Spanning the globe; and the bookshelves
Hey, there’s basketball being played at the Air Canada Centre.
Canada basketball, senior men’s team, a few days of camp before they first head to Puerto Rico for an exhibition tournament and then stay there to take part in the world qualification tournament later this month and into the first week of September.
Leo Rautins has his team – it’s here in this release we got from the folks at Canada Basketball yesterday – and to say it’s a hugely significant tournament for the team would be an understatement.
As we’ve seen all summer, the programs for the younger kids have had some success – the Cadets qualified for the worlds, the juniors finished seventh at the world championships – but the senior men, really, haven’t done squat in several years and it’s about time they got back on the global stage.
The team is good – not great, but good – and filled with guys with international experience, which cannot be discounted at this level. It’s all well and good to say we’ve got some promising teenagers in the pipeline but this is a man’s tournament and it’s time for the men to step up.
It won’t be easy.
There are four world championship berths at stake and even though the Americans don’t have to get one – they get in the worlds as Olympic champions – there are a handful of very good teams Canada will have to play.
The Dominican Republic, for instance, is getting Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford and, we believe, Trevor Ariza. Argentina’s Argentina, Brazil’s chock full of talent and if Puerto Rico doesn’t qualify at home, the joke is they’ll keep everyone there until the run the tournament again and they do. Even Mexico, hardly a major player in the past, can now boast Eddie Najera and Earl Watson, which gives them one more NBAer than Canada has.
Talking with Leo – whose contract runs this year with an option for next that’s surely in question if they don’t make the worlds – he knows Canada’s in tough. This is how he put it when we chatted before they went to Europe:
“The reality is, we’re still younger and less experienced than our competition but that’s our world, we just have to find a way to not beat ourselves. The talent aspect? There’s nothing we can do about that, we just can’t beat ourselves in situations and that’s what we have to work on.
“Look at the NBA component on those other teams and then look at the EuroLeague component. We have one EuroLeague guy (Carl English). You can’t substitute for that so the next thing you have to do is you have to nearly play perfect basketball.”
We’ll get to more on this in the next little while because this team’s going to become the basketball story around these parts as this month turns into next.
A little light reading?
Let’s say you’ve got a vacation planned, like maybe to Vancouver, Whistler and Seattle and you’ve got some down time planned.
What would you take?
Well, if I had the library open and some time to sit and read, here’s some of the basketball books I’d recommend.
The Breaks Of The Game, David Halberstam
The true literary giant spends a year with the Portland Trial Blazers, and it doesn’t get much better than this.
Foul, The Connie Hawkins Story, David Wolf
It was mentioned in the comments yesterday quite often and is a truly amazing tale of a guy you don’t know enough about.
The Inside Game, Wayne Embry with Mary Schmidt-Boyer
One of the all-time greats, on and off the court, his book’s an intriguing look at life on both sides of the ledger.
The Last Shot, Darcy Frey
Maybe the seminal book about high-pressure, high-stakes high school hopes in the New York City area, it’s a good look at a young Stephon Marbury.
Loose Balls, Terry Pluto
This is truly light reading, as in hilarious light reading about the life and times of the ABA.
Now, this is by no means the definitive list but it’ll get you started until you find They Call Me Coach by John Wooden, Rick Telander’s Heaven is a Playground, Life On The Run by Bill Bradley and Big Game, Small World, an underappreciated book about the globalization of the game by Alex Wolff.
Now, trot off to your library or your book store, grab a coffee and enjoy yourself.
Do they have it turned around?
I don’t know but, for a day at least, Pape and Boniface and the lads finally put the skids to the losing streak.
This came from Mr. Cook (why do I think some old high school teacher is stalking me) over in the comments section yesterday and we may as well get to it today.
(Oh yeah, mail’s a bit light, folks; get cracking, will ya?)
I'm curious about the CBA ideas you presented in a blog the other day--the one piquing my curiosity is the length of contract. What's in it for owners and the NBA to limit the maximum number of years that a contract can be guaranteed? Is it for the prima facie reason that if a player's ability declines or they become injured they aren't owed the money? Or is there a larger business method at play?
The other question I have came from a response you gave in the comment section, I don't have it in front of me but someone asked why would we go to Sioux Falls and you said that in later years you can call up the Wolves and say "Hey, come to ________ (insert desolate Canadian land)." The question following this is, are there a couple teams that the Raptors as a grand corporation have better contact with than others? And what creates this collegial relationship, the nature of the business, some execs that have worked for both, coincidences that lead to friendships over time? Or none of the above, it's pure business phone calls?
Mr. Cook, Parts Unknown
A: On the CBA issue, it’s pretty simple according to the people I talk to in various ownership and high front office roles: The shorter the contract, the less money committed long-term and the single greatest problem with the NBA today – financially, at least – are those albatross contracts for big or even little money that run out to five or six years. Mandating that they run one, or even two, years less would be a huge win for the owners.
Look at the history in Toronto: Back in the Summer of Vince, the contracts awarded Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, Alvin Williams and Hakeem Olajuwon weren’t for obscene amounts of money (it was the going rate and Toronto probably had to overpay a wee bit to keep free agents back then) but in every single case, they were at least one year too long.
On the exhibition games, yeah, there are relationships that make it easier to ask a team to travel to some neutral site to play a game in return for maybe doing a favour for them some year down the line. There have also been instances where teams have made trades and one will suggest a “future consideration” may be a visit for a pre-season date. Sometimes, it is just business, but most of the time you make those “business” calls to a friend where you think you’ll get the answer you want.
So, Andrea and Marco had pretty good games yesterday when Italy beat Finland – check out the story here – but the interesting thing to me is that the entire summer probably comes down to this week’s return match with France and how many points Italy has to win by.
I’m sure there are those among you who will quietly be cheering for Tony Parker and the his buddies because if France wins, Italy can’t make it to Eurobasket and the two Raptors will have the entire month of September off.
Glorious Cadette triumph, as Tanya reports here, but given the margin of victory and the fact the Americans edged Dominican Republic 128-17 in the opening game – yes, a mere 111-point victory – I’m wondering about the depth of under-16 talent in FIBAAmericas.
All right, I’m off later this morning to bring a golf course to its knees so if the comments take some time to get up, tough noogies.