tokyo by way of Victoria, the home for the qualifying tournament featuring Team Canada. Unlike this past summer’s FIBA tournament, Canada is getting some early commitments from their best NBA players.

The list of commitments already includes the likes of Denver’s Jamal Murray, cousins Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Oklahoma City and Nickeil Alexander-Walker of New Orleans, and Miami’s Kelly Olynyk.

This could be a domino effect. Enthusiasm rubs off. With Murray and Gilgeous-Alexander already committed, the floodgates could open. We could see the majority of Canadians in the NBA lining up over the next couple of weeks.

The icing on the cake would be the return of the prodigal son, Andrew Wiggins. Canada Basketball general manager Rowan Barrett has already extended an olive branch to the Minnesota Timberwolves star who has alienated himself from the program.

Wiggins has turned his game around and looks recommitted to basketball. He’s enjoying his best season and he’ll be the wild card that pushes Team Canada to, dare we say, the elite levels of international basketball?

Canadian basketball fans can only salivate at the prospect of rolling a starting lineup that includes the game’s rising talent: Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, Wiggins, Brandon Clarke of Memphis, and of course, Rowan’s son and this year’s third-overall draft pick, R.J. Barrett of the Knicks.

But next year’s squad shouldn’t lack a veteran presence. Cory Joseph is most likely coming back with the aforementioned Olynyk. Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Orlando’s Khem Birch should also provide veteran savvy down the middle.

And we haven’t even brought up the likes of Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell, and a pair of Toronto Raptors in Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett. While they don’t have the same star power as the Murray’s and Wiggins’s, they could shine on the international stage.

Canada has slowly built its pool of basketball talent. Now, with a record number of Canadians in the NBA this season, plus the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA title, basketball is finally ready to take off.

But let’s pump the brakes a little bit. The hype for Canada has been there since Wiggins’s high school days in 2012. Many have prognosticated Canada to take that next step to basketball relevance but it never came to fruition.

The FIBA tournament this year, which Canada finished 21st out of 32, was a complete disappointment, as most of the NBA players elected to not participate or got injured early in the process.

Next: Which Raptors have over/under performed so far?

While it’s tough to not get excited, let the old phrase “we’ll believe it when we see it” describe the appropriate feelings for this news.

Ah, screw it. Let’s go, Canada!