NEWS
06/11/2016 13:06 EDT | Updated 06/12/2017 01:12 EDT

Raptors guard Cory Joseph back on court for Canada on heels of post-season run

TORONTO — Just two weeks after the Toronto Raptors' gruelling post-season run came to an end, Cory Joseph was back on the court Saturday.

The Raptors' backup point guard, who logged a huge career high in minutes this past pro season, is one of just three NBA players in camp for the Canadians, who are preparing for their final shot at an Olympic berth.

"Not much time to relax," Joseph said. "I had a couple of days (off), just a couple."

Joseph, Milwaukee guard Tyler Ennis, and Detroit forward Joel Anthony are the only NBA players in a camp that opened missing several big names — most notably: last year's rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins.

"They're all my friends, they're going to continue to be my friends, I don't make those decisions for them," Joseph said on the players missing from camp.

The rest of the young roster is a mixed bag of NCAA players such as Dillon Brooks and Dyshawn Pierre, and players working overseas such as brothers Philip and Thomas Scrubb.

It's a significantly different team than the one that blew its best shot at a berth in the Rio Olympics, when Canada was upset by Venezuela in the semifinals of the qualifying tournament last summer in Mexico.

Head coach Jay Triano said his young squad now faces "a challenge" in its quest to earn a last-chance berth.

"I think the one thing is we've got guys that want to compete, we're going to compete," Triano said Saturday at Air Canada Centre. "Our talent level isn't where we thought it might be, but it's a great chance for these guys, and we have to be really good in a month for four games. That's the bottom line.

"So we'll do whatever we can over this month, through our exhibition games and through our practices, to try to find the right 12 that will mesh as a team and be really good for four games."

The 26th-ranked Canadians must win the July 5-10 tournament in Manila where they face eighth-ranked Turkey and No. 31 Senegal in Group A action. Fifth-ranked France, New Zealand (21), and the host Philippines (28) make up Group B. 

Canada's GM Steve Nash said while their opponents face some similar challenges, such as absent players, their opponents have also had the luxury of playing together for much longer.

"Very few people in this room that are participating have played together for a substantial amount of time. That's a challenge for us. . . we are a very young program," Nash said. "It will be difficult for everyone, it's a long summer, especially if you go to the Olympics, I think everyone faces the same challenge, but if you're fortunate to have a nucleus that's played together, you're going to be ahead of the game."

Triano said the task is made more challenging by the fact players in camp are at different stages of their season, or off-season. The NCAA players have been off since March, while Joseph was playing up until two weeks ago.

"It's funny, everybody is different," Triano said. "Some guys are fatigued, some guys are fighting injuries, we've got guys who are on other parts (age groups) of our national team here.

"It's almost like every time we sit down as a group and talk, we have to think about each player individually and what they've been through, and what their challenges are moving forward through the summer."

Triano teased Joseph, saying he's the "hero" for Canada this summer, on the heels of the Raptors' thrilling run to the Eastern Conference finals. When the team walked to Air Canada Centre, Triano said numerous passersby recognized Joseph and hollered their congratulations.

Following camp, the Canadians will travel to Italy for a five-game exhibition tournament against 12th-ranked Croatia, China (14) and Puerto Rico (16).