Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Orlando Magic Forward Khem Birch Is an Endorsement for Playing for Canada

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Orlando Magic Forward Khem Birch Is an Endorsement for Playing for Canada

Article excerpt

Birch says playing for Canada will pay off

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While the narrative of Canada's FIBA World Cup outing has been about the players who aren't here, Khem Birch would love to be part of a great story about players who are.

A three-point shooting, ball-handling endorsement for suiting up for his country.

The 26-year-old from Montreal and Cory Joseph are Canada's only NBA players in China. And while the Canadians' hopes of advancing were snuffed out with a loss Tuesday to Lithuania, Birch said the trip has been worth it.

"Great experience," Birch said after practice Wednesday. "Championship-level coaching and lots of confidence. I'm doing things I have never done in the NBA. That's what a lot of guys don't understand. Coach (Nick) Nurse gives you the confidence and freedom to do basically everything you want in the system you have here. I'm lucky."

What kinds of things?

"Shooting threes in the game. Dribbling the ball. Post-ups," Birch said.

The six-foot-nine Orlando Magic forward is handling the ball more than he ever has in his career.

"Yes, exactly," Birch said. "Coach Nurse gives you the freedom to do that stuff. A lot of guys say they want to stay home and work on their games, but there is no better way to do that than in an actual game and I'm doing that right now."

Nurse, who assumed the Canadian team job less than a month after leading the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship, said it's crucial that players like Birch enjoy their time with the national team.

"Now that we only have a couple (NBA players) left, yeah, those guys have to have a positive experience," Nurse said. "I hope most of the guys I coach feel like they're learning something or have a positive experience or all of them. That's what we try to do. Make them better players and further their knowledge of the game and, as I always say, increase their value in the marketplace."

Some players are dissuaded from playing for the national program by their agents or professional teams. But Birch made up his own mind to commit to Canada. …

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