Cory Joseph of the Spurs, Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers, and Andrew Nicholson of the Magic are part of the growing generation of Canadians playing in the NBA. Carl English and Jermaine Anderson are among the accomplished veterans of the Canadian senior men's basketball program. They've come together this week, along with 12 more of the country's best, as team Canada's training camp takes over the Toronto Raptors' practice facility in preparation for the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship later this month. It's a mix of players and perspectives that benefits both sides.
“It’s good that we have some NBA guys to join the crew and have guys that have played overseas and understand the game to help teach us in terms of the rules and how it’s played and for us teaching them what it takes to play at the highest level," said Thompson.
Joseph can lean on fellow point guard Anderson, a 10-year veteran of the senior men's team currently playing professionally in Germany, for advice on how to run Canada's offence.
“He’s a vet and he has international experience. He can teach me a lot about the international game," said Joseph. "It’s a great chance for me to grow as a player and especially as a point guard. I’ve got to bring these guys together and get W’s, that’s what it’s about."
Led by Jay Triano, who has plenty of experience coaching at the FIBA level going back to his previous stint at Canada's head coach from 1998-2005 as well as an assistant coach for team USA, the coaching staff has recognized that some of the less experienced players aren't as familiar with the international game. They've made sure those players are aware of the nuances that define international play.
"They’re doing a good job of instructing us on the different style of game here and putting in good drills to make us better at it," said Nicholson.
The differences between the FIBA game and what Thompson and Nicholson are used to playing in the NBA aren't obvious. Thompson has identified a couple of rules that he needs to adhere to that aren't applied in North America.
“[There's] the rule about goaltending and players can’t call timeouts. It’s definitely an adjustment we’re going to have to make, especially with in-game situations," said Thompson. "It sounds easy but when the game starts I’m still thinking like I’m in the NBA. It’s going to be an adjustment."
Nicholson hopes that the altered court construction can be advantageous to his game.
"I know the international [three-point] line is a little closer in, it's usually where I shoot in the NBA anyway so I'm going to try and take advantage of that."
On Thursday, the team will play the first of a two game exhibition against Jamaica at Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens. It's the first on-court challenge that will prepare Canada's men for the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship that begins August 30th in Caracas, Venezuela.
Training camp has been brief but there's a belief that intense scrimmaging and a competitive atmosphere has resulted in positive progress.
“It’s been great. It feels like we’re getting more of a feel for the plays and the system they want us to run – obviously everyone is coming from different systems. Everyone is getting to know each other a little more, what they like to do on the court so it’s coming together," said Joseph.
Players like English and Anderson have been loyal members of the Canadian national team for over a decade. Their efforts and careers have been overlooked but they will leave a tangible imprint on the basketball program they have valiantly represented. They will still be relied upon to perform on the court but their biggest contributions this summer might be the wisdom they pass onto the next generation of players that will don the red and white. The next generation that is creating an unprecedented buzz around basketball in our country, and that next generation is ready to learn.
“I’m looking for [us] to grow together. To get to know these guys better so we can grow as a team so we can push towards playing well in 2016," said Nicholson. "There’s a lot of hype and there should be. We have a lot of good talent here and we’re just building towards the future.”