New York Knicks‘ rising star RJ Barrett will be busy over the next three summers after committing to the Canadian national basketball team in their 2024 Paris Olympic quest.
Barrett, alongside Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray, leads the 14-man pool who have agreed to come to camp even if they are injured and unable to play. The 21-year-old Barrett sustained a right sprained knee in the Knicks’ penultimate game, but he is expected to be ready for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifiers this July.
Canada is unbeaten in the first two windows with a 4-0 record. The Canadians will host the Dominican Republic on July 1 in Hamilton and play at the U.S. Virgin Islands on July 4.
Fresh from his best season in the NBA, Barrett hopes to help Canada seal one of the continent’s seven spots in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asia, co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.
A former third overall pick, Barrett took another leap last season, producing a career-best 20 points per game and steady 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. His goal next season is to become an NBA All-Star.
With the heartbreaker in last year’s Olympic qualifiers serving as motivation, Canada hopes to finally develop continuity to end the curse. The Canadians have not made the Olympics since 2000. Canada’s last Olympic basketball team include RJ’s father, Rowan Barrett, who now serves as GM and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program
“Coming out of Victoria last year, we decided to make a systematic change to how we put our teams together and what we’re going to do moving forward,” Rowan Barrett said in a news conference announcing the national pool on Wednesday.
Canada fell short in the last Olympic qualifiers despite RJ Barrett averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. They lost in overtime, 103-101, to the Czech Republic last July in the semifinals on Tomas Satoransky’s game-winner.
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse returns to helm Canada in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 qualifiers.
“If this team can get to the floor and stay together for a couple of summers, you’re going to see a really good team,” Nurse said.
Barrett leads five players returning from the Victoria tournament roster. Joining him are Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Utah Jazz), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder), Cory Joseph (Detroit Pistons), and Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks).
Conspicuously absent is Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors), who couldn’t commit three straight summers. The other NBA players who were part of the Victoria tournament roster who did not make the list are Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings) and Mychal Mulder (Miami Heat).
“I said, ‘If you commit, you’re in. If you don’t commit, you’re going to have to hope there’s a spot or two open, and you’re going to have to make the team,” Nurse said he told Wiggins. “He said ‘Cool.”‘
Completing the 14-man pool are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies), Khem Birch (Toronto Raptors), and Kelly Olynyk (Detroit Pistons), Oshae Brissett (Indiana Pacers), and three non-NBA players, Zach Edey, Melvin Ejim and Kevin Pangos.
Barrett’s play this summer will be part of the case he’s building to become the first Knicks player to play beyond his rookie deal since Charlie Ward. Barrett is extension-eligible this summer, but he is not viewed around the league as deserving of the maximum of $181 million over five years despite making strides in each of his first three seasons.
A strong showing in July could start changing that perception.
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