Steve Nash does not play international basketball anymore, which is the biggest reason why Team Canada has fallen off the map competitively since in the 12 years since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when Nash, Todd MacCulloch and Rowen Barrett, coached by Jay Triano, won their group in pool play before losing in the first game of the knockout round to France.
There is a story I have heard in the years since that gives some good background to what caused Canada to flame out in the quarterfinals against a French team that had gone 2-3 in pool play and only advanced on a tiebreaker over China (but went on to win the silver medal).
The way the Team Canada story goes, as I have heard it (let’s be clear here, this item falls under the journalist categorization of gossip) , is like this: After defeating Yugoslavia in the final game of pool play (Nash had 26, 8 and 8), Nash and backcourt mate Rowan Barrett were having a good time in the Olympic athletes village late at night when they met two female sprinters. They challenged the ladies to a race, and Barrett pulled his hamstring.
Canada trailed by 15 at halftime against France in the next game, and McCulloch’s 23 and 9 were not enough. So ended Canada’s latest and greatest gasp for glory in Olympic basketball.
Why is all of this relevant now?
Because Triano has been re-installed as coach of Team Canada, and Nash is the top executive for Canada Basketball in a move than is akin, on a Canadian level, to Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski taking over the USA Basketball program in 2005 when it was in tatters.
More on the Nash-Triano relationship from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: “I’ve known Jay for 21, 22 years, since he recruited me to go to Simon Fraser University from Victoria and he’s always been a class act, just a phenomenal person and somebody who always seemed to be selfless,” said Nash. “He obviously wanted a young player to go to his university but he was also very honest with me. He told me he thought I should go play basketball in the States and for a coach that’s trying to recruit you, that was a different approach. “That meant a lot to me to hear him be honest and hear him be humble and to tell me that he believed in me and that I could go and do great things.” Nash and Triano, the 38-year-old all-star and his 53-year-old mentor and friend, have one of the more enduring basketball relationships in Canada. Triano was coaching at Simon Fraser when Nash was a high school all-star in Victoria and they were coach and star on the last Canadian men’s team to qualify for the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. That, of course, provided the high-water mark for Canada internationally since the late 1980s, a 5-2 record and a quarter-final berth. Now the two are charged with getting Canada back to that same level in 2016 in Rio, which would be just the second time in 28 years a Canadian men’s team has competed at the Olympic Games after missing out in 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012. “To have Steve come back — he’s still an NBA basketball player, he doesn’t need to do this — I think is a huge tribute to him, to come back and care about the next generation of Canadians,” said Triano. “That’s what our relationships were about in the past and that’s what they’re about moving forward into the future. We care and we keep passing it along.”
A few other items of note from a sultry summer Saturday in The Association:
- Who will be the sixth and seventh playoff seeds in the West if we assume the Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Grizzlies and Nuggets are going to get five of them. Chris Bernucca of SheridanHoops.com breaks down the possibilities for the Mavericks, Jazz, Warriors, Jazz, Timberwolves and Suns.
- After a 127-day absence, Dwight Howard returned to Twitter. I took the liberty of advising him on how to win some of Metta World Peace’s pocket change Benjamins.
- Carmelo Anthony on Amare Stoudemire, who worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer at Olajuwon’s ranch in Katy, Texas. “It’s not like he didn’t have those moves. I guess he just didn’t feel comfortable down there, or whatever it may be,” Anthony said Friday during a break at his two-day youth camp at St. John’s University, according to Roderick Boone of Newsday. “But him going down there and putting me on the wing, now I get to play off of him rather than me going down there and him playing off of me, which could be a deadly weapon if it all works out.”
- Charles Oakley ripped Dwight Howard, according to Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com: “Former NBA enforcer Charles Oakley has proven time after time over the years that he suffers no fools. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, has always had a bit of goofiness to his showmanship, and his clown act went totally off the rails last season, amidst trade demands, awkward confrontations with his coach, a press conference where he professed his so-called “loyalty,” more trade demands, a season-ending back surgery, hiding out in Los Angeles and, finally, a long-awaited trade to the Lakers that freed the Orlando Magic from his child-like indecision and neediness. Surprise, surprise, the hard-headed Oakley didn’t like how the “Dwightmare” played out. In a recent ESPN Radio interview, Oakley got a few digs in on Howard and took the Magic to task for their appeasement of their former franchise center.
“A lot of guys cry in this league these days. I try not to get caught up in that. The management in Orlando let him get away with it. Most times, they put kids in timeout. They never put him in timeout. He just kept crying and got his way. Now he’s in LA with Kobe so they got a chance to win a couple championships in the next two or three years.
“They could have traded him and got something better for him last year. I think they just tried to play along. They just pleased him anyway they could but he never did anything to please them.”
Golliver wrote: Hard to argue with any of that. The Magic bungled the entire mess badly, settling for pennies on the dollar years after it became clear a future was untenable, while also losing former coach Stan Van Gundy in the process. What’s interesting is that Oakley was actually way out in front of the bubbling Howard mess. Back in June 2010, he questioned Howard’s commitment to the game during a Florida radio interview.
(FRIDAY’s SH BLOG: Bosh says Lakers best team in NBA “on paper”)