Anthony Bennett & Steve Nash
While much of the talk surrounding the Canadian Pan Am team is on who’s not there (Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, etc.) for the players who made the 15-man tryout roster, this may be the biggest opportunity of their careers. Team Canada GM Steve Nash says that he hopes Anthony Bennett (Minnesota Timberwolves, Brampton, Ont.) and Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic, Mississauga, Ont.) are able to use this international experience to take their careers to the next level.
“This is a huge summer for Anthony and Andrew. Those guys are very talented. [They] haven’t got off to a great start in their NBA career but have tons of tools, and I think the fact that they’re both here proves that they’re hungry and they want to get better and they want to get on top of their careers,” said Nash at the team’s first practice.
“So at the end of the summer they can go back to their teams and really feel [they’re] in a position to be themselves, to play well, without fear, without doubt. I’ve seen it in myself, but I’ve also seen it in a lot of other players – they springboard themselves [playing for the national team in the summer.]”
Daniel Mullings & Steve Nash
Nash spent time during and after practice, giving advice to young players like Daniel Mullings (Medi Bayreuth in Germany’s Bundesliga, Scarborough, Ont.).
“It’s an amazing opportunity for all those guys to play in their home country in international games like this. It’s very rare, in basketball in particular,” said Nash. “A lot of these guys are from Toronto as well, so they’re playing in their hometown… in front of friends and family, with the country watching.”
While training alongside the two-time NBA MVP may be humbling for some, no one casts a shadow quite like Sim Bhullar (Sacramento Kings, Etobicoke, Ont.). Head coach Jay Triano says the coaching staff will try to figure how to best utilize the 7-foot-5 centre’s size advantage on offense, as he will rely on his three NBA players to provide scoring for the Canadians.
“We’ve got to figure out how to get him the ball down low. Teams can’t stop him when you get the ball down low and he gets the ball in the air,” said Triano, also remarking on Bhullar’s conditioning. “I’m pleased with the shape he’s in, the best he’s ever been in. I’m pleased to have him here.”
Fresh from a red-eye flight, having just played with Sacramento’s Summer League team, Bhullar said he’s most looking forward to dominating on the other end.
“I love playing defense, that’s what I do, that’s my game. And especially since there’s no [defensive] three in the key, I’m enjoying it, it’s going to be like college all over again, blocking shots left and right,” said Bhullar. “But on offense I need to make myself a bit better and be one of the leaders on the team.”
As basketball is one of the later events, he says the early success by other Canadian teams makes them that much more motivated to go for gold when action finally kicks off at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
“It does [light a fire to see other Canadians win.] We – and I’m sure every team has the mentality to win gold. And I know we have the guys to do it. We have the talent and we’re probably going to be one of the favourites. But that’s our goal, everyone’s goal is to win gold.”
Tryouts continue to July 17, with the final roster being selected by July 18. Canada opens its Group B play against Dominican Republic on July 21, before playing Argentina on July 22 and Mexico on July 23.
Written by Charles Vanegas
Photos by Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks