Canadian national basketball coach Leo Rautins really, really wants Matt Bonner to play for his team. One problem: Bonner is still not Canadian.
The Spurs forward has been trying for years to gain dual citizenship, and he would seem to have a cut-and-dried case considering he’s married to a Canadian, has a Canadian daughter and grandfather and lives most of the offseason in Toronto.
His nickname — “The Red Rocket” — is decidedly Canadian, homage to Toronto’s public transit system.
But Bonner is still not Canadian, and thus ineligible to play for Canada in various Olympic qualifying tournaments. The feet-dragging has left Rautins almost apoplectic, (h/t to for the find).
“I see a lot of Canadians who are less Canadian than Matt Bonner,” Rautins told the Canadian newspaper. “His daughter’s Canadian. His wife’s Canadian. His grandfather’s Canadian. He’s got a home here. When he’s not playing for the San Antonio Spurs, he’s here (in Toronto).”
Bonner’s bid to become officially Canadian has been His motives go beyond basketball.
A native of Concord, N.H., who was granted permanent residency status in 2009, Bonner has requested citizenship in order to simplify his frequent border crossings.
A chance to perhaps one day play in the Olympics would be a pleasant side effect.
The main obstacle to Bonner obtaining citizenship, according to the London Free Press piece, seems to be the unfortunate fact that he spends most of his year in the United States. Considering he plays for the Spurs, that seems to be an unavoidable fact of life.
The Canadian basketball federation has pressed this point to the federal government, but so far unsuccessfully.
“Trust me, we’ve tried everything,” Rautins told the London Free Press. “I feel bad for Matt. I don’t know if there’s anybody who wants to play more (for Canada) than he does.”
If this seems like more hand-wringing than necessary over Matt Bonner, consider that Joel Anthony is the only player on Canada’s 17-man training camp roster with any NBA experience. The infusion of any amount of NBA talent would certainly be welcome.
For now, Rautins will have to be content to coach Cory Joseph, the Spurs’ first-round draft pick in June and Bonner’s soon-to-be NBA teammate. Joseph was born in Toronto. Bonner got there as fast as he could, but perhaps a bit too late.