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Old 05-15-2008, 08:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
Dr. J. Naismith
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Default Rautins Wants Nash in Beijing

The idea is fine & dandy, but its going to be tough as hell to even qualify for the Olympics without Nash. If it does happen, I really hope Nash reconsiders, but chances will likely be pretty slim unfortunately.

Originally Posted by Sympatico
The national men's basketball coach was commenting ahead of a Thursday press conference that will signal the run-up to July 14, when the final FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament begins in Athens.

That tournament, Rautins said, would not be on Nash's radar - even though the guard's Phoenix Suns, for whom he won consecutive league MVP awards in 2005 and 2006, had an early exit from the playoffs.

But if Canada makes it through to Beijing, that could be a different story, and the Victoria native who led his country's surprising run at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney might yet change his mind about participating, the coach said.

"The first thing is, there's no change of mind because unlike what's been reported, he's never said anything one way or the other," Rautins told CBCSports.ca. "He's never said no.

"If you can show me one article where he has flat out said he's not playing ... he's never said that."

Back in early December, Nash told the Canadian Press: "No."

Sort of.

"I would say no, but I can't really talk about it until the situation arrives and this season's come to a conclusion," Nash said. "But in my mind right now, I'm not going to play for Canada anymore.

"I just can't do that."

Those comments came while the Suns were anticipating a long post-season run in the Western Conference. Instead, Phoenix went out quickly to San Antonio and the summer came early.

Gave up national squad

Nash was the captain, heart and soul of Canada's team in 2000, which took a run at a medal before just falling short. He was also on the 2004 team that missed the Olympics in Athens.

When he signed with the Suns in the summer of 2004, he gave up the national squad.

Rautins said he has every intention of asking Nash one more time.

"It's not time yet, but usually Steve and I touch base [every summer]," the coach said. "Once I feel it's the right time, we'll touch base and he'll let me know where he's at."

No one should expect an early announcement either way, Rautins said, because "he can't say 'I'm playing' and then have something happen and he can't."

Rautins said a major difference for Nash if he was to come back in the summer would be that he wouldn't have to come in as a "saviour," playing 40 minutes a game, because the team has built much more depth.

There are NBA big men Samuel Dalembert, of the Philadelphia 76ers, and youngster Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat. And seven on last summer's roster are playing in the ever-improving European leagues, including guards Carl English (Spain), Denham Brown (Italy) and Jermaine Anderson (Germany).

Not to mention the coach's son, guard Andy Rautins, who tore up a knee in last year's first Olympic qualifier, causing him to miss all of this NCAA season with Syracuse. He's healthy and ready to go.

"If Steve played, he'd have more of an opportunity to just play and enjoy it and not have to carry the team," the coach said.

Canada is in group C at the final qualifier with the tough Slovenians (featuring Toronto Raptors Rasho Nesterovic and Primoz Brezec, plus a couple of other NBAers), and Korea.

The top two in that group would go to the quarter-finals with both finalists and the bronze-medal game winner advancing to Beijing.

The first game is July 15 against Slovenia.
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