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Canada basketball loads camp roster for Tokyo qualifying bid

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse calls a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Virtually all of Canada’s top NBA players, excluding those who are injured, have accepted invitations to attend training camp next month in advance of that country’s last chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada will play host to a six-team qualifier in Victoria, British Columbia, that starts June 29. That is one of four such qualifiers involving a total of 24 nations, all vying for the last four spots in the Olympic men’s tournament in Tokyo.

In all, 21 players accepted camp invites from Canada — including 14 of the 16 leading Canadian-born scorers in the NBA this season. The only exceptions are Denver’s Jamal Murray and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, both of whom saw their NBA seasons end early because of injury.

Among those who accepted the camp invitations: Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, New York’s RJ Barrett, Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort, Houston’s Kelly Olynyk, New Orleans’ Nickeil Walker-Alexander, and Indiana’s Oshae Brissett.

For some, like Barrett and Brooks, availability will obviously hinge on how far their teams advance in the NBA playoffs.

“There is no greater feeling in sports than the chance to represent your country on the highest international stage at the Olympic Games,” Canada senior men’s program general manager Rowan Barrett said. “Our players and staff fully recognize the unique opportunity that lies ahead of us and I would like to commend them for their dedication to playing for Canada this summer.”

Canada’s training camp begins June 16 in Tampa, Florida, at the Toronto Raptors’ temporary facility. Raptors coach Nick Nurse is coaching the Canadian team.

All of the qualifiers will take place between June 29 and July 4, while the NBA playoffs will still be happening — meaning top international players such as Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets may be otherwise engaged and unable to help their home nations qualify for Tokyo.

Serbia will play host to the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Italy and Senegal. Lithuania will play host to South Korea, Venezuela, Poland, Slovenia and Angola. Croatia will play host to Germany, Russia, Mexico, Tunisia and Brazil. And Canada will play host to Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

All four qualifiers will be winner-take-all, one nation from each advancing to Tokyo.

“Training in Tampa next month provides our team with a first-class environment. ... I’m looking forward to having the players and staff join me here in a few weeks and getting back to work,” Nurse said.

The U.S. will seek its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Australia and reigning World Cup champion Spain have also qualified for the games, with the first games in Tokyo set for July 25 — just three days after the latest possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports