Team Canada lost Sunday to Argentina 73-67, sending them back home without qualifying for next summers World Cup. The result comes as a massive disappointment for a program that has been making major strides to again become respectable on the international stage. Given the program's lack of success in previous years, the odds of a wild card selection for next summer appear to be slim.
Canada's head coach and Portland Trailblazers assistant coach Jay Triano spoke to the media about what went wrong:
Our three best players are 22, 22 and 23 years old. We're going up against men who have played this game for a long time and have played at a high level for a long time.
That's why we're here. We're here to get the experience and play against these guys so when we're that age, we can compete at the same level and understand the game that much better.
Personally, this is an incredibly disappointing loss. While I understand what Triano is saying about the age and experience of the team, I'm sure many people were hoping that the team had set it's goals than gaining some experience for when this group is older.
For the tournament Tristan was a lot of what Cavaliers fans have come to love, while still displaying some of the same weaknesses that cause fans to slam their head in their palms. But like with the Cavs, Thompson was a net positive whenever he was on the court. He was one of the few players who would not get dejected when things were not going his way. He was a leader vocally and set the tone with his physical play. Often when a team is struggling to make shots or displaying a lack of focus and effort, it will cause fans to latch on to the one player who seems to be giving it their absolute all on the court. This is often how fan favorites are born. It's the guy who appears to care about the result of the game more than anyone else in the gym. I know this was the case for me with Delonte West during the Cavs playoff runs and now Thompson appears to have endeared himself to a lot of people.
Tristan Thompson plays so damn hard. Every possession.— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) September 8, 2013
If you don't appreciate the way @RealTristan13 competes, stop watching sports.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) September 6, 2013
Tristan Thompson deserves a lot of credit, battled as hard as anyone I have seen for 8 games in 10 days. #Cavaliers have a special player!— Trevor Pridie (@loveofthegame10) September 8, 2013
Overall, Thompson had a pretty good tournament statistically. As I've stated in the past, it is very clear that he has been miscast as an offensive focal point and, as a result, asked to do a lot of things that would never be asked of him by Mike Brown. This became even more obvious in the most recent games when Andrew Nicholson encountered foul trouble. This left Thompson with Joel Anthony and forced him to become the sole focus of every interior defender on the opposing team. Before I get into more observations about Thompson's development here are his stats in this tournament:
These are fairly strong numbers for Thompson, considering the number of games played in such a short period of time. Obviously the free throw percentage stands out (over 20% better than his career average in the NBA). The one part of his game that disappointed me in this tournament was the number of shots he blocked. When watching the games it felt as though he was contesting a lot of shots and getting blocks, however, the post game box scores showed that he did not get anywhere near the number of blocks I thought. I really hope that going through training camp with Mike Brown will help teach him when to stay and help on defense and when to go for blocks. He showed that he could do it in his rookie season and at Texas, but last season it was evident that he was really committing to sticking with his man. Finding a balance between the two extremes will be key if he is ever going to become an elite defender in the NBA.
The other thing that stands out is his field goal percentage. While Thompson's shot looks much more fluid with his right hand, he has a tendency to rush his jump shot when there is a defender on him. If he has time and space to shoot it looks much better, but at this point it would be foolish to expect him to be a midrange threat for the Cavs next season. The other thing Thompson needs to work on is his touch around the rim. Some of his struggles in this department appeared to come from poor timing when playing the ball over the rim. He would often play the ball above the cylinder, be a little too strong, and end up missing several follow-up attempts in a row. I won't get into this too much as it is not something that is allowed in the NBA, but it is worth mentioning what factored into his overall percentage. It is also not the only case where Thompson showed poor touch around the rim. Too often he failed to utilize the glass on putback attempts that were not over the rim. Like his jump shot, these put back attempts seemed rushed and as a result were often long and would bounce off the back iron.
One positive I saw from Thompson around the rim was how much quicker he went up when catching an interior pass. There is much less hesitation, and he didn't gather himself as much as he did in his first two seasons as a pro. As a result, he had his shot blocked far less frequently. He also did a good job driving to the basket and initiating contact before going up. He generated a fair amount of and-one opportunities by beating slower forwards off the dribble then finishing strong. The best part about this was he was actually converting the free throw after the made bucket for a change.
Overall I would say this has been a productive summer for Thompson. I have certainly seen a lot of growth throughout his international play. Hopefully with training camp starting on September 28th he will be able to rest up, and fine tune some of the new things he wants to add to his role with the Cavs. While he has a long way to go, still it's remarkable how far he's already come as a player.