Canada must advance through the Olympic qualifying to get to Tokyo
As we mentioned above, Canada must advance through the Olympic qualifying to get to Tokyo. That tournament will start on June 29 and is all set to run until July 4. Canada will be joined in the play-in tournament by Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey and the Czech Republic. Remember, of all these six teams, only the winner of the tournament will move on to play in Tokyo.
This is something Canada fully understands, which is why they're hoping to produce a memorable performance to get themselves back to the Olympics. Canada hasn't appeared at the Olympics for men's basketball since 2000. In the country's history, they've only appeared on the hardwood at the summer games twice. That's something they're hoping to change in 2021.
In order for that to happen, Canada will need to take down the other five countries they're getting ready to meet at the qualifying tournament. This most certainly won't be easy, but the Canadians are hoping to answer the call here. Fortunately, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse will be coaching up the Canadian team. He knows a thing or two about winning big games, as he helped the Raptors win the NBA Finals in 2019.
"Obviously, this is going to be a summer with a lot of moving parts, and I feel that you need to have a leader at the helm, in Nick Nurse, who's been through every type of basketball that you can imagine to prepare him for a moment like this," Rowan Barrett, general manager of the Canadian men's national team, said in a recent press conference.
Team Canada has a loaded roster ready to go to Tokyo
The good news for basketball fans up north is that Team Canada has a loaded roster ready to go to Tokyo. The training camp invites were announced in late May, with the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk and many more standouts accepting the invitations to represent their home country. Unfortunately for Canada, Jamal Murray suffered his torn ACL and won't be able to play.
With that said, though, there's a total of 14 NBA players on the training camp roster. This of course is incredible news. Wiggins is one of the more exciting players for this team. He hasn't suited up for Canada since 2015, but he is ready to try and help this squad make plenty of noise. It will start at the qualifying tournament, where a trip to the Olympics will be on the line.
"This has been a lengthy process to get to this list, because of the year off and all that stuff," Nurse said in a recent interview. "But with Wiggins and Lyles particularly, they both were very responsive, which I appreciate. Like whenever I would reach out, they were responding immediately back and were positive. That again just shows their commitment, their respect for the program, their interest in the program, all those kinds of things."
Canada will open the tournament with a game against Greece and then follow that up with a showdown against China. It will be imperative for them to get off to a strong start and not overlook any of the teams they meet on the hardwood. Fortunately for them, they've got so many outstanding players who are motivated to represent Canada to the best of their abilities.
Canada will hope to have a home-court advantage on its side
With the qualifying tournament being played in Victoria, B.C., this of course means that Canada will hope to have a home-court advantage on its side ahead of the 2021 Olympics. It's still up in the air whether or not fans will be allowed inside of the stadium for the big battles, but Nurse is hopeful that people will be able to go and cheer on the Canadian team. It'd make a huge difference.
“I mean obviously we’re playing at home and it would be awesome to have a home crowd,” Nurse told Canada's SportsNet. “Think about what it would have been like if none of this would have happened. It would have been electric in there, right? It would be awesome if somehow they could figure out a way to do it safely to get some of our own fans in there. I know our players would appreciate the lift.”