Tough morning for me as both a Raptors' fan and a big Team Canada booster.
Minutes ago Canada lost its do or die game to Croatia and therefore is eliminated from Olympic consideration.
In a game that was closer than the final score would lead one to believe, it wasn't really until the fourth quarter that the wheels came off for Canada. In the fourth, Croatia used some hot shooting to seal the deal and got solid performances from almost everyone on their team.
The same can't be said for Team Canada who once again were woeful offensively, especially from inside the 3 point line. In fact Olu Famutimi and veteran Rowan Barrett were Canada's lead men with only 14 and 13 points each respectively. Meanwhile players like Carl English just couldn't buy a basket and in the end the superior team won.
So what's next for the program?
Well, that's a good question...especially considering how drama-filled these past few weeks have been. No Denham Brown (although not sure he would have been much of a difference maker for the Canadians), and the dismissal of two key pieces from last summer's enthusiastic crew; Samuel Dalembert and Juan Mendez.
Of course no one's REALLY sure what went on between head coach Leo Rautins and these three but it simply doesn't look good when basically three of your four best NBA prospects (the fourth being Anthony) are essentially turned off the program. What started just about a year and a half ago as a promising renewal to the Canadian Senior Men's program now could end up pushing things back years. I'm a big believer in team chemistry as opposed to simply having the top talent but as evidenced by today's display, until the Canadian crew gets some serious help, they're just not going to be able to compete with even the third tier of Olympic qualifying teams.
So who are the key pieces right now?
I'd say besides Anthony (who's athleticism and rebounding were a breath of fresh air all tournament), Famutimi (who could be the team's best player if he could just display some consistency), and Levon Kendall, the rest of the crew could go. Rowan Barrett would be on this list as well but this was likely his last tour of duty with the team. And while I liked Rans Brempong's rebounding and energy, he's a ninth man on a solid squad. Team Canada needs a serious mid-range boost to their offense (which is why not having Juan Mendez hurts so much) and until that's provided, this team is going to struggle even against clubs like Korea as we saw Wednesday morning.
Turning to more Raptors-related talks, how about Roko's play?
I've of course been perhaps the biggest skeptic as to what he'll realistically be able to bring to the table next year but by all accounts he looked pretty solid today. He didn't force anything, hit some open shots, displayed good on-court awareness, and didn't get beat up too badly on D.
Of course this wasn't the NBA but it was still quite encouraging. In fact, he made one play that made me think he might be a-ok next year. On a pick-and-roll that Canada hedged on, Roko had the awareness to split the D and then dump the ball off to a teammate for an open 3. A subtle play but one that spoke volumes about his potential. In addition, Roko certainly looks to have bulked up from when he was drafted and hopefully that will help him with the more physical nature of the NBA.
On to Vegas we go as the Raptors dropped to 0 and 3 in League Competition with yesterday's 87 to 85 loss to Philly. I'm going to reserve the breakdown until I get to see the replay hopefully shown this evening on Raps TV but once again Joey Graham and CJ Giles (who from highlights threw down some vicious put-back dunks) were the standouts in the box score. One of our readers provided a nice write-up in the comments section of yesterday's post so check that out for a sneak preview.
And finally, keeping with the 0 and 3 theme, after seeing the final result in Vegas and then watching Team Canada be eliminated this morning thus going 0 for 2, I read that my most coveted free-agent Kelenna Azubuike has signed an offer sheet with the LA Clippers. Yes Toronto was out of salary room but reading that the deal would be about $3 Million a season (a great move by the Clips by the way) it's going to hurt just a bit more having to watch Joey Graham and his nearly $3 Mill extension tonight in Vegas...