From Winnipeg to Vancouver, then Sydney, and finally Perth.
The Canadian basketball squad completed a marathon trek to Australian shores over the last couple of days. They have three days to shake the jet lag, ahead of an exhibition game against the Australian Boomers on Friday night.
Rarely seen without a smile on his face since he led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship in June, Canada Basketball head coach, Nick Nurse, seemed to enjoy the trip with the newly assembled squad.
“It was much better than I expected. I feel good, the trip seemed to go fast. I’ve never been here before but I’ve coached in Europe for a long time so a lot of trips to Europe and I thought, ‘man, those are a lot longer flights than going to Europe,’ but it didn’t seem bad at all,” Nurse said with that same smile still present.
“They gave us a program to follow, how much to sleep, when to stay awake and all those types of things. I feel good, I’m excited to be here, this is awesome.”
Such is the nature of national team play. Preparation time before major tournaments is sparse, providing major challenges for not only the players, but the coaching staff. The complexities of scheming for both sides of the ball becomes simplified, as a higher emphasis on player integration and chemistry becomes vital.
“There’s an ideal style that probably would suit me as a coach that I’ve tried to develop over my 30 years as a coach. I think you are always shaping that depending on who’s out on the floor for you, so listen, I think I say this simply a lot of times and it doesn’t sound great but we want to play defence and we want to hit the open man on offense,” Nurse explained.
“I know that sounds like summing it up too simply but we’ve worked hard at developing a foundational defence, we’ve certainly got some challenges at maybe size or depth or whatever but that my job to try and minimise those or cover those and put guys in better positions in some of those things and then offensively we want to run hard, we want to cut hard, we want to pass the ball, shoot our fair bit of threes and go from there.”
The potential lack of size has become increasingly concerning for Canada, with Miami Heat big man, Kelly Olynyk, withdrawing from the World Cup after suffering a knee injury in an exhibition game against Nigeria last week.
Canada will play five exhibition games on their tour of Australia, squaring off against the Boomers on the 16th and 17th in Perth, before heading to Sydney to take on New Zealand on the 20th and 21st. They wrap the trip up and face Team USA on the 26th.
A significant point of interest heading in to the games against Australia, will be just how close Nurse and Andrej Lemanis keep their cards to their chest, with the squads set to tip their World Cup campaign off against each other on September 1 in China.
“I think any coach would probably hold a number of things back, just as simple as a few sets, or a few out of bounds plays, whatever it is, but I think most coaches would do that. I would imagine that would be the case,” Nurse said, before stressing the importance of continuing to build familiarity within the squad, a point that Boomers forward, Joe Ingles also touched on.
“At the end of the day we are trying to win games but a lot of that is developing our team to be ready by the end of August,” Ingles said.
“You aren’t going to throw everything out there I don’t think no matter who you were playing, Canada or somebody completely different but we still need to get out there and work on our stuff against someone other than our team.”
“You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out if there’s an in game situation, maybe an out of bounds, side out of bounds, late clock situation, it will probably not be what you’ll see come the first of September,” Lemanis said with a laugh.
Similar to Australia, Canada is surging through its own golden era of basketball, with Nurse central to the success, after guiding the Toronto franchise to its first NBA championship, and now charged with leading the national team to the World Cup. Nurse has witnessed the groundswell of support first hand and feels the responsibility to continue to guide the game down the path to success.
“I think Canada is at an interesting pivotal point in its basketball career. There’s more players, another five guys were drafted from Canada this year, there’s more players going to high level college programs, university programs, the NBA, so it’s a chance for Canada basketball to take a big leap forward so I take some of that responsibility to keep that going forward and help do that,” Nurse admitted.
A major roadblock for that continued success will be the Boomers, with Nurse not shying away from praising the squad he will become extremely familiar with over the next few weeks.
“I do know that they are good enough to get a medal so that puts them right up there at the top. I know if those guys play the way they are capable of they will have a chance and that’s all you need, not unlike us winning the NBA. Certain things have to happen, you get a ball bounce your way, you get lucky, you got to do some things but if you have a chance good things will happen.”
Come Friday night, those things can start to happen.
Canada will be playing the Australian Boomers in Perth this Friday, on 16 August 2019. The game will be available to watch on free to air, via SBS.
International Basketball Series game schedule
- Australian Boomers vs Canada Basketball, Friday 16 August 2019 , 7:30pm
- Australian Boomers vs Canada Basketball, Saturday 17 August 2019 , 7:30pm
- Canada Basketball vs New Zealand, Tuesday 20 August 2019 , 7:30pm
- Canada Basketball vs New Zealand, Wednesday 21 August 2019 , 7:30pm
- Australian Boomers vs USA Basketball, Thursday 22 August 2019 , 7:30pm
- Australian Boomers vs USA Basketball, Saturday 24 August 2019, 2:00pm
- USA Basketball vs Canada Basketball, Monday 26 August 2019, 7:30pm