By JOSH NEWMAN & ADAM ZAGORIA
NEW YORK — If the Canadian national team, which was set to feature Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Ennis, is going to become a player on the international stage, it is going to have to wait until at least the 2016 Rio Olympics.
This summer’s FIBA World Cup (formerly FIBA World Championships) will be contested from Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain, but the Olympic qualifier will not include the Canadians, who were not one of the four wildcard teams selected for the 24-team event early Saturday morning. Those four spots went to Brazil, Greece, Turkey and, surprisingly, Finland.
To qualify for Rio in 2016, Canada will need to go through the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship. The host country and participating teams have yet to be finalized.
Before the announcement was made, Thompson, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, told SNY.tv that Canada had a bright future on the international stage.
“It’s promising,” he said. “On paper, we got talent and the key is for us to grow together as a team because in the international game you got to kind of have that chemistry and build that camaraderie together, so I think for years to come we’re gonna be pretty good.”
If Wiggins goes No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft over his Kansas teammate Joel Embiid, Canada would have back-to-back No. 1s in Bennett and Wiggins.
“That’s just showing our country’s getting better and better and watch out USA,” Thompson said.
The selections of Brazil, Greece and Turkey make sense given all three countries reside in the top 10 of the latest FIBA World Ranking, but the selection of Finland has come under scrutiny. The Northern European country is ranked 39th in the world by FIBA, but has the support of Rovio, a Finnish company and makers of the popular ‘Angry Birds’ games. Rovio previously agreed to provide advertising if Finland was included in the field, which basically means FIBA sold a spot.
Canada, ranked just 25th in the world but with plenty of star power at its disposal, is left without a spot for its national team this summer. Outside of questioning FIBA’s intentions regarding Finland, the Canadians can also point the finger at themselves.
The top four teams at last summer’s 10-team FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela were guaranteed spots in the World Cup. Playing without its top guns except for Thompson, Canada advanced out of Group A, but then went 3-4 in seven second-round games and were eliminated before the semifinals with a sixth-place finish.
Canada’s history in international basketball to this point has been poor. It has not medaled at an Olympics or World Championships since winning silver at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and has not qualified for the Olympics since 2000 in Sydney. That year, featuring Steve Nash at the point, Canada won Group B before finishing seventh.
**For more stories on Andrew Wiggins, click here.