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Limping Into the World Championships

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After a stellar warm up in Canada, the Senior Men's National Team seems to have gone ice cold in Europe.  What happened?  Injuries, that's what.  The Can Ball Report takes a look at what questioned can be raised with these ill timed maladies and what it can mean for the final roster ...  


I was sitting in my favorite chair recently and was remarking on how quickly the summer had gone by.  I remember when I had thought that Fall was a long way off but it is actually just around the corner now.  One day I was watching the Lakers beat the Celtics and now I’m reading Tweets of kids heading off to school.  And with kids heading back for the next semester, that means that World Championships also upon us.  Destination Turkey only a few hours away, I think it’s time to take a look at what the Senior Men’s National Team and what they have in front of them. 


After an excellent showing in all three of the exhibition games against France and China in both Vancouver and Toronto, where the Men blew out both teams, the Senior Men have seemed to have fallen on hard times.  Despite the great wins over France and China, the momentum didn’t seem to carry over for the Red and White to Europe.  Since the three wins Canada has been thumped soundly in every game but one in the last ten days which included a 123-49 loss to Greece to open the Acropolis Eurobank Tournament on Aug. 17.  Despite the great win over the fifth ranked Slovenian team, the people are thinking that Canada is losing steam.


So what up?


Was there not so much promise when they played at home before Europe? 

Yes of course there was.


Didn’t Canada look like they could beat anyone that dared stepped on the floor with them? 

Hell yeah!  Did you see how they dropped France who counted five current and former NBA players, one NBA Draftee and two guys that are potential Draftees. 


So then the question again … What up?


It seems that Canada has been hit with a rather unfortunate case of the injury bug that’s what up. 


When I was in the Canada Basketball conference call yesterday Coach Rautins had said that the team has been a MASH unit due to the injuries during this trip.  If you happened to check out my Tweets from yesterday or have read the many stories that have come out since yesterday (if not you can check out the latest edition of Canadian Content) you’ll know:  that Jermaine Bucknor’s had an ankle injury, Jermaine Anderson is still returning to form from his injury and is not fully in tip top shape, Aaron Doornekamp got hurt recently and Andy Rautins hasn’t played in any of the games, or even practiced for that matter, due to a knee injury he suffered playing the last game against France.  So that leaves ten live bodies for games, about two thirds of the team.  Throw in what Leo said is something of a stomach virus that has affected the rest of the players to some degree and the travel fatigue and you got yourself a hell of a way to lead into the World Championships. 


Now the team roster is still not finalized but by the looks of it there seems to be some very big question marks now.  Who is staying?  Who is going?  Do you sacrifice great at position for good at multiple?  Do you go with a guy that is inexperienced but healthy or take the chance on a banged up vet getting better a game in?  Do you let the guys slumping play through the slump or do you let someone else try to step up?  According to Leo, they have to be in by Friday around 2pm and that doesn’t leave much time for the players to get to 100%.  The worst question of all, particularly for a team missing two key guys from last summer’s roster that qualified for the event, can you really afford to sacrifice anything without a bonafide star player? 


I think the most important question at this point is this:  With the current makeup of players where some can play several positions, can these guys play more than the expected 20 to 25 minutes a game that Leo was hoping for if people are hurt? 


The answer is I don’t think so.  With so many games in a short span of time, recovery time will be at a premium and guys playing more than those minutes are asking for more injuries.  Like the Spartan phalanx, the strength of this team is the name next to him and with weakened parts, the whole will also be weak.  The beauty if this particular National Team was that guys could step in and no noticeable drop off in talent was evident.  The problem here is that when a body is missing, there is no fresh talent to draw from on the bench. 


All said, this leads to a one word response:  Yikes!


As an eternal optimist, I would think that everybody will be playing healthy in time for the World Championships but my realist brain tells me that won’t happen.  With the guys we had in both Vancouver and Toronto, there was an obvious spark and energy that you could see on the floor and they were able to play with the best of them.  The vets are always good and can adjust to situations while the young guys are looking good according to Guru Rautins.   But these past two tournaments, Team Maple Leaf has been looking like the designated patsy.  With all the walking wounded that seem to inhabit the Canadian bench now, we look like a JV team to the rest of the world’s varsities. 


The truth is we really won’t know Canada’s chances in Turkey until the final roster is published closer this week.  Let’s hope that everyone is feeling a lot better then and we can field a team that can at least practice in full by Friday.