AUSTRALIAN and Canadian basketball exist in very similar places despite being, geographically, so far from each other.
Both countries love the sport, both have a stack of players and coaches who we can claim as “world class” talents and we both have several NBA first round picks either in the league or coming in upcoming classes.
We also have struggling national leagues, both called NBL, and for this we can blame the NBA and our strong European links which allow so many elite players to claim foreign passports and double their wages on the continent.
With so much in common, why don’t we play regular international matches against each other?
For all the common ground we share, I would contend, that the Australian and Canadian men’s teams play arguably the least matches of any major national teams.
This shouldn’t be the case considering the depth of talent in our teams and the wealth of our societies – it shouldn’t be hard to pull together national teams, find some affordable venues and play an annual series, especially if we played in Canada and used took players from the US college system, where both nations have a number of talented players.
Timing would be a major issue but between July and early September surely there could be a workable time for a three or five game series.
Maybe we could organise some games before or after the NBA Las Vegas Summer League so to give lesser know players a chance to play serious games near NBA scouts.
If one could be a little more imaginative – why aren’t we creating a four-nations type tournament with Commonwealth cousins in Great Britain and New Zealand.
Those two nations are truly emerging basketball countries and both can claim NBA and US college players.
I’m far from the first person to propose this sort of tournament but at this time of year, as we prepare for the NBA Draft I can’t help but think about how good this could be for all four nations.
Sure it’s not easy for Canada or Great Britain to pull together a team and fly to Sydney or Auckland but there are enough Australians and New Zealanders playing in the NBA and college basketball to be able to bring together strong sides – you could almost make the same argument for British players considering their recent advancements.
Can you imagine the rivalries which could be created and the opportunity to see young stars in action?
If we had already made this series last year we could have had Dante Exum (Australia) playing against Andrew Wiggins (Canada) – a matchup which a year later would be much talked about.
Also TV providers in all four nations are always looking for affordable sporting content so providing a series of matches so in time it could also offer both additional exposure and maybe even a little extra revenue for the four federations.
In 2017 international basketball will undergo an enormous re-generation as FIBA adopts a world cup soccer style qualification system within each continent where national teams play a series of qualifying matches to qualify for the FIBA basketball world cup over a number of years.
Gone will be those forgettable qualifying tournaments and in their place will be regular international windows each year in which nations like Canada and Australia will suddenly need to be ready and able to bring together national team squads to play must-win matches against their neighbors.
This will be a massive cultural change for our national bodies, both in cost and in organisational requirements.
Australia already plays an annual series against China called the Sino Series, this year’s installment is currently in session with Australia winning the first game in overtime.
The Boomers side just one European-based player and a few US college players – the bulk of the team comes from Australia’s NBL but the first game was still compelling viewing.
With the 2016 Olympic qualifications on the horizon, then the Olympics themselves – all nations will need to get used to regular games.
Why not get ready now and lock in such a series?