Sitting there Monday night wrapping up the Staples Center doubleheader watching Shai Gilgeous-Alexander debut as an NBA starter with the Clippers while Andrew Wiggins once again was just another guy on the court for Minnesota, the thought, of course, went to Canada’s senior men’s team and what the future might hold for it.
And you know what?
I’m becoming more and more convinced – and this is not a kneejerk reaction to Monday night – that it is possible that Wiggins never plays again for Canada, even if he says he wants to.
Yeah, I can see whoever is making whatever decisions are to be made regarding the roster construct for the 2019 World Cup and, potentially, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics saying. ‘well, Wigs, thanks for your interest but, all in all, it’s thanks but no thanks.’
Hear me out on a couple of salient points on that, would you?
There is no disputing Wiggins’ talent, at least when he fully applies himself and there are NBA types who tell me privately that it doesn’t happen all the time.
But Canada could be so stacked with talent perfectly suited for the FIBA game that he might not be able to “make” the team and who would have ever thought that.
How’s this for a roster next summer and the summer after, at least a large percentage of it:
Cory Joseph, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray, Kevin Pangos, RJ Barrett, Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynyk, Melvin Ejim, Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell.
There’s 10 of 12 right there and that doesn’t include guys like Nik Stauskas, Brady Heslip, Phil Scrubb, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch, I’m certain there are others I’ve forgotten and, yeah, Wiggins.
Now, Wiggins is a better raw talent than almost all of them, we will stipulate, but looking at skillsets needed for international success – multi-dimensional talent at both ends and shooting, shooting, shooting and more shooting, does he fit well on the court?
And here’s the part that might be most important than anything else.
There needs to be a level of passion, true passion, for pulling on a Canadian jersey. You truly have to play for the next guy more than yourself, you have to give every ounce you’ve got every time on the floor for your team to be as successful as it can be. I’ve watched Canada, I saw first hand what unity and fighting for a common cause did for the men at the 2000 Sydney Games and the women at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
I know how important it is; I have wondered for years, going back to the disastrous end of the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico in 2015 whether Wiggins has that passion.
I wonder today. I will wonder next year. I know there are people associated with program who wonder the same thing.
It must be part of the thought process that comes into play when a team is being selected.
There will be all kinds of time to debate the issue and circumstances change, skill development stalls, injuries happen, contract stuff arises and, heck, Canada hasn’t even qualified yet. But there’s a flip side for all the consternation about whether or not Wiggins wants to play that not many people are thinking about.
And that’s if they want or need him.
It is not solely his decision and I think people need to realize that.
There was a time, not long ago, that he represented all that was exciting about the future of Canadian basketball. A super-athletic No. 1 draft pick who had caught everyone’s attention, Wiggins was going to be the face of The Golden Age of Canadian basketball, wasn’t he?
That’s not the case any more, not remotely. He didn’t accept that responsibility, others have surpassed him in some ways as a player – did you see RJ Barrett as Duke dismantled Kentucky last night – and many people have moved on from the “we need Andrew to really win” mentality, as well they should have.
Again, I am not saying there is no place for him the program, the senior team can always use a talent like him.
What I am saying is (a) it’s not going to solely be up to him and (b) the depth of talent is good enough to thrive on its own and (c) inclusion on any Canadian team put together for an intense, one-tournament summer depends on a host of factors, pure basketball skill just one of many.
All right, we’re later than usual to this but we need to start thinking about the weekend mail.
Click on this firstname.lastname@example.org place and do what you do and we’ll star the process.
It’ll be fun.
Yeah, I wasn’t around yesterday morning because the end of my trip was exhausting and included a silly early flight and it’s too early in the season to push things too close to limits.
And I have a “thing” tomorrow morning that might end up with the same thing happening so forgive an absence if it occurs again.
But once it’s over with, it’s clear sailing for as far as the eye can see – no time zone travel, no things to be dealt with so we’ll be truly back to normal.
Until we’re not.
The Raptors? Well, She Who Supports Arsenal had this, they had an off-day in Sacramento, probably watching the shenanigans at the state house there, and there’s a late game tonight to wrap up the trip.
I think I can stay up until after midnight watching it but I am not 100 per cent sure of that.
But if they do find a way to win, coming up with a 4-0 road trip that included three in four nights and a back-to-back would certainly be an eye-opening accomplishment.