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NBA quartet will lead Canada against Brazil in World Cup qualifying

September 13, 2018 2:48 AM
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Canada is heading into its most important men’s basketball game since 2015 with a roster chock full of NBA experience.

Facing Brazil in Laval, Que., on Thursday night to open the second round of qualification for the 2019 World Cup, coach Roy Rana and his staff have settled on a team with four current NBAers – Indiana’s Cory Joseph, Miami’s Kelly Olynyk, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic — along with Magic rookie Justin Jackson on the 12-man team.

But, most important, the roster is rounded out with players who’ve had not only experience with Canada in FIBA qualifying but also with high-level teams in the EuroLeague and G League.

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Kevin Pangos, who joined the team during training camp from his club team, Barcelona, keys a group of non-NBAers who will be counted on for major production in games Thursday in Quebec and Monday in Chile.

The only notable absence from the training camp group is Dillon Brooks, the wing ruled out for health reasons by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Canada and Brazil go into the game with identical 5-1 records after the first round of qualifying. But with three road games in South America facing Canada after Thursday — Monday in Chile and games in November in Brazil and Venezuela — the need to win at home is significant.

It might not be a “must-win” game because three teams from the six-team group will advance and a fourth could make it with a good record, there will be lot more breathing room going into the next games 6-1 rather than 5-2.

Brazil has at its disposal a veteran roster with a couple of very familiar names for Canadian basketball fans.

Leandro Barbosa, who spent parts of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons with the Raptors, averaging 12.8 points per game in 100 games, returns to his national team, as does Anderson Varejao, the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors big man.

Marcelo Huertas, who played 76 games with the Los Angeles Lakers over the 2015-16 and 2016 -17 seasons, is also on the team.

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