Australian womens basketball superstar Lauren Jackson has been rightly accorded the honour of being flag bearer for Australia at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The announcement was made earlier this morning (Australian EST) by Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team, Nick Green.
Jackson has helped the Australian Opals to three straight silver medals at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, with the USA being the only thing that has blocked their path to gold. On three occasions she has been named the Australian International Player of the Year (1999, 2000, 2002). Her WNBA and WNBL performances have seen her win 3 WNBA and 4 WNBL MVP awards along with numerous championships in both leagues.
“I congratulate the Australian Olympic Committee on their selection of Lauren as the flag bearer for London, not just because she is one of our own basketballers, but because she embodies what is great about Australia and the Olympic ideal,” said Basketball Australia Interim CEO Scott Derwin from London. “She strives for excellence every single day and has achieved success at every level. Lauren is the ultimate competitor who won’t back down from any challenge. I think she is the perfect choice to carry the flag.”
Incoming CEO of BA, Kristina Keneally, also was full of praise for Jackson.
“Lauren will be the ideal representative for all Australians in London, including the over one million people around the country who play basketball,” said Keneally. “She is an outstanding athlete, an exceptional leader and a terrific role model who has inspired so many young Australians with her amazing performances.
“Our best ever men’s basketballer carried the flag in Sydney in Andrew Gaze. Lauren is quite clearly our best ever female basketballer, and quite possibly the greatest female player of all time. I can’t think of a better choice as flag bearer.”no comments
Former Sydney Kings import power forward Jerai Grant has been signed by Italian Seria A club, Enel Basket Brindisi (Puglia region).
The 6'8" former Clemson athlete was due to play with the Houston Rockets in the NBA Vegas Summer League, but ultimately was not part of the roster that played.
Brindisi will be known to NBL fans as the recent home of Ebi Ere and prior to that Cedric Jackson.
The official press release is at the Enel Basket Brindisi website (Italian).
(image courtesy Mark Travis of Silver Screen and Roll)
Julian Khazzouh is one of five names that Australian National Basketball League fans will know in the 2012 NBA Summer League. Whilst his Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Ater Majok has not made as much of an impression, the former Sydney Kings big man has performed a very nice audition in his final Summer League game.
Against the Adam Morrison-led Los Angeles Clippers, Khazzouh put up 16 points, including 10 points in the first seven minutes of the game. His perimeter shooting was impressive, as he connected on 4/5 three-point shots and 6/7 field goals overall, which included a nice drive to the basket and a cleanup on a teammate's miss. He added six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block to his stat line.
The Olympic Village is traditionally a place where world class athletes come together and share a common admiration for each other and their exploits. As athletes arrived in the United Kingdom for the fast-approaching start to the 2012 Games, it turns out that both the Australian swimming team and the Team USA basketball squad are sharing the same Manchester hotel.
A show of mutual fandom was shown when NBA star Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) visited the pool where the Aussies were swimming. The swimmers took turns greeting Kobe and sharing the love. Of course, Aussie swim hearththrob Stephanie Rice took centre stage when she presented the Black Mamba with a Team AUS swimming costume -- which Kobe apparently questioned the size of (watch video here, courtesy of Australia's Nine News).
Rice took to her instagram account to post the photo above with Bryant. I just love the big wet handprint on Kobe's chest, not to mention the goofy grins of shared Olympic joy.
News broke yesterday by Fairfax newspapers indicated that there was a discrepancy between the London Olympic travel arrangements of Australian male and female athletes, including basketball representatives the Boomers and Opals. According to Samantha Lane of The Age:
Australia's women basketballers have confirmed they also had different travel arrangements to the men's squad for the journey to London. While the Boomers flew in business class, the Opals made the long-haul trip in premium economy - and that was an upgrade.
The Opals have never protested publicly about this longstanding treatment of national teams and players would not comment on the record today, but they do not like it and say such inequality has been a long-standing source of contention.
The Opals have won silver medals at the last three Olympics, bronze in 1996, and are hell-bent on gold in London. The Boomers, by comparison, have never won a Olympics medal, although they have come close three times, finishing fourth in 1988 and 2000 and sixth in 1992.
A Basketball Australia spokeswoman said the women's and men's teams each had a budget, which they helped decide how to spend.
When asked for comment, a Basketball Australia spokeswoman said that many factors were taken into account when booking travel, including height and size.
"For example, the average height of our male basketball players is 200.2cm. The average height of our female basketball players is 183cm."
But Basketball Australia was unable to confirm if flight arrangements had ever been based on individuals' heights given Opals rising star Liz Cambage is 203 cm tall, while Boomers players Adam Gisbon and Patrick Mills stand 188 cm and 183cm respectively.
Lane goes on to add in a subsequent article:
Further investigation reveals the Opals are not alone in being treated as second-class citizens. National women's soccer and cricket teams are flown economy, while their male counterparts' teams travel in business. This is despite the fact that, in basketball and soccer, the women's teams have much higher international rankings.
Of course, I'd venture that most people would agree with me that our Olympic athletes should all be flying in the best comfort possible in order to pull off the best performances that they can in London. After all, there will be a whole nation of people watching them perform, expecting success. With all of the money spent on sport development in Australia, flight arrangements on 24 hour flights are pretty important and relatively low in cost -- particularly when you're talking about over-sized, above-average height athletes like our basketball stars.
That said, the Opals themselves have not openly complained of the premium economy treatment themselves. It still doesn't make it the right decision. Do people make mistakes sometimes? Of course they do.
According to a statement from Basketball Australia Acting CEO Scott Derwin this morning, BA needs to review the process.
"Travel arrangements fall under a longstanding policy put in place some time ago. It sits at an operational level, and the development of the policy is not something the board would have contributed to.
"The policy around budgets for each national team gives the leadership group of those teams some discretion over how their funds are spent - and that includes travel arrangements.
"We should bear in mind that in fact, historically, more funding has been directed towards the Opals.
"But the simple fact is when a policy results in gender inequality, it's very clearly not the right policy going forward.
"I am putting in place a review of our Olympic travel policy with the goal of ensuring there is equity between travel arrangements for the men's and women's teams attending future Olympics.
"Part of this review will include consultations with the Opals, the Boomers, and the Australian Olympic Committee."
Incoming Chief Executive Officer Kristina Keneally will start in the role on the 4th of August. Ms Keneally welcomed Mr Derwin's decision to hold a review.
"In this day and age, there's just no excuse for men's and women's sporting teams to be treated differently when they both compete at the same world class level," Ms Keneally said.
"In fact, in this circumstance, the disparity is even more glaring when you consider that our women's basketball team is one of the best in the world - enjoying the number 2 spot in international rankings."
Ms Keneally said the review would be completed within three months.
As you may have heard, Linsanity has moved on. That's right, Jeremy Lin signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets -- a big one -- and the New York Knicks failed to match that offer. So all of those Linsanity bandwagon fans will have to ride their wagon all the way to Texas if they want to continue supporting him.
Meanwhile, this ingenius parody of Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know mourns the loss of Lin from Manhattan.
Further to this morning's announcement the Basketball Australia had requested further information from the Gold Coast Blaze in their bid to return to the NBL, the sad news comes that the Blaze will not proceed with the process.
A media release, apparently from Blaze co-owner Owen Tomlinson, which appears on the Gold Coast Bball facebook page states:
It is with much regret that we announce that we have decided to withdraw our submission to Basketball Australia to be included in the 2012/13 NBL season.
We have been asked to provide further information and given an extension until 31 July 2012 to do so. We feel that we have already done enough to satisfy all requirements and the drawing out of this process has gone on long enough.
We are proud of the contribution we have made to basketball in South East Queensland over the past five seasons and we feel that the Blaze has contributed in a very meaningful way to the community.
The company administration period has been a terrible strain on our loyal coaches, players and staff and their families. They, along with our Pyromaniacs and Corporate Sponsors, have supported us throughout this difficult time and we deeply regret that we have had to make this decision.
We thank everyone for their unwavering support.
Gold Coast Blaze
It goes without saying that this is terrible news for the Gold Coast community, the Blaze players and staff and their fans. In addition, this realisation will bring disappointment across the NBL, meaning that the 2012/13 season will go ahead with just eight teams.
On Friday the administration of the Gold Coast Blaze made a proposal to Basketball Australia regarding their continuing presence in the National Basketball League. BA accepted the proposed structure provided by the Blaze as a positive start, but require further information in order to endorse their participation in the 2012/13 NBL season.
Financial hardship struck the Blaze this off-season, causing the club to ultimately go into voluntary administration. Since that time, they have endeavoured to secure financial backers to get the franchise back into a position where they can sign players for next season and continue in the NBL.
Some players, such as James Harvey and Jason Cadee have already jumped ship to other clubs, whilst Australian Boomer Mark Worthington has stated that it is likely that he will play in Europe next season. If the franchise's administration does manage to get things back off the ground, they will likely be operating with a vastly less powerful lineup than they have had in recent seasons.
One major positive from the proposed restructure involves a grassroots model which brings the club closer to their local association. The more NBL clubs can foster ties with local associations, the better the long-term stability of the league will be.
The NBL/BA statement on the Blaze follows:
Back in 2008, as a 16-year old, Adelaide 36ers swingman Mitch Creek showed off some of his dunking abilities on youtube: