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Canada’s Olympic men’s basketball team is a medal contender | CBC Sports



Canada’s Olympic men’s basketball team is a medal contender | CBC Sports

The Canadian men’s basketball team announced its roster for the Paris Olympics today, just hours ahead of an exhibition game against the United States in Las Vegas.

The squad is loaded with NBA talent. Ten of the 12 players are currently in the league, and veteran forward Melvin Ejim is the only one who hasn’t played in it at some point.

Canada will be led by a pair of bona fide star guards in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray. SGA was the runner-up in NBA MVP voting this season and ranked third in scoring with 30.1 points per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had the best record in the Western Conference. Murray averaged 21.2 points for the Denver Nuggets and was MVP Nikola Jokic’s main sidekick on their 2023 championship team.

Gilgeous-Alexander, 25, led Canada to its first-ever medal at the men’s Basketball World Cup (formerly the world championship) last summer, beating the United States in the bronze game in the Philippines. En route to the podium, the Canadian men clinched their first Olympic berth since 2000, when future back-to-back NBA MVP Steve Nash carried his team to the quarterfinals.

Murray skipped the World Cup, saying he needed a break after Denver’s long championship run in his first season back from a devastating knee injury. His addition to the Paris team gives Canada an excellent shot to win its first Olympic basketball medal since 1936 in Berlin. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, basketball inventor James Naismith presented the Canadians with their silvers after they lost the final to the U.S. by a score of 19-8 on a rain-soaked clay tennis court. Seriously.

Another potentially impactful new face is point guard Andrew Nembhard, who just helped the Indiana Pacers reach the Eastern Conference final as a starter in his second NBA season.

Other NBA players returning from the World Cup bronze victory include forward Dillon Brooks, who scored a Canadian men’s national-team record 39 points in the 127-118 overtime upset of the Americans; Lu Dort, a fierce perimeter defender with Gilgeous-Alexander’s Thunder; RJ Barrett, the former No. 3 overall draft choice who was acquired by the Toronto Raptors this season in a trade with New York; and veteran big man Kelly Olynyk, who also joined the Raptors in a mid-season trade.

The biggest name left off the team is Andrew Wiggins, the former No. 1 pick who reinvented himself as a vital role player for the Golden State Warriors’ 2022 championship team. Wiggins’ commitment to the national team has waned over the past few years. Depending on which report you choose to believe, either Golden State ordered him not to join Canada’s training camp last month because they’re trying to trade him, or Wiggins and the Warriors reached the decision mutually.

Back-to-back NCAA player of the year Zach Edey was invited to camp but bowed out to prepare for his rookie NBA season with the Memphis Grizzlies, who drafted him ninth overall.

Other notable omissions include a pair of lottery picks from the 2022 draft who are coming off impressive second seasons. Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin, the No. 6 choice, averaged 14.5 points while Portland’s Shaedon Sharpe, who went one pick later, averaged 15.9. Both attended Canada’s training camp but were left off the Olympic roster as they recover from season-ending surgeries. Read more about the Canadian team here.

Here’s the full roster with their current pro teams:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • RJ Barrett (Toronto Raptors)
  • Khem Birch (Basquet Girona, Spain)
  • Dillon Brooks (Houston Rockets)
  • Lu Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Melvin Ejim (Unicaja, Spain)
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings)
  • Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
  • Andrew Nembhard (Indiana Pacers)
  • Kelly Olynyk (Toronto Raptors)
  • Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks)

Tonight in Las Vegas, the Canadians will encounter a U.S. team that’s in sort of a weird spot. Its biggest stars are LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, who are all on the wrong side of 35. Younger guys like Timberwolves rising star Anthony Edwards, Jayson Tatum of the NBA-champion Celtics and recent MVP Joel Embiid of the 76ers probably deserve leading roles, but how would that play with the older guard in what could be their final trip to the Olympics? Edwards stirred the pot this week by declaring himself the “No. 1 option” even though he’s won a grand total of two playoff series (both this year) in his four NBA seasons.

Meanwhile, Durant is currently sidelined with a calf injury and Kawhi Leonard dropped out today due to a sore knee. He was replaced by the Celtics’ Derrick White, who might actually be a better fit after showing his value as a key complementary player during his NBA team’s championship run.

Despite their perceived issues, the Americans remain heavy favourites to win their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and eighth in the nine Games since Michael Jordan’s Dream Team took Barcelona by storm in 1992. Canada has the second-best odds, followed by host France, featuring NBA rookie of the year Victor Wembanyama.

The 12-team Olympic tournament opens July 27. Canada is grouped with Spain, 2021 bronze medallist Australia and Greece, led by two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The U.S. is with Puerto Rico, South Sudan and Jokic’s Serbia. France is with Germany, Japan and Brazil. The top two teams in each group and the two best third-place teams advance to the quarterfinals.

Tonight’s Canada-U.S. game tips off at 10:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet. Canada will then head to France for two more exhibitions before the Olympics. They’ll face the host team on July 19 at 3 p.m. ET and Puerto Rico on July 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Both games will be streamed live on CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and

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