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Tristan Thompson challenges Canadians to 'step up and play' for national team

Tristan Thompson admitted that he was too preoccupied with the Cavs' playoff run last spring to worry about shaping the Canadian national team. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Tristan Thompson's summer started off with an NBA championship in June, but he missed out on a chance to add an Olympic medal when Canada failed to beat France in the FIBA Qualifying Tournament in the Philippines in July.

Looking back on the international competition as Thompson and the Cavs return to Canada on Thursday for the first time since they clinched a berth in the NBA Finals with a Game 6 win over the Toronto Raptors in May, the Cleveland big man called out his fellow countrymen who chose not to play for the national team.

"[It should] challenge the guys who didn’t play to next time when the country calls," Thompson said. "Step up and play."

The most notable absence for Canada was Minnesota Timberwolves budding star Andrew Wiggins. Several other of Canada's most talented players -- including Jamal Murray, Andrew Nicholson and Dwight Powell -- abstained because of their contract situations, as Thompson did in the summer of 2015. Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Nik Stauskas also did not play, with no injury or contract situation as the cause.

Despite not having all of their best players available, Canada was one win away from qualifying for Rio, but lost to France 83-74 with a spot in the Olympics on the line.

"Man, this guy named Tony Parker, he’s pretty effing good," Thompson said. "France is a very good team. They’ve got a lot of veteran players, a couple NBA guys. But if you look at Tony’s numbers going into the finals, I guess he was just coasting and waiting for the right time. Then he had [26 points] and when he gets going, he’s pretty tough to guard. I’m glad I was able to go down there, especially coming off a Finals Game 7. I’ve got to do it for my country and we’ve got another crack at it the next time around."

Thompson had 8 points and 7 rebounds in the loss to France. Canada was led by the Toronto Raptors' Cory Joseph -- a former high school teammate of Thompson's -- who had 20 points, 6 assists and 3 steals.

"It was tough, but you’ve got to give France a lot of credit," Thompson said. "They’re a veteran team and it was Tony’s last run. I knew if he was going to go out, he’s going out with a bang. I’m happy for him. Obviously, I’d like to make the Olympics, but if you’ve got to be happy for a guy, it would definitely be Tony. He’s a great guy, a class act and this gives us time for us to continue to get better."

Now Canada will try to first qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China starting next summer and then the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"That’s a long time from now," said Thompson, who will be 29 when the Tokyo Games open.

Will he use that time to start recruiting Canada's best players?

"Next time when it comes around, we’ll give them a call and hopefully they’ll show up," said Thompson, adding that he was preoccupied with the Cavs' playoff run last spring when he could have been trying to shape the team.

"Shoot, if I say I’m playing that’s enough recruiting right there," Thompson said. "If me and Cory say we both going to play, that’s enough. Join something special."