Dalembert talks about Rautins feud


TORONTO — Samuel Dalembert hasn’t closed the door on playing basketball for Canada again but says he won’t don a Canadian jersey so long as Leo Rautins is coaching.

The six-foot-11 centre was in Toronto on Sunday as his Philadelphia 76ers faced the Raptors in an NBA pre-season game, just three months removed from his falling out with Rautins at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Athens, Greece.

"I think it would be very immature to just let one person ruin the great things that we have here," Dalembert said.

But asked if he would consider playing for Rautins, Canada’s head coach, Dalembert said, "No. If you have one slap, you never know when you’re going to get another slap."

Rautins dropped Dalembert from the team after he picked up just two points on 1-of-8 shooting and two rebounds in a loss to Slovenia — mere hours before Canada’s game against South Korea. At the time, the Canadians needed two more victories at July’s 12-country last-chance qualifying tournament to earn a berth in the Beijing Olympics.

"I was getting ready for the game which we were playing against Korea. I was already on the bus, sitting down, and he asked to talk to me," Dalembert said. "The timing was very bad. Stuff was going on. Stuff he said to me, I talked back. After that there was a gesture that he made that really upset me. After that we started talking, and things escalated.

"I was playing for me. I was playing for Canada. But obviously the bus wasn’t going to leave if I didn’t get off the bus. So I made the decision to get off the bus."

Dalembert’s dismissal led to an ugly and public war of words between the coach and player. In July, Rautins said the issue was with Dalembert’s commitment to the team. He called the player a "prima donna," and said that he distanced himself from the rest of the team. Rautins added the decision to let the Sixers centre go was unanimous among the players.

On Sunday, Rautins repeated his stance but left the door open to Dalembert’s potential return to the national program.

"No player is bigger than the team, or the program, and as I said, I am open to discussing the future," he said.

Dalembert said he had spoken with Canada Basketball officials, saying he received an apology from Wayne Parrish, the executive director of the national basketball organization. He added he was planning to speak with Parrish again after Sunday’s game in Toronto.

"What happened in the summer was unfortunate," Parrish said. "But my hope is over the next six to eight to 10 months we can resolve this in a good way. It’s important that the lines of communication are open with Sam and I, and I know Leo feels the same way."

Dalembert, 27, was born in Haiti, but lived in Montreal briefly during high school. He received his Canadian citizenship in the summer of 2007, just a couple of weeks before playing for Canada at the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas.

Dalembert averaged 10.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.38 blocks in Las Vegas, helping the Canadians earn a spot in the last-chance event in Greece.

Without Dalembert in Athens, the Canadians defeated South Korea, but were eliminated in a lopsided 83-62 loss to Croatia.

Rautins was named head coach of the Canadian team in February 2005, replacing Jay Triano. Rautins’ contract expires at the end of 2008.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.