OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander opts out of Team Canada FIBA participation

Head Coach Nick Nurse applauds Canadian Men's Basketball Team hosts their first practice for the FIBA World Cup (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Head Coach Nick Nurse applauds Canadian Men's Basketball Team hosts their first practice for the FIBA World Cup (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander adds his name to list of NBA players declining to participate in upcoming 2019 FIBA World Cup. SGA was expected to be a key member for Team Canada.

Fans of the OKC Thunder who are hungry to watch competitive basketball and get a glimpse of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander prior to training camp will have to wait. The newly acquired point guard joined the growing list of NBA players to withdraw from playing for their countries at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Copious NBA superstars had already made the decision to not participate as part of the American team for this years FIBA World Cup. Part of the issue is next summer the Japan Olympics will run meaning the elite stars would have to give up back to back summers which is asking a lot especially in this age of load management.

Despite many of the top talents not playing, the entire U.S. roster is still comprised entirely of  NBA players and they remain the likeliest to win the tournament. Both Team U.S. and Team Canada began camp Monday. This year the Canadians were expected to be more of a contender given they could also have an entire NBA roster if everyone had participated but with several players withdrawing on Monday those numbers were cut by more than half.

Aside from SGA other top NBA Canadians also tapped out like Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Andrew Wiggins (T-Wolves), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Pelicans), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), and Trey Lyles (Spurs).

Both Jamal Murray (Nuggets) and RJ Barrett (Knicks) will participate in the camp but will not play in the tournament. Barrett is said to be nursing a calf injury but his and Murray’s participation in the camp suggests they would expect to be on the Canadian team in Japan if the team qualifies at the FIBA World Cup in China.

Nick Nurse is the newly appointed Head Coach for Canada and will still have NBA talent on his squad with Cory Joseph (Kings) playing the Carmelo Anthony role appearing in his seventh tournament. While Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Khem Birch (Magic) and Chris Boucher (Raptors) are likely to make the squad. Several rookies might make the team as well including OKC Thunder 2-way rookie Luguentz DortBrandon Clarke (Grizzlies), Mfiondu Kabengele (Clippers), Marial Shayok (76ers) and a Raptors training camp invitee Oshae Brissett.

Team Canada hopes to claim one of the seven spots for the Olympics but it’s not a given as they are in what is being referred to as the group of death (Group H) which includes Lithuania, Senegal, and Australia. Three of these teams were ranked in the top 10 by Vegas to win the FIBA tournament. Team U.S. plays out of Group E which also includes Turkey, Japan, and the Czech Republic. Only the U.S. ranks in the top 10 in Vegas to win the FIBA tournament from this group.

Two OKC Thunder player may be at FIBA:

It is not an automatic Luguentz Dort will make the Canadian team but the one OKC Thunder player who is expected to definitely be in action is Danilo Gallinari for his Italian squad. Gallo underwent an appendectomy this weekend but is still expected to play in the tournament. His Italian team plays out of Group D which includes  Angola, Serbia, and the Philippines squads.

Why 2019 FIBA has added relevance:

This year the FIBA World Cup has extra emphasis as seven teams will secure their position at the Tokyo Olympics next summer. As the host, Japan already has one of the 12 openings. Failure to nab one of those seven spots will require teams to compete in wild card tournaments to obtain one of the four remaining spots. This is tricky since those tournaments occur during the NBA season which means teams competing will be using non NBA players.

Team U.S.A. passing of the torch to Pops:

On Monday, Team U.S. began their camp with a new Head Coach at the helm — Gregg Popovich who assumes the reins from Mike Krzyzewski. Two groups are in camp to obtain one of the 12 openings with the Senior Team and the Select Team featuring rising young stars in the NBA.

The Senior Team Roster:

More from Thunderous Intentions

Select Team Roster:

The FIBA tournament runs from August 31 to September 15. Team U.S. and Canada are both in the Americas zone which will send the top two qualifiers to the Olympics. The other zones are Africa (1), Asia (1) Europe (2) and Oceania (1) which comprise the other five berths.

Next. How Thunder backcourt duo Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can thrive together. dark

The final four berths will be determined from wild card tournaments played during the NBA season which means no NBA athletes will be available to participate in those tournaments. Hence, why every country hopes to sew up their berth during the FIBA World Cup.