You like them; you really, really like them!
Anyway, I digress …
You know what I find funny?
How the number of comments I get from casual fans who say they don’t really care about international basketball has absolutely no correlation to reality.
Over the past 10 days or so, the senior men’s team has created a buzz around these parts that, to my mind at least, is very nice to see and very significant.
And think back to last year in Greece, during that final last-ditch tournament to qualify for Beijing, when the whole Affair Dalembert developed.
Passion? There was this week, there was last year and I’m sure there will be again next summer when they go to Turkey.
I’ve been around and chronicling the national team program for a very long time – I think the first thing I covered was an exhibition series in the late-80s, I took ‘em through qualifiers for the ’92 Olympics, did the ’94 worlds, the ’98 worlds in Greece, of course the magical ride in Sydney and the ’02 worlds in Indy.
It’s always struck me as a program that needed to be paid attention to, to be criticized when things weren’t going well, to be put out in front of the public so they could know what was going on.
It hasn’t been easy these last few down years, it’s hard but necessary to be critical of a program run on a shoestring when things don’t go well, but to see some success – and Friday was a very significant victory for reasons we’ll get into when this tournament’s finally.
It’s nice to know that a lot of you care.
For those of you with some idle time early tonight, Canada gets Brazil at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals and I was told earlier in the week that The Score would be doing the game live. I figure that still holds true so if you want to check it out, it be a good idea.
Speaking of television and this tournament, if you’re looking for people to thank for the last-minute decision to get the Canada games on the air, send notes to the upper levels of Basketball Canada, who helped broker the deal, and the folks at the Score, who cleared some broadcast hours to show it.
I was out at a function with some national team types about three days before they headed to Puerto Rico and at that time there was no suggestion the games would be broadcast. Someone worked pretty hard to make it happen.
I don’t think anyone made any money on the deal, in fact I’d guess it cost somebody something but someone came through and that’s pretty good.
Speaking of those semifinals and finals, they are relatively meaningless because, of course, all four teams have already qualified for Turkey and all they are is to set up some kind of process by which teams can be seeded at the worlds.
But because nearly half the field for the world championships has yet to be set – six teams have to come out of Eurobasket and there are four wild cards to be handed out in December – the seeding process really doesn’t mean anything.
But it’s nice to declare a winner from a tournament and it’d be a shame to just shut down the FIBA Americas event right now.
Know who I feel really good for?
Sure, the kid’s got limitations as a point guard at the elite international level, lots of players in this tournament are flawed. But when it mattered most, in the biggest game, he played great, made more three-pointers against Dominican Republic in one game than he had combined in seven outings previously and run the team with a steady hand.
I remember writing a story in about ’03 or ’05 – it was before some qualification tournament at which Canada failed – saying Anderson’s single biggest obstacle was overcoming the fact he wasn’t the guy he replaced (you know, the two-time NBA MVP) and that had to be a difficult thing to deal with.
But the kid dealt with it as best he could, he kept playing and trying to get better and while there are still flaws, seeing him come up huge in a huge game was very nice and good reward for kid who simply came out and gave his best every summer.
Good on him.
Okay, gotta jet, be back with some mail or Canada stuff in the morning after I’ve had a few hours to really digest what this tournament means for the future and, maybe, what things might change for the Canucks between now and next summer in Turkey.
Oh, and I also have to work on the sales memo to send to the boss explaining why I better start figuring out flights to Istanbul.