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Basketball gold a giant step in a 10-year journey that’s far from finished


That was some historic 10 days or so for the group of kids and coaches that won the first Olympic or world championship basketball gold medal in Canadian history on Sunday and they cannot be lauded enough for the accomplishment.

But to get to that podium in Cairo has been about a 10-year journey and the story of how they got there is just as important as what they did when they arrived.

I remember that we were in Italy for Raptors training camp when news arrived that Canada Basketball had hired Wayne Parrish as it’s CEO, taking over an organization that was, quite simply, a mess.

There was no money, there was no profile, there was more infighting between different factions I remember saying that I didn’t think the job of turning it around could be done but if anyone could possibly make it work, it’d be Parrish.

He did.

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It took coaxing people of different interests into working together for the first time ever, it meant running things on a shamefully small budget while trying to get out from under a mountain of debt, it involved finding people with the best interests of the athletes and the game to put aside egos to work for a common goal.

And what we’ve seen is, frankly, an unimaginable transformation. The gold medal for the Under-19 men was a stunning achievement in the moment, without question. It’s hard to imagine a 17-year-old like RJ  Barrett playing with such composure on the way to MVP honours; it’s hard to explain what a good job Roy Rana has done coaching kids in a hurry and getting them to be so good. It really was something else.

And a great day for an organization that’s fought near impossible odds over the last decade. Even a thing like convincing TSN to put the game on live – and that was a wise and top notch decision for which the network should get much credit – was a giant step.

Now, there are still issues with Canada Basketball that have to be solved and despite the success of the teams and the programs, it’s a struggle to make it all work every year.

The financial picture, I’m told, is far from rosy and we’ve said this dozens of times before and I can’t understand why we’re still saying it:

If a company wants to get in at close to the ground floor on a growing organization that’s globally relevant, highly successful and run frugally with attention paid mostly to development of the game at all levels, why they can’t attract another Sugar Daddy or three is befuddling.

There is, and has been, a growing movement within the game to make the national teams relevant and they are many steps down that road thanks the senior women and this group of teens.

But the journey is not done and someone should really come forward with some gas to help it along.

Was only a matter of time, right?

I would suspect the only reason that I would pay even scant attention the baseball’s home run derby tonight would be because Chris Berman isn’t doing the broadcasting.

Other than that, yawns.

I notice with marginal interest that the three guys from the Raptors regular roster had solid Summer League games out in Vegas.

Siakam: 24 points Friday; 17 points Saturday.

Poeltl: 12 points, 10 rebounds Friday; a 15-10 double-double Saturday.

VanVleet: 18 points, nine assists Friday;  18 and 5 on Saturday.

That is good and far better than having bad games, that’s for sure.

But think of it this way:

Siakam started nearly half a season for an NBA team that won 51 games; Poeltl is a lottery pick who got substantial playing time in his rookie season; VanVleet played a bit and practiced a lot for the Raptors and led the D-League team to a dominant season that ended with a championship in a league a lot of the players in the Summer League didn’t, or couldn’t, make.

They should be the best players on the court more often than not and if they weren’t, that would be more troubling than the fact that they are is reason for optimism.

Just, as the kids say, throwing a bit of shade.

(That is what they mean when they say that, right?)

I think it’s hugely civilized that Wimbledon shuts down for the middle Sunday of the fortnight to give everyone a breather.

The athletes do get breaks – it’s not like they’re playing every day at any time in the tournament under normal circumstances or anything like that – but I’ve covered more than a few things that run constantly for a two or even three week periods and a day of rest sometime in the middle would have been quite welcome.

A couple of cleanup items from the manic Raptors day on Sunday which slipped through the cracks or the timing of the writing.

News got out sometime last night that they’ll waive Justin Hamilton – using the stretch provision to mitigate the cap hit under those convoluted rules – so no need to worry about another centre who wouldn’t play.

And for the few of you who asked, they were able to do Carroll for Hamilton despite the discrepancy in salaries because Brooklyn will have enough room under the cap to assume Carroll’s deal. It’s only on trades between teams over the cap that the salaries going and coming have to basically match.

You’re welcome.

So what are the odds that I’ll get my wish and have nothing to do all day so I can loaf around Casa Doug, do some long-neglected chores and pay no attention to actual work stuff?

Yeah, not going to happen, is it?

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