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Canada’s Wiggins to skip Olympic qualifiers in Manila

/ 10:51 AM June 11, 2016
Canada’s Andrew Wiggins, left, controls the ball under pressure from Mexico’s Juan Toscano during a FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Mexico City on Tuesday. AP

Canada’s Andrew Wiggins, left, controls the ball under pressure from Mexico’s Juan Toscano during a FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Mexico City on Tuesday. AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Andrew Wiggins will not play for Canada in the Olympic qualifying tournament this July, instead preferring to spend his summer gearing up for his third season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Wiggins said on Friday that he spent a lot of time thinking about the decision, but it was one he felt he had to make to ensure he was ready to try and help push the Wolves into the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

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“As my third NBA season approaches, I understand my increased role with the Timberwolves and dedication to the upcoming season must have my total focus,” Wiggins said in a statement issued by his agency, BDA Sports. “We are building a championship contending team, which has always been my goal. This was definitely not an easy decision and I fully support and wish Team Canada nothing but success this summer.”

Wiggins would still be eligible to participate in the Rio Games should Canada qualify in July by winning its tournament, one of three to determine the final three places in the Olympics. But making that happen will be much more difficult without the 21-year-old star, who was one of the focal points of the Canadian team on both ends of the court.

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But the decision ultimately came down to Wiggins being determined to enter the NBA season as primed as possible for new coach Tom Thibodeau, who is expected to take a demanding approach to training camp and the season.

The Timberwolves have designs on making the playoffs next season for the first time since 2004. It’s a tall order in the Western Conference, but with a young core of Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, the Wolves are optimistic.

Wiggins figures to play a central role if that is going to happen, taking on a role similar to what Jimmy Butler did for Thibodeau in Chicago — a defensive stopper on the perimeter and high usage wing that attacks the rim on the offensive end.

The 2014-15 Rookie of the Year has played in 163 of a possible 164 games in his career and has averaged almost 36 minutes per game in his first two seasons.

That load won’t be going down under Thibodeau, who has never been shy about playing his best players extensive minutes.

Skipping the qualifying tournament allows Wiggins the time to work with trainer Drew Hanlen on his game while also making sure he enters training camp with fresh legs

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TAGS: Andrew Wiggins, Canada, Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Manila, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, Rio Olympics
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