NBA star Andrew Bogut will not play for Australia at the upcoming London Olympics, but all is not lost for the Boomers.
The Golden State Warriors centre announced on Twitter yesterday that he would miss London to get his ankle “cleaned out via arthroscopic surgery”, not leaving him with enough time to be fit for the Games.
Bogut tweeted: “Shattered thinking about missing the 2012 Olympics. They truly are a life changing experience and something that you will always remember.”
Losing Bogut is a blow, no doubt. A big one.
The 27-year-old was the number one pick in the 2005 NBA draft, and has had a successful but, at times, injury affected NBA career since then.
But because of his time in the NBA, and major injuries such as a dislocated right elbow and broken right hand in 2010, his appearances for Australia have been limited in recent years.
So limited in fact that Boomers coach Brett Brown has never been able to call on Bogut since taking the top job in 2009. Bogut would also hardly be match fit and firing coming into London.
The Boomers have learned to play without Bogut in the past three years, and for a change, have a lot of depth in the centre position.
There is Aleks Maric, the 2.11m tall 27-year old who plays with Panathinaikos in Greece. Maric was an All-Euroleague First team member in 2010 and named Serbian Cup MVP in the same year.
Then there is Nathan Jawai, the former NBL and NBA player who is now with Russian side UNICS Kazan. ‘Baby Shaq’ is 2.08cm tall and can play both power forward and centre.
There is also David Anderson, another who has had stints in the NBL, NBA and Europe, and can both play both the four and five-spot. And backing these threw up are Power Electronics Valencia centre AJ Ogilvy, Ikaros Kallitheas centre Aron Baynes and 2.19m Perth Wildcat player Luke Nevill.
A difference from the 1990s, this Boomer team has serious size and height to call on. And not only size but skill and talent as well.
Although none of these players are a like-for-like replacement for Bogut, the talent pool is deep enough to recover. And most of them have already played at an Olympics or World Championships before. They have a good bond as a team, and are a tight group who puts a premium on fitness and defence, as Boomers coach Brett Brown told me last month.
All of the Australian team will need to lift, not just the big men, to replace Bogut’s influence. But it is possible and with shining lights in the Boomer backcourt like Trail Blazer Patty Mills and St Mary’s of California guard Matt Dellavedova, we have hope. Thrown in Matt Nielsen, Brad Newley, David Barlow and Joe Ingles, and it is a strong squad.
Brown has already flagged a different style the team will now play without Bogut, predicting a faster and more up-tempo game.
“The group that we have has been fantastic and, ironically, because Andrew has not been a part of the group in recent years, in an unusual way, it will help us as it has forced us to get used to playing without him.
“It has allowed us to build a core group of players that have played at a high level of international competition, the 2010 World Championship and most recently at the FIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying series against New Zealand. This has enabled us to have consistency over those three years that Andrew was not a part of us.”
A lot will depend on the draw the Australian team is handed for London. Avoiding the likes of the US and the European giants would be key.
But with a tight, experienced team that won’t rely on one star and will battle for every result, these Boomers won’t go down without a fight.