Several NBA players were missing from national team rosters for the FIBA Americas Championship that concluded last week in Argentina.
While Brazil may have missed the most NBA players, no one was more affected by the absence than Canada.
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash played for the Canadian national team since 1993, but his last appearance with the Road Warriors was in the 2004 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
With Canada coming up short in yet another Olympic qualifier and subsequently missing out on the Olympics for a third straight time, many can’t help but point the finger at Nash, despite his 13 years of service to the team and despite the fact he retired from the national team seven years ago.
In a Toronto Sun article in July, reporter Steve Buffery went as far as to say that Nash turned his back on the national team.
While there’s no denying Nash would’ve really helped the team and there is certainly a difference between an all-star point guard and a 19-year old rookie in Cory Joseph, Nash said it was not a possibility.
“Some people say, ‘You’re playing soccer and stuff, you could be playing for the national team.’ Playing soccer once a week is a lot different than playing for the national team for two months,” Nash said. “For me, I have to train six weeks hard to be at a level where I could live up to my expectations.”
Beyond that, Nash said injury would have kept him from playing even if he wanted to. Nash suffered from pelvic instability for the second half of last season, and is only now back to full health. He remains positive about the Canadian program, going so far as to send a text message to up-and-coming University of Texas point guard Myck Kabongo encouraging him to play for the national team soon.
While he won’t exactly be suiting up in Canada’s red and white, Nash hopes reaching out to Kabongo isn’t the last of his contributions to the national team.
According to The Globe and Mail, Nash is seeking a larger role with the team, specifically being involved in the decision-making process.
“This is my country, and this is my program that I spent 13 years in, and I’d like to be a bigger part of it.”
“We have so many players not playing, including myself, though I retired [from national duties] about seven years ago. We have a lot of young players, but we have a long history of a fractured scene in Canada Basketball. We’ve got to find a way to unify and feel a sense of pride for this program.
“That’s the first step, get on board with a sense of pride. … Second, we’ve got to develop players; and then we’ve got to build chemistry with the current players.”
Canada’s next chance will be qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero. In order to do that, Canada may need Nash to continue working the phones, not just trying to get Jamaal Magloire and Samuel Dalembert to re-join the team, but also encouraging younger players like Kabongo, Tristan Thompson, Khem Birch and Kyle Witjer to represent Canada in the next qualifier.