Coach Leo Rautins just wants his Canadian men's national basketball team to be in good health when they reach the world championship in Turkey at the end of the month.
Topping the list of concerns is his son, Andy Rautins, a New York Knicks draft pick and the national team's leading scorer last summer. He is sidelined with pain in his surgically repaired left knee, in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Canada at the Tournament of the Americas in 2007. Rautins tweaked the knee in the second of two games against France in Toronto last week, and did not play in a subsequent tournament in Greece.
"It's totally up in the air," Rautins said of his son's availability. "He could be back on the court in three days or he could be gone for three weeks, we don't know right now."
Canada finished the Acropolis Eurobank tournament with a 1-2 record after losing to Slovenia 86-71 Thursday. The tournament is a tune-up for the world championship, which begins Aug. 28.
Toronto's Jevohn Shepherd led Canada with 13 points against Slovenia, but Edmonton's Jermaine Bucknor sprained an ankle, and point guard Jermaine Anderson of Toronto struggled to regain his form after missing most of the team's pretournament preparation with his own knee problem.
"My only goal for this team between now and the worlds is for this team to get better," Rautins said. "And to do that we have to get healthy."
Canada, No. 19 in the world rankings, has had some success in the lead-up to the worlds, taking a game against No. 9 China and two games against No. 15 France in Canada. There was also an encouraging win over Serbia, No. 5 in the rankings, sandwiched between losses to No. 4 Greece and No. 20 Slovenia.
The secret of their successes, Rautins said, was to just be themselves.
"Against France and Serbia, we just did a good job of being us," he said. "We need to think aggressively, fight, scrap, play together. That's the only way we can win, there's no question about that."
He said that wasn't the case against Slovenia, which jumped out to a seven-point, first-quarter lead and was never tested.
The road will get tougher at the Efes Pilsen Cup Tournament Saturday through Monday in Ankara, where Canada will face off against No. 1 Argentina, home side Turkey and Lebanon.
The loss to Slovenia was well timed, said Shepherd, who is battling for a job on the team.
"It's better for us to have an eye-opener now instead of at the world championship," said Shepherd, who played his college basketball at the University of Michigan. "Now we have some time to make adjustments."
Canada is in Group D at the worlds with Lithuania, Lebanon, New Zealand, France and Spain. The top four teams advance to elimination play. Canada's first game is against Lebanon.
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