Cory Joseph doesn't care how much praise the competition heaps on this Canadian Senior Men's National Team. He doesn't care that this team has more high-end NBA talent than any other Canadian team in history or that Tomas Satoransky of the Czech Republic thinks the Canadians are the second-best team in the world. It doesn't matter to Joseph because he's been here before, repeatedly. He's had the more talented group around him and he's seen what that means against these veteran groups from around the world. In the FIBA game, anything can happen.
"In my mind, we haven't done anything yet," Joseph said during Canada's introductory press conference. "We put together a great group of guys, but like you said, I have been here for a while, I’ve had talented groups before and we couldn’t get the job done. So we got to be extremely focussed and put it all together and get out there and just play extremely hard."
It's been 21 years since the last time Canada made the Olympics, two decades since the second-best producer of NBA talent has played at the highest levels of international basketball. They've come close, most notably in 2015 when a star-studded team loaded with nine NBA players came up short against Venezuela, a team without a single NBA player or anyone over 6-foot-9.
Now, Joseph and Team Canada are trying to rid themselves of those past demons. They enter the FIBA Victoria qualifiers as heavy favorites with a very good chance of earning one of the final four spots at the Tokyo Games. They'll have to get past Greece and China in the group stages before topping the Czech Republic and Turkey in a do-or-die playoff for a spot in the Olympics.
It's not going to be easy, as both Joseph and head coach Nick Nurse acknowledged Monday. Even with more talent than any other team, this Canadian group has been together for just a few weeks and doesn't have the same kind of chemistry that the Greeks, Turks, or Czechs have.
"The playbook - well, in my opinion, is not very vast at all and in Cory’s opinion too vast," Nurse joked Monday. "But, again, I think they are ready. There is a short amount of time to get ready for everything you might see, but we’ve got them ready and prepared and we’ll see tomorrow."
In less than a week, Canada will have sealed its Olympic men's basketball fate. Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, R.J. Barrett, Lu Dort, Dwight Powell, and company will either prove that this is the golden age of Canadian basketball, as Nurse said Monday, or it'll be another three long years before Canada has a chance to do it again.
"I think our country is kinda thirsty for it," Joseph said. "I'm definitely thirsty for it."