Do Canadian NBA players have a reputation for being too laid back?
According to ESPN writer Jason Whitlock, some NBA people feel that may be case.
"This is what a lot of NBA people believe that American-born and even some of the European-born players, they have more intensity, more of a hunger for the game. They're not as laid back," said Whitlock on ESPN's Olbermann show with host Keith Olbermann on Monday.
"Canada is a laid back place which is probably a positive thing. There's positiveness to not taking basketball and being so intense and not being so bottom-line driven as we are here in America."
Vaughan, Ontario's Andrew Wiggins, drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers last month and the subject of trade rumours involving Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is not exempt from his skepticism.
"Andrew Wiggins is from Canada - and Canadian athletes, I think, among NBA players and NBA people, perhaps don't want it as much as even some of the Europeans, and certainly the American players," Whitlock added.
"This is the conversation with basketball people - Does he have that 'dog' in him? Does he want to be the greatest all the time? Does he know how to give that consistent effort all the time? And they think that's a question that a lot of players from north of the border have to answer."
Wiggins was the star on an historic night for Canadian basketball at the NBA Draft. Nik Stauskas of Mississauga, Ont., went eighth to the Sacramento Kings, and Tyler Ennis of Brampton, Ont., was selected 18th by the Phoenix Suns. Dwight Powell of Toronto was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets 45th overall and was later traded to the Cavaliers.
Despite the criticism, Whitlock wrapped up the interview with a message for Canadians.
"I love Canada," he said.
In an interview with TSN Radio Tuesday, Whitlock related his remarks on Olbermann of how Americans feel about basketball, to how much Canadians are passionate about hockey.
"I think in Canada there is probably a prevailing belief that hockey is a religion in Canada that perhaps other countries don't get hockey, or have the passion for hockey and maybe don't want it as much as Canadian hockey players do. I would think that when most people make those kind of comments in Canada, there is no real uproar. I think with American culture, we probably don't value hockey as much as Canadians do."
Whitlock reinforced that some NBA people might be questioning the drive of Canadian born basketball players.
"I think America's obsession with basketball is overdone and too many people put too many eggs in the basketball basket." I do believe and I've been told that some NBA people question whether Canadian players have the same religious passion for basketball and do they want it as much as American players?"
"From what I saw at Kansas, I think there is reasons to be concerned. That mostly falls on Andrew Wiggins but it might also be a reflection of a culture that doesn't value basketball the same way as we[Americans] do over here."
TSN basketball analyst Leo Rautins, who was the first Canadian selected in the opening round of the NBA Draft, feels that time has shown a high calibre of Canadian players that have played at the top level.
"You look at the history of Canadian players, Steve Nash two-time MVP, Jamaal Magloire an all-star, Rick Fox an NBA Champion," said Rautins. "These are guys that played in the League and they wanted it as much as anyone else."
"Now you look at the influx of all of these young players today and to throw them into a category of not wanting it as much as American and even Europeans, are you kidding me? These kids right now, they are the future."
Rautins also feels that Wiggins and the rest of the young Canadian NBA players will have the chance to prove themselves on the court.
"The NBA is looking at all of the Canadian kids, they all have different styles and to judge an Andrew Wiggins saying he doesn't want it was much because he's a graceful, supreme athlete that plays a little looser. His time is coming. To make a blanket statement at this point about all of the Canadian kids is completely unfair."
Canadian point guard Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers was also not in agreement with Whitlock's comments.
"It's a wonderful sweeping generalization," said Nash. "Really good. Hit it on the head there. Our hockey team lacks a lot of competitiveness and determination for sure."
Tristan Thompson, a Canadian forward that plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, thinks Whitlock would think differently about them if he spent time watching them work.
"I think if he spent a summer or a season with me he would feel differently. I can only speak for myself and Anthony (Bennett) because that's my teammate," said Thompson. "The effort and the time we've put in the gym is the top of our team. I think if you asked anyone around the league about my persona they would say that I'm a hard worker. I respect his opinion but it just makes me want to work harder."