Steve Nash won't play for Canada anymore because he said he is getting too old and too tired.
Rasho Nesterovic is not much younger than Nash -- the 7-footer turns 31 on May 30 -- and also is experiencing fatigue from the long NBA season, but the Raptors centre re-iterated yesterday he would represent his country, Slovenia, at the 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament this summer in Spain.
Unlike Nash, who took last summer off, Nesterovic played for his country at the 2006 world championships in Japan, before flying back to North America for NBA training camp, so he had very little time to recover from last season's NBA schedule.
Nesterovic, who first represented Slovenia at the European under-22 championships, said he won't walk away from his national federation with an Olympic spot on the line -- which is something Nash has decided to do.
"I just want to try the last time to get to the Olympics," Nesterovic said, after practice yesterday at the Air Canada Centre. "If we make it, I will play at the Olympics. If we don't make it, that's it for me."
The Canadian team, which will compete at the Americas Olympic qualifier Aug. 22-Sept. 2 in Las Vegas, likely will be without both Canuck NBA players, Nash and Toronto native Jamaal Magloire, who has always found an excuse not to represent his country.
Even the Raptors two Spaniards -- Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa -- plan to take part in the Olympic qualifying tournament this summer and the Spanish team doesn't even have to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, having already done that by winning last summer's world championships.
The Raptors scheduled a late practice yesterday, the day after the NBA all-star weekend, to allow all the players the day to return from their various destinations. Everybody made it back in time for practice except for rookie P.J. Tucker, who had a flight cancellation. Chris Bosh, who started for the Eastern Conference team at the all-star game, admitted he was tired after travelling back from Las Vegas on the red eye.
"I'm a little worn down," he said.
The all-star break couldn't have come at a worse time for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors, who are 16-5 in their past 21 games.
But head coach Sam Mitchell said, despite their recent success, the break was a good thing.
"Our guys needed it, you need a mental break, I needed it," Mitchell said. "We were playing well, but, you know what, all the teams got the same break and now everybody has to rev the engines back up and get it back going."
Mitchell refused to bite when asked if his team needed some "tweaking" with the final playoff push underway, beginning with the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers at the ACC tomorrow, and the trade deadline on Thursday at 3 p.m.
But he does want his 29-24 squad to show improvement in some areas.
"We do have to get better defensively and we do have to get better rebounding," he said.