NBA

Canada stalwart Carl English says he understands why some NBA players pass on national team

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.

38-year-old spent countless summers playing basketball for his country

Canadian Carl English competes during the qualifying round of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in 2011. English says that while he'd like to see a full Canadian roster going forward, he understand why some NBA players pass up the opportunity. (Maxi Failla/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.