rj barrett
Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Pool Photos-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks star RJ Barrett plans on playing for Canada in this summer’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Danny Small

Toronto Raptors fans must have felt conflicted on Sunday night. On one hand, the Raptors lost a tight game to the New York Knicks, hurting their chances at sneaking into the playoffs. But on the other hand, the Knicks were winning because of a top-notch performance from RJ Barrett, one of Canada’s brightest young basketball stars.

His 19 points on 12 shots, five assists against no turnovers, and dagger three in the final minute are proof-positive that he’s a budding star. Most Raptors fans are going to enjoy watching Barrett do stuff like this for Canada Basketball.

There was a positive development for Canadians following the loss. Although this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, Barrett told reporters that he plans to play for Canada Basketball this summer, and every summer he is available.

Barrett’s father, Rowan, is the executive vice president and general manager of Canada Basketball, but the 20-year-old would have no problem making this team without those familial connections. Although the national media is still overlooking Barrett, basketball fans in New York and Canada know he’s a stud.

He has made significant strides in multiple areas from year one to two — shooting, defense, passing. Had the Olympics taken place in 2020 as originally scheduled before the coronavirus pandemic, Barrett may have struggled. Now, he looks like he is going to be one of the top dogs alongside Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Knicks Overlap With Qualifying Tournaments

Barrett is going to be a fixture on Team Canada for years to come, but his availability for this summer is not guaranteed at this point.

The NBA playoffs will overlap with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament that Canada will play beginning on June 29. In all likelihood, the Knicks will be knocked out of the playoffs by then, but it’s still worth acknowledging the possibility.

Canada will be the host country for an Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They will play two games in a group stage against Greece and China while Uruguay, Czech Republic, and Turkey are in another group.

The top two teams in those two groups will be seeded into a four-team single-elimination tournament. The winner will qualify for the Olympics. Canada has some work to do, but they are a clear favorite going into this Qualifying Tournament.

Other Knicks at the Olympics

The Olympics have been good to Knicks fans over the years. Some of the best moments of Carmelo Anthony‘s career came in a Team USA jersey.

There are two current Knicks who are in the 60-man pool of talent for USA Basketball in the Olympics — Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.

Team USA has already qualified for the Olympics, but with the NBA Finals dragging into late July, there is a significant chance that some of the biggest names miss out on Tokyo.

If that happens, Randle seems like a perfect fit for USA Basketball. He can play on or off the ball, his shooting is much improved, and he can play the four or the five at the international level. It also helps that Randle’s head coach, Tom Thibodeau, has deep ties with USA Basketball.

But Barrett, Randle, and Robinson won’t be the only Knicks suiting up for their home countries. France Basketball has already secured its spot in the Olympics thanks to a breakout performance from Frank Ntilikina in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. France finished with a bronze medal after defeating Team USA in a thrilling quarterfinals match.

Ntilikina started at point guard in all but one game and he’s sure to play a major role for Les Bleus this summer regardless of what his future with the Knicks holds. The French point guard will be playing for his old coach from Strasbourg, Vincent Collet.

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