Andrew Wiggins will not be taking his talents to Spain next summer. Unless …
Well, first things first.
Canada, which should have a team that can compete for a medal (maybe even gold?) by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around in 2020 (Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson, Cory Joseph; Tristan Thompson, all in their primes) failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup by losing 73-67 to Luis Scola (28 points) and Argentina on Sunday at the FIBA-Americas Tournament in Venezuela.
The four berths for the 2014 World Cup go to Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico (which qualified for the tournament formerly knows as the World Championship since 1974.) Traditional regional power Brazil went 0-4 in pool play in one of the most shocking international basketball developments of the summer.
So Canada would seem to be out of the mix for a berth in the 2014 tournament, but the folks at FIBA are no fools.
If the Canadian federation can assure them that Wiggins plans to compete for the national team in 2014, you can rest assured, IMHO, that the No. 1 pick of the 2014 NBA draft will get an invite to Spain via FIBA’s wild-card system, which awards four spots to teams that failed to qualify this summer (It’s a fair bet to assume that China will get one of the wild card spots after finishing fifth at the FIBA-Asia championships. An 18-point loss to Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals was their undoing; and they placed fifth).
FIBA knows where its bread is buttered, and China is one of those places.
The sport’s world governing body has been trying for years to draw interest in the World Championship from casual basketball fans in America, and a bright stage for Wiggins against some of the best teams in the world would certainly draw more eyeballs from across the pond. The final decision will be taken by FIBA’s Central Board during its meeting in Buenos Aires on November 23-24.
More on the Canadians’ loss from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, who is skeptical that Canada will get one of the four wild-cards: “A 73-67 loss to Argentina in the final game of the FIBA Americas World Cup qualification tournament on Sunday has effectively killed Canada’s chances at taking part in the 24-team tournament next summer in Spain, delaying any kind of Golden Age for Canadian basketball. Finishing the qualification tournament with three straight losses, the only way for Canada to get to Spain would be by gaining one of four wild card berths. But with at least two likely to go to European teams, one to China and one to an African country – not to mention 2016 Olympics hosts Brazil also in the mix – that seems a longshot. “Obviously I’m optimistic and hopeful, I honestly don’t know the criteria,” said head coach Jay Triano. “A lot of it will have to do with how people view the Canadian program.” Canada was doomed in Venezuela by a lack of international experience when the games became most important. They saw veteran Luis Scola score 28 points to lead Argentina on Sunday, just the kind of big game from a grizzled veteran successful teams need. “Our best players are like 22, 22 and 23 years old and we’re going against men,” said Triano. “It’s a valuable learning experience for a young team like ours. “We were here to get some experience so that when we’re at that age, we can compete on the same level.” The job now is to take this experience and use it to grow an understanding of the more physical, shorter international game. The grind – mental and physical – of eight intense games in 10 days had to contribute to Canada’s fade in its final three games. “We know where we are,” said Triano. “We’re not going to lose sight of that.” Against Argentina, Canada was once again hampered by a lack of outside shooting; they went just 3-for-18 as a team from three point range. “Our biggest fear was that scoring was going to be an issue for us,” said Triano. Cory Joseph had 19 points and Andrew Nicholson had 17 to lead Canada.”