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Canada limping to World Championships Add to ...

Leo Rautins has repeatedly stressed the importance of playing together if his team is to find success at the world basketball championships.

Only problem is, with injuries and illness, there's no telling just what that Canadian men's team will look like.

The Canadians make their first appearance on the sport's biggest stage in eight years when they battle Lebanon on Saturday to open the 2010 FIBA world championships.

But its pre-world exhibition schedule wasn't kind to the Canadians, who suffered several injuries to key players, including Rautins' son Andy - the team's leading scorer last summer.

And the elder Rautins, Canada's head coach, is crossing his fingers he'll have a team healthy enough to compete well.

"The only concern right now is we've said all along that for us to have success, we've got to pretty much be playing error-free basketball, and be at 100 per cent," Rautins said on a conference call earlier this week.

"Right now, the physical has kind of been tough. We have to find a way to rebound from that because to play error-free basketball, we need everybody."

Canada men's team hasn't played in the world championships since its 13th-place finish at the 2002 world tournament in Indianapolis. The Canadians didn't qualify for either the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 world championships in Japan.

Rautins will announce his world roster Friday and there's a chance it won't include his son, the team's starting point guard. Rautins injured his surgically-repaired left knee earlier this month.

"We're just trying to stay mentally strong, stay together, and encourage each other," said guard Jermaine Anderson, himself still on the mend from a knee injury.

Jermaine Bucknor of Edmonton has been sidelined with a sprained ankle, while Aaron Doornekamp of Odessa, Ont., was banged up last Sunday in an exhibition loss to Turkey.

To make matters worse, a vicious stomach bug made its way through most of the team earlier this week.

The injuries and illness made for a tough couple of weeks for the Canadians, who recorded three wins at home - two against France, one against China - but then travelled to Europe where they lost five of six games, their one win coming against Serbia.

Canada lost to Greece, Slovenia, Argentina, Turkey and Lebanon, its worst loss a 123-49 shellacking by the Greeks.

Canada's young squad in Turkey is highlighted by Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony, but it's missing a couple of other NBA players which has become status quo for the team. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash has long since retired from international basketball, while Miami's Jamaal Magloire opts not to play for Canada's senior men's team.

Rautins had hoped to have San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner with the team in Turkey, but his Canadian citizenship didn't come through in time. Bonner, an American who married a Toronto woman he met while playing for the Raptors, filed for Canadian citizenship.

Toronto native Denham Brown was named one of the 10 FIBA 2010 `Players To Watch' by Sports Illustrated for tournament. Brown is famous for pouring in 111 points in a high school game.

The No. 19 Canadians are in Group D in Izmir, Turkey with defending champion Spain, plus Lithuania (No. 6), France (15), New Zealand (13) and Lebanon (24). The top four in each group advance.

Wins over New Zealand and Lebanon, who are considered the weakest of the group, would seem like obvious keys to the Canadians, but Rautins said the team can't take any game lightly.

"That's what everybody would point to, those two games, but they're not going to be any easier than the other games," Rautins said. "I can guarantee Lebanon and New Zealand are saying the same thing looking at us.

"It's very important that the focus be there, but those are two games that certainly are critical, but ideally you try to prove yourself with a better opportunity and try to sneak some other wins if you can."

TSN2 will broadcast Canada's games at the 24-team tournament, beginning with Saturday's matchup versus Lebanon live at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Canada then faces Lithuania on Sunday, France on Aug. 31, New Zealand on Sept. 1, and Spain on Sept. 2.

 

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