The Can Ball Report glances at the game and examines a comment made during the game. Not your typical game report.
So tonight I found myself in front of the computer anticipating the Canada vs. Puerto Rico match up having been able to find a way to watch it live. I was eager to see how well the Senior Men would handle the high powered offense of the free gunning Ricans. All I can say is that there were some flashes for Canada but the outcome was fairly predictable.
Now I thought, did Canada have a shot?
I was on the fence about this. I was really thinking that at best, the Road Warriors would have a hard time staying close and a very hard time winning this game. I was right on both accounts.
If any of you happened to remember this Puerto Rico team from the last few international events, the word on them is that they will shoot from deep. And through the entire game they launched from outside and made it rain. And after the first quarter it turned into a downpour of Biblical proportions. That outside shooting opened up the lanes for their inside game. All in all, the Canadians did everything they could but could not stop the flood that came down on them. Let’s face it, Puerto Rico is an elite level basketball program and the whopping they gave Canada shows it.
Now I won’t go into any stats rants or breakdowns for the game. They are one sided for the most part and you can check those for yourself if you’d like at the FIBA Americas site. Instead what I’ll look at is a comment that I heard during the halftime conversation that happened between one of the game announcers and Maurizio Gherardini.
The announcer interviewed Gherardini and asked the typical basketball questions. The interview was really good considering that it was a halftime of an international event and it was a pleasant change to the Kenny Smith/Charles Barkley/Reggie Miller type stuff you get accustomed to during the NBA season (no offense to the boys at the Raps telecasts). One question the announcer asked struck me in particular: do you think you think that this is the best team Canada has put out in the last few years?
Gherardini’s answer to this question began with a slight hesitation before he went into a "we have better parts to the team now" statement. He then followed that by saying that Canada needs to have better processes and development programs here at home for players so that they can perform at this level. Now bear in mind that this was following his making a point that few of the Canadians playing abroad were making significant contributions to their pro teams.
That point stuck in my mind. Of the guys that play pro who are on the Senior Team this summer, only English and Young can be expected to shoulder heavy loads for their club teams. For the most part, the rest are role players at best on their squads at this point. Now that’s no disrespect to any of them because they are all very talented players. How else could they be on the team if they weren’t? But the point that Maurizio was making was that the program, to a degree, had failed to develop these players to be the lead dogs. If you’re a long time follower of the National Program, then you may know this frustration. There was not support early on in the line to nurture the players and help build the tools that would give them that skill set to be stars abroad. And until that happens, the program will suffer at this level.
So my point to all these words is this: Will Canada presently continue to get smacked around by teams like Puerto Rico at the international level? Of course because they are currently better. Will this be the only outcome every time we play a team of that caliber? Hell no. The National Program is moving in a direction that is developing younger talent earlier and continuing to develop those guys that are already in the program to move these overseas role players into star player status. The leap from last summer alone with largely the same lineup is remarkable right now once the programs get put in place these leaps will be bigger and more impactful to everyone from fans to players.
Now Canada will have today to rest up and regroup for the games ahead. The pool will be tougher this time around with a berth at the World Championships on the line. The next few days will show whether Canada simply needs to improve on the present team or scrape it for a complete remodel.