Long journey begins for Canada today
Okay, so, game tonight in Vancouver.
Canada-China and while I’m not there, I’ll find some way to pay close attention because it’s a good jumping off point to see just where the Canadians about three weeks out from the start of the world championships.
I don’t expect perfectly crisp execution and I’m certain some issues will arise but at least the game – which comes after about a week long training camp only – will give Leo Rautins a chance to see what needs the most work.
And, frankly, I think they’re going to need work on all facets of the game.
This is a young group – very, very young relative to the other teams they’ll see in Turkey – and there are going to be speed bumps.
There are a couple of guys banged up – point guard Jermaine Anderson’s got a leg issue, Denham Brown’s got a bit of hamstring I understand – so it’s not entirely clearly who’ll play.
I’m pretty sure, when it’s time to start for real, that you can pencil in Anderson, Andy Rautins and Joel Anthony as three starters but the other two spots are very much up for grabs.
The four is a bit of an issue, it could be Levon Kendall (I imagine it should be tonight since he’s playing at home for the first time in about eight years and that’d be a pretty cool thing for Leo to do) but he’s still getting back from ankle surgery.
The other wing spot is either going to go to Brown or Olu Famutimi, I’d imagine, but I don’t think any decision has been made there at all.
This is going to be a very big summer for this team, not necessarily because he can make any significant noise at the world championships – I still say getting out of their first-round group should be considered success – but because of the foundation it will lay for trying to get to the 2012 London Olympics and because Canada needs some sustained appearances at the big events to be taken remotely seriously in the global picture.
Getting to the worlds once every eight years and the Olympics once every eight or 12 is not good enough; this program has to become a mainstay at those events and that journey really stars this week.
Speaking of Canada, and I know this sounds a tad shillish, I think you should really make a concerted effort to get down the Air Canada Centre on Thursday or Friday if you can to check out the games against France.
I understand tickets aren’t all that pricey – less than $20 gets you a seat in the lower bowl somewhere and I think they max out at about $60 – and the games should be good.
Don’t come in expecting Lakers-Celtics, come in thinking you’d like to see what Canada looks like, how it matches up against a team some see as a possible medal threat in Turkey and just to lend some support to an organization I think is more than worthy of it.
There are always laments about the lack of games involving the national team in Canada and a concern that these kids are unrecognizable.
This is a way to change it.
Okay, since we’ve got Toronto and New Jersey in London in the regular season, a pre-season game there n October and one in France as well, I’m sure there’s all kind of chatter about the NBA expanding to Europe.
And I guess David Stern kind of threw cold water on it in the conference call he did yesterday.
“As I've said many times, I think one franchise doesn't work; it needs to be multiple franchises in new buildings or good buildings like London, Berlin, Colon, Prague. We need more buildings. And we need owners, and frankly, we need good television, and we need a better economy. And so I don't see that happening any time soon, but I think it certainly is something that I and my successors will be considering.”
The NBA is an absolute leader in the globalization of its sports among the North American pro leagues. I don’t think hockey does nearly as well or have even close to the reach that basketball does (it being played seriously in, what, seven or eight countries over there?) and baseball’s a joke in Europe.
But all those things Stern said they need – arenas, multiple franchises and, most important, a robust economy – aren’t happening any time soon.
So it’s nice to have a game or two or three over there, I wouldn’t worry about a six-team division popping up any time soon.
What I would like to see first – and I have no idea how workable this is – is some kind of in-season club competition akin to football’s Champions League.
Maybe you do the top four or six from the NBA and the top two or three from, say, Spain, Greece and Russia – generally considered the better leagues over there although my friends in Turkey might disagree – and you let them do some kind of tournament.
And then you play the championship game on the Saturday of the all-star weekend.
As I said, I have no idea if it’s workable given the vagaries of scheduling and the availabilities of arenas and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But it’d be cool, no?
Man, it’s been slow, hasn’t it?
Not just here but everywhere around the league as everyone seems to have taken a couple of weeks to decompress and gird up for the long season coming.
Guess the only big thing to deal with – and it’s not really particularly big – is where Tracy McGrady lands.
And since we know it’s not going to be Toronto, not sure anyone here really cares an awful lot of about that.
A look at the old schedule shows I’ll be Tennis Boy for a couple of days, which says more about staffing levels in our department than anything else.
Not entirely sure what that means, though. I do know Federer’s playing tonight so that ought to be cool and at least give me a subject for a story.
Wish me luck.