Looking back on the international competition as Thompson and the Cavs return to Canada on Thursday for the first time since they clinched a berth in the NBA Finals with a Game 6 win over the Toronto Raptors in May, the Cleveland big man called out his fellow countrymen who chose not to play for the national team. “[It should] challenge the guys who didn’t play to next time when the country calls,” Thompson said. “Step up and play.”
Now Canada will try to first qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China starting next summer and then the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “That’s a long time from now,” said Thompson, who will be 29 when the Tokyo Games open. Will he use that time to start recruiting Canada’s best players? “Next time when it comes around, we’ll give them a call and hopefully they’ll show up,” said Thompson, adding that he was preoccupied with the Cavs’ playoff run last spring when he could have been trying to shape the team. “Shoot, if I say I’m playing that’s enough recruiting right there,” Thompson said. “If me and Cory say we both going to play, that’s enough. Join something special.”
Should he carve an NBA career out of his partially guaranteed contract with the Heat, undrafted Hawaii forward Stefan Jankovic could have an interesting international decision, born in Serbia and raised in Canada. On one hand, Serbia is coming off a silver-medal finish in the Olympics. On the other hand, Canada could emerge as a power should Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk take more active roles. “I’ve been in contact with both,” Jankovic said of the Serbian and Canadian federations. “Obviously there was some interest this summer, but due to summer league, for both Canada and for Serbia, I wasn’t able to do any of the training camps and tryout and the exhibition stuff. So that kind of limited what I was able to do. But in the future, I haven’t really made a decision, but I’ve been in contact with both.”
I know you’ll be paying attention to the Olympics. Who do you think is going to win the gold? Andrew Wiggins: I want to see Spain get it just because I have a teammate on there. It’d be awesome to see Spain win it.
Stauskas, who represents Canada internationally, chose not to play with his country this summer after playing in the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship. “With the time commitment, it wasn’t in my best interest to participate,” Stauskas said. “I felt like I had a lot of things to improve on to get to where I want to be as a professional basketball player. It was a tough decision to say no to Team Canada because I see myself playing with them in the future. I just felt like this summer was very important and I had some things to take care of.”
For the second consecutive year, Canada was one victory from qualifying for the Olympics and for the second consecutive year, Canada came up short, losing to France 83-74 in a qualifying tournament in the Philippines on Sunday. San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker ensured France’s spot in Rio with 26 points, four assists and four rebounds. Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph scored 20 points for Canada.