BASKETBALL: The Boomers will go into the Rio Olympics below full strength, but coach Andrej Lemanis is still resolute in his aim for gold-medal glory.
Star Golden State centre Andrew Bogut suffered a knee injury in the NBA finals and said he was “highly unlikely” to play, while college phenomenon Ben Simmons will turn his attention to the NBA, with the draft today.
Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum was also a recent withdrawal as he continues his rehabilitation from an ACL reconstruction.
But Lemanis is adamant the team can take away its first ever Olympics medal – and a gold one – despite the fact the all-star US outfit is set to contain massive names such as Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
“After the Oceania series last year we spoke about what we need to do for the next 12 months – we said we’re going there to get the gold medal,” Lemanis told Australian Regional Media.
“We understand that’s something everybody is chasing – it’s a high aspiration. But we believe we’ve got the talent and the chemistry to achieve it.”
Lemanis said he would have to make some tough calls on who to omit when a 15-man Boomers squad gets together for a pre-Olympics camp in Melbourne for 10 days starting on July 5.
That will particularly be the case with his guards, with NBA champions Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills headlining a squad including NBL-based stars Adam Gibson, Kevin Lisch, Chris Goulding and Damian Martin.
The final squad for the Rio Olympics – from August 5-21 – will most likely contain five big men and seven guards.
“One of the fortunate positions we’re in as a basketball nation at the moment is the talent we have,” Lemanis said.
“It makes the selection processes tough. There are going to be some very good players that will miss out on the final team. That’s the worst part of the job – telling someone they haven’t made the team.”
Lemanis said the squad chemistry was always high when the Boomers met up.
“During the NBA All-Star break, rather than taking some time off and spending time with their wives, the Australian players spent the break together,” he said.
“They reconnected and talked about the Australian Olympic team. That’s very pleasing.”
Lemanis has a huge nine months coming up – he will switch to Brisbane Bullets coaching commitments after the Olympics.
He has already secured Gibson and fellow Australian representative Daniel Kickert for the Bullets’ return to the NBL next summer.
But Lemanis also reiterated his desire to sign Boomers squad forward and Brisbane product Brock Motum.
“We would love to have Brock at the team. He does have a contract next year with a Lithuanian club (Zalgiris Kaunas) so I would suggest he would be taking that (extra one-year option) up,” Lemanis said.
“But you stay in contact with these guys and if they’re interested in coming home we’d love to have them.”
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