TORONTO – It’s been 21 years since Canada was represented at the Olympics for men’s basketball, and with this latest heartbreaker in the books, that drought will continue.
With a thrilling but ultimately ill-fated 103-101 loss to Czech Republic in overtime of Saturday’s semi-final, the Canadians were eliminated from their last-chance qualifying tournament, failing to punch their ticket to Tokyo in the process.
It was yet another painful setback for a program that has experienced so many of them over the past two decades, but in many ways, this one felt like a new low.
“Everybody’s disappointed,” point guard and team captain Cory Joseph said afterwards. “We had enough to make it, we just didn’t get the job done, again.”
This was supposed to be the year they finally broke through on the world stage, the summer they made it back to the Olympics for the first time since Steve Nash led them there in 2000.
They were playing on home soil, having made the financial commitment to host one of FIBA’s qualifying tournaments in Victoria, B.C. Their roster featured eight NBA players, more than the other five teams at the event combined. They were the team to beat.
But it’s not just that they lost; it’s how they lost that stings.
Canada was the top seed in its group after finishing pool play with a perfect 2-0 record. After a slow start in the opener, the team looked to be making encouraging progress in wins over Greece and China.
Nick Nurse had settled on a rotation, the stars – Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett – were leading the way, and everybody else was buying into their roles. Their strengths – speed, depth and skill – seemed to negate their known weaknesses.
But in the game they needed to get to advance to the final and play for a trip to Tokyo, those weaknesses were exposed.
The Czechs’ size overwhelmed Canada on the boards and at the rim. Their superior chemistry, coming from years of playing together, was apparent as they picked the hosts apart with the pass to create open looks for their shooters.
Despite having just one NBA player on their roster, Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky, they thoroughly outplayed Canada for nearly the entire game.
The Canadians never led in regulation and trailed by 10 points with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Miraculously, though, they closed the frame on a 12-2 run, highlighted by six points from Wiggins in the final 17 seconds, to force overtime.
They scored the first five points of the extra period before the Czechs fought back and reclaimed the lead. Wiggins tied the game at 101 apiece on a pull-up jumper with 15 seconds left.
The final sequence was especially cruel. On one end, Satoransky banked in an extremely tough turnaround shot over Canada’s best defender, Lu Dort. On the other, Canada executed its inbounds play perfectly. With 1.8 seconds on the clock, Barrett made a pinpoint pass to set Trey Lyles up for a wide-open mid-range jumper from the corner, but it rimmed out at the buzzer. What would have been a remarkable comeback win fell just short and instead of heading to Hawaii, where they were scheduled to train ahead of the Olympics, they’re summer ends in disappointment, again.
“I’m very disappointed for these guys,” Nurse said. “They committed and we worked super hard and we prepared hard and they played their guts out. When you do all that you want to be rewarded for it.”
“These games happen too much for our liking,” said Joseph. “But it’s something we have to continue to chip [away] at.”
It’s déjà vu. Similarly, Canada’s team at the 2015 FIBA Americas – which served as Olympic qualifying – had eight NBA players on the roster. They dominated pool play, beat up on the competition in Mexico City and cruised into the elimination rounds. The Venezuelan club they would lose to in the semi-finals had a fraction of their talent but far more FIBA experience under their belt. Sound familiar?
This team felt different; a new coaching staff, a young star in Barrett looking to carry over his success at the junior level, Dort and Nickeil Alexander-Walker making their senior club debuts. Even the six holdovers from that 2015 team, which included Wiggins and Joseph, were older and more experienced. They knew what was at stake and what could happen if they let their guard down at the wrong time, but the result was familiar.
That’s the reality in these tournaments, where talent only gets you so far. There’s very little room for error in a winner-take-all format. Turkey, the favourite on the opposite side of the bracket, was upset by Greece in the other semi-final later on Saturday.
The FIBA game is different than the NBA. The rules are different. The style of play is different. It’s officiated differently. The teams that tend to find success are the ones that have the most reps, teams that have had a chance to build chemistry over many years together and acquire that valuable FIBA know-how. More often than not, those intangibles are offset quickness or athleticism.
That’s been Canada Basketball’s challenge, and will continue to be a challenge as they look ahead to future qualifying windows and turn their attention to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
It’s a catch-22. You want your best players to compete at each event, and to the program’s credit they secured commitments from most of their best players prior to the pandemic, which pushed this tournament back a full year. The problem with relying on NBA players to fill out your roster is there are always going to be legitimate reasons why some of them can’t play.
There are always going to be injuries, like the ones that kept Jamal Murray or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from being available. There are always going to be guys in between contracts, like Kelly Olynyk and Khem Birch were this summer. Even in a best-case scenario, where you’re getting good turnouts – like they did in Victoria – it still means you’re working with a different group for each qualifying window.
On top of that, you’re working around the busy schedules of your NBA players. This year that meant a very short training camp, which some guys were permitted to join in progress, and no tune-up games ahead of the tournament. It’s tough to build chemistry or establish an identity as a program that way. When you have the amount of elite, high-end talent that the United States has, you can overcome those inherent disadvantages. For all of its promising young talent, Canada still hasn’t been able to do that.
“We’re going to always have turnover, I think,” said Nurse, who isn’t committed to coach Canada beyond this summer. “The injuries and the contract situations always play a part in that, but we’ve got to have some group sticking together, a core group, I think is probably the important thing.”
The future of the sport in this country remains bright. The women have already qualified for Tokyo, where they’ll have a real shot at medalling. Outside of the United States, Canada has produced more NBA players than any other country for seven straight years, with more young talent coming up behind them. However, it’s yet to translate to success for the senior men’s program, and you can understand why some people are getting impatient.
“I’m very disappointed,” Joseph said. “Of course, who wouldn’t be? I think the whole country is disappointed.”
Andreescu's 3-year title drought extended at Wimbledon tune-up in Germany – CBC Sports
Caroline Garcia won her first tour title in three years after coming back from a set and a break down to beat 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.
Andreescu was looking for her first title since beating Serena Williams in the 2019 final at Flushing Meadows before injuries forced her to miss the entire 2020 season.
“I’m very happy. It’s been a couple of rough years but, you know, I’m putting in the work and on to the next. I’m excited for Wimbledon,” said Andreescu, who became visibly emotional while thanking her team. “You guys stuck with me through the toughest moments and that’s all anyone could ever ask for.”
She has drawn American qualifier Emina Bektas in the first round of Wimbledon next week. Garcia has Yuriko Miyazaki of Britain for her opener.
WATCH | Andreescu falls to Garcia in Bad Homburg final:
Garcia took a medical timeout for what seemed to be a shoulder problem early in the second set. She then went 4-2 down before winning 10 of the next 14 games to seal the match ahead of the start of Wimbledon on Monday.
“It was a fight [for] every point from the first to the last one,” Garcia said.
Garcia is 8-3 in career finals but her last title was almost exactly three years ago in Nottingham in the build-up to the 2019 Wimbledon tournament.
WATCH | Canadian tennis star Andreescu answers questions from kids:
Kvitova captures Eastbourne title
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday in England.
The 14th-seeded Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career overall – after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.
Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.
“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the 32-year-old Czech player said in her on-court interview. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, plays Tuesday at the All England Club in a first-round match against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.
She is now 5-1 in grass-court finals in her career. Her most recent title on grass had been Birmingham in 2018.
Injured Keys, Coric out of Wimbledon
Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, and Borna Coric withdrew from Wimbledon on Saturday because of injuries.
The tournament begins Monday.
Keys, an American who was seeded 19th at the All England Club, pulled out because of a hurt abdominal muscle.
She was replaced in the field by Coco Vandeweghe, twice a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and twice a semifinalist at other Grand Slam tournaments, who lost in qualifying this week. Vandeweghe’s first-round opponent will be No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina.
“This isn’t what I was hoping to say a few days before @Wimbledon, but unfortunately I have to withdraw due to an abdominal injury,” world number 24 Keys tweeted.
“I’m so disappointed, but my health comes first and my body needs time to get back to 100%. Lots of love London fans. See you next year.”
Former world No. 7 Keys won her first title since 2019 at the Adelaide WTA tournament in January before reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open.
She was defeated in the French Open fourth round by Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova.
Coric is a Croatian who got into the field thanks to a protected ranking because he has been injured. He cited a shoulder problem for his withdrawal.
He was drawn to face No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman and that spot will be filled by an as-yet-unannounced player who lost in qualifying.
Jaeger: Sexually harassed ‘at least 30 times’
Former teenage tennis phenom Andrea Jaeger said she was sexually harassed “at least 30 times” by a female Women’s Tennis Association staff member during the 1980s.
Jaeger, now 57, also told The Independent she also was unknowingly served alcohol when she was 16 by a different staff member, who drove her home and tried to kiss her.
The two-time Grand Slam finalist was on the tour from ages 14 to 19 and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in 1981. Despite her success, she said she made it a habit to avoid WTA officials at tournaments during her five years on tour. Jaeger said much of the harassment occurred in locker rooms.
“I’d change in portable toilets or a bathroom stall because I didn’t want to deal with the comments, the interest or actions of people,” Jaeger said, according to The Independent. “I had at least 30 incidents with one specific non-playing staff member, physical attempts all in the locker room very, very early in my career. That particular non-playing staff employee had a major issue keeping her hands to herself.
“I avoided being in training rooms alone because an approach was made on me there as well.”
Jaeger said she was served multiple alcoholic drinks following the 1982 WTA Championships and began to get fuzzy. An official drove her home.
“When we got to my condo, she walked me to the door and tried something on with me,” Jaeger said. “She was trying to kiss me. I was so sickened that I was crawling up the stairs inside trying not to throw up so my dad wouldn’t see me.”
Jaeger said she complained to WTA officials after the incident and was threatened with reprisals.
She won 10 career titles before retiring at age 19 due to a shoulder injury.
Lightning’s Brayden Point remains out of lineup for Game 6 – Sportsnet.ca
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is not anticipating any lineup changes Sunday night for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final as forward Brayden Point continues to deal with an undisclosed “severe injury.”
Point sustained a leg injury during Game 7 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He returned for the start of the Stanley Cup Final and recorded one assist in two games before leaving the lineup again.
“It’s tricky too because players are used to playing at, I guess, a certain way or how they feel they can play,” Cooper told reporters. “If they don’t feel confident in playing at the calibre they’re used to, it almost works against them.
“It’s unfortunate because it was a severe injury and at this time of the year, everybody’s trying to get back into the lineup and there are just some things you can’t do. When you can’t do what you’re used to doing, it’s tough on the player.”
The 26-year-old Point, who has 78 points in 76 career postseason games, skated with the Lightning during Sunday morning’s practice, and Cooper did not completely rule him out for a potential Game 7.
“He’s still plugging along here and rehabbing and trying to get better. Who knows? If the series goes one more game, you never know,” Cooper said. “It’s tough on these guys because they’re such competitors.”
The Colorado Avalanche hold a 3-2 series lead looking to secure their first Stanley Cup since 2001 while the double defending champion Lightning are aiming to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive. Watch Game 6 live on Sportsnet or Sportsnet NOW starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.
In Gee Chun perseveres, holds off Lexi Thompson to win Women's PGA – Golf Channel
BETHESDA, Md. — In Gee Chun rallied after losing her once-sizeable lead, overcoming a bogey-filled front nine to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Sunday when Lexi Thompson faltered with the putter.
Chun shot a 3-over 75 for the second consecutive day at Congressional, but that was enough to win her third major title by a stroke over Thompson and Minjee Lee. Chun, after leading by six at the tournament’s midway point, lost a three-shot advantage in the first three holes of the final round. Thompson was two strokes ahead of her after the front nine, but her putting problems were just beginning.
The 27-year-old Floridian botched a par putt from a couple feet on No. 14, but a birdie on 15 restored her lead to two. Then she bogeyed the par-5 16th while Chun made birdie, leaving the two players tied with two holes remaining.
Thompson three-putted for bogey on 17, and after an impressive approach from the rough on 18, her birdie putt wasn’t hit firmly enough.
Chun’s approach on the par-4 18th bounced past the hole and just off the back of the green, but she putted to within 5 feet and sank her par attempt to win the tournament.
Chun, a 27-year-old from South Korea, led by seven strokes after finishing her first round in wet conditions Thursday. The lead was down to five at the end of that day — still equaling the largest 18-hole advantage in the history of women’s majors.
She was six strokes ahead at the halfway point and had a three-stroke advantage coming into Sunday. She finished at 5-under 283.
Chun won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015 and added the Evian Championship in France the following year.
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