Canada’s path to the 2016 Rio Olympics became clearer Wednesday with the draw for the FIBA Americas men’s basketball qualifying tournament.
What remains unclear is what Canada’s team will look like.
"We still have a lot of work to do as far as figuring out who’s going to be available and what the time commitments with their NBA teams or European teams are going to be, how flexible those teams are going to be in letting us use those players for this event," Canada’s coach Jay Triano said on a conference call. "And for the Pan American Games for that matter."
Canada was drawn Wednesday in Group B with Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Cuba for the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament, Aug. 25 to Sept. 6 in Monterrey, Mexico.
Triano said he has about 30 players in the national team mix, and could see a variety of players spread between the Pan American Games, July 10-26 in Toronto, and the FIBA Americas tournament,
The Pan Am Games conflict with the NBA summer league, and young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis could be required to play there rather than Toronto.
"At the end of the (NBA) season, we’ll reach out to the NBA teams and find out whether they want their players to play in the summer league or if they can afford to miss part of the summer league or miss it completely," Triano said.
"The good thing is that for a lot of our players, they’re beyond the summer league, a Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson, Robert Sacre, Tristan Thompson…but there are going to be some that the NBA teams I’m sure are going to want their hands on their players."
The Canadian men are gunning for their first Olympic berth since the 2000 Games in Sydney. A top-two finish in Mexico will clinch them an Olympic spot.
The top four teams in Group B after the first round will cross over and play the top four teams in Group A, which has Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Panama, and Mexico. The top four teams overall after second-round action will play in meet in two semifinals. The winners of each will play in the Olympics.
Triano hasn’t sat down with the Minnesota Timberwolves to ask about the star rookie’s availability, he’s being respectful of their NBA season. He said he will talk to each NBA team with Canadians as soon as their NBA seasons are over.
Triano does believes Wiggins can be a leader for the Canadian team, whenever he joins the fold.
"He’s got an incredible skillset, and I wouldn’t say it’s just offensively," Triano said. "His growth throughout the first year in the NBA has been fantastic, and I think that’s an important thing for us with the Canadian team as well.
"(But) we still have a long way to go as far as our discussions with the Timberwolves, how we can best use and utilize Andrew while at the same respecting where they have him in their plans as he progresses as a professional player."
Edmonton is hosting the women’s FIBA Americas tournament Aug. 9-16.