The Australian Boomers had the news confirmed yesterday that they dreaded was coming: star centre Andrew Bogut will undergo surgery and be unavailable for the 2012 London Olympics. The big man's ankle, which has been recovering from an injury sustained during the NBA season, whilst he was with the Milwaukee Bucks (he has since been traded to the Golden State Warriors), has not healed as quickly as hoped.
Bogut's ankle requires arthroscopic surgery. That will rule him out of recovering in time for the Olympics -- this is the second major tournament in a row where bad luck has beset Bogut, after he was unable to play for the Boomers in the 2010 World Championships of Basketball in Turkey.
The tough news really bites for Boomers head coach Brett Brown, as it means that he is yet to coach Bogut during his run as head coach of the Australian national team. On the other end of the table, Bogut has always declared himself as fully dedicated to the national team and intensely proud of his country. Not being able to play at the Olympics during the peak of his career is painful.
“Three years ago, when I was interviewing for this position, I flew to Dallas when the [Milwaukee] Bucks were playing the [Dallas] Mavericks and I sat down with him and asked him 'in the event that I was offered the Boomers job, what are your playing intentions going forward with the Boomers program?'," said coach Brown.
“He enthusiastically declared to me that he was 'all in' and with that news I went even more aggressively after the job and tried to become the next Boomers coach. I was offered the job but sadly, three years later, through great misfortune, Andrew’s injuries have prevented him from playing a single Boomers game since I have been the coach.
"I was with Andrew last week when the [San Antonio] Spurs played his [Golden State] Warriors and I have been aware of this unfortunate news for a while. He has always been honest with me. I feel for him. He has experienced some very ordinary luck during my tenure and particularly this time around, where it will prohibit him from playing with his teammates and representing his country at the Olympic Games. I will personally miss the opportunity to coach him. When he is healthy, I believe that he is one of the best three centers in the world, a true ‘game changer’ on many levels,” he said.
So how do the Boomers look without Bogut?
Firstly, they do lack a major piece in the puzzle without him on board. He offers a game-changing defensive presence as a shot-blocker, as well as a premium rebounding ability. His target as an interior offensive player and passing centre makes him a huge cog in the Boomers offence.
On the other hand, the Boomers have unfortunately become used to Bogut not being available of late, thus making the injury slightly easier to adjust for.
In terms of interior players, the Boomers boast veteran captain Matt Nielsen, NBA-experienced David Andersen and Nathan Jawai, young internationals AJ Ogilvy and Aron Baynes and importantly, big, skilled body, Aleks Maric. Whilst the Boomers are severely weakened in terms of medal contention with Bogut out, the low post is one area that they are actually incredibly deep. Even putting to one side the tested big names above, Brown can look to the likes of skilled NBL centre Julian Khazzouh, Los Angeles Lakers draftee Ater Majok and giants Luke Nevill and Luke Schenscher.
Outside of the big man department, Brown will look for scoring input from wing players David Barlow, Joe Ingles, Brad Newley, Mark Worthington and potentially Peter Crawford. There is also a chance that NBL MVP Kevin Lisch (Perth Wildcats import) will be naturalised in time to become a member of the squad.
In terms of smaller guards, Patty Mills is the clear standout. The speedy 23-year old is currently playing with Brown's San Antonio Spurs and putting in a fine performance so far in limited minutes on a successful squad late in the season. Mills' ability to score with pace will be a big factor in Australia's favour and the team will also rely on him to set the table for his teammates. In addition to Mills, young guard Matthew Dellavedova (NCAA - St Mary's) will be a contender along with NBL guards Adam Gibson and Damian Martin.
This Boomers squad now has the advantage of having played together for a number of years -- something they did not possess previously. In terms of competitive advantages, this may be one of their biggest, despite being spread throughout the world. Mills' offensive ability and pace will be their other big drawcard, along with the deep core of big man talents.
See what Brett Brown has to say about the squad on this video.