Carl English the basketball fan would love to see a full complement of Canadian stars play for the national men’s basketball team next summer.
Carl English the player understands why they might not.
The 38-year-old, who has spent countless summers suiting up for the national team, has watched with interest as several NBA players committed over the past couple of days to helping Canada in its quest for a 2020 Tokyo Olympic bid.
“I feel every player wants to play, I feel everybody around them wants them to play,” English said. “But then there’s the contracts will come into it, availability will come into it, endorsements will come into it, injury, body, team, agents — all these things will affect that roster that’s on the floor at the end of June.
“And god, oh please god I hope we have everybody there. But then there’s the other issues you have to take into consideration.”
The Canadian men have been blasted for dodging national team duty, particularly last summer when Cory Joseph and Khem Birch were the only two to make the trip to China for the World Cup, where Canada finished 21st.
Injuries could dissuade players
English mentioned Kelly Olynyk, who suffered a bone bruise in an exhibition win over Nigeria. Olynyk missed all of the Miami Heat’s training camp and the team’s first three pre-season games.
“He goes down and people were still thinking he would still play some more, come back for the [World Cup] tournament and here we are two months, three months later, he’s still getting back in shape and it’s still bothering him,” English said.
“I think everybody including myself are selfish in the sense of ‘Oh I want them all to play [for Canada] because they’ll probably win a medal.’ Yes we all do,” English said, from his home in Paradise, N.L.
But when a player goes down, he added, the next thought is: he shouldn’t have played.
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray sparked a groundswell this week when he said he was on board to play for Canada this summer. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker and New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett quickly followed suit.
Playing for my country is always an honour and I want to take the step and leadership role to commit to @canadabasketball this summer. I want to play my part to help push our team into the Olympics and compete at the highest world stage. Let’s go Canada🇨🇦🇨🇦
I’ve known and made a promise to myself that representing my country is something I will continue to do and as my bro <a href=”https://twitter.com/BeMore27?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BeMore27</a> publicly announced his commitment, I too will be there to do my best to help <a href=”https://twitter.com/CanBball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CanBball</a> get to Tokyo!
Excited to announce that I’ll be playing for <a href=”https://twitter.com/CanBball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CanBball</a> 🇨🇦 this summer. Blessed to be able to represent my country and compete against the best in the world. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid growing up in Toronto. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreTeamCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeAreTeamCanada</a>
Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell and Birch have also said they’ll play, while Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph virtually never turn down a Canadian team invite.
English said the criticism levelled at players in previous years has been unwarranted.
“If you’re in a contract year you’re not risking it, and there’s no insurance in place . . . there’s all these things that are going to come to the table,” English said. “And these guys get scrutinized so much, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair because people don’t know the truth, because [the players] are being professionals and not putting it all out there. I’m just telling you how it is.”
‘It was a great time when I played for my country’
The Canadians must win a six-team last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament June 23-28 in Victoria to book their first Olympic appearance since the 2000 Sydney Games.
English’s book “Chasing A Dream: The Carl English Story,” written with Blake Murphy, was set to hit shelves on Friday. He devoted a chapter of the book to his national team experience. He tore his triceps while playing for Canada in 2013, and spent $50,000 on treatment believing he was insured by Canada Basketball. He’s still trying to recoup the money.
While he played on the Canadian team that won silver at the 2015 Pan American Games, he believes the ongoing insurance battle has kept him out of the loop ever since.
“But don’t get me wrong, it was a great time when I played for my country, it was amazing, I have relationships that will last a lifetime, and a brotherhood there,” he said.