Around 12 months ago, there was a genuine prospect of LeBron James coming to Australia and playing basketball.
Australian basketball coach Andrej Lemanis is thrilled with Andrew Bogut’s plans to push on until Tokyo 2020, saying he would involve the veteran NBA centre in his Olympic plans even if he was hopping on one foot.
Ironically that is where Bogut finds himself at present, in Melbourne recovering from a broken leg he suffered less than a minute into his Cleveland Cavaliers debut last season.
But Bogut is hopeful of finding a new NBA club soon and has signalled his intention to play at least three more NBA seasons before helping secure an elusive Olympic medal for the Boomers in Tokyo.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s awesome,” Lemanis said of the 32-year-old’s plans to play on.
“It shows his commitment and desire to play for his country. In the past, people have questioned him and that really gets me upset because he really puts himself out for his country and his teammates to play for the Boomers.”
Bogut, a No.1 NBA draft pick in 2005, was the early spearhead for the Boomers in the side’s most recent Olympic campaign in Brazil.
Despite earning admiration with their attractive style of play, the Boomers were cruelly denied a first Olympic medal in a one-point loss to Spain in the bronze medal play-off.
Lemanis made it clear Bogut would remain central to operations ahead of the 2020 assault.
“Anyone who followed our campaign closely would’ve seen the difference to the team when he was part of it,” Lemanis said.
“Just the confidence he brings to the group, the presence on defence, the talk he gives you and the selfless play that he has offensively … he makes everyone feel good about themselves.
“What I said to him was ‘Mate, if you can walk on one leg I want you in 2020.'”
The Boomers have reason for optimism given the squad at their disposal considering Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes and Thon Maker are all NBA regulars.
Last year’s No.1 draft pick Ben Simmons will debut this season and is among the favourites to win the NBA’s rookie of the year.
Drafted by the Philadelphia 76s, fellow Aussie Jonah Bolden made waves at the NBA’s Summer League but is tipped to be released to play for Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“It’s a good problem, which good player do you leave out,” Lemanis mused.
“Australian basketball is in really good shape.”
Lemanis will oversee a 20-man national training squad on the Gold Coast this week in preparation for the FIBA Asia Cup, which will be held in Lebanon from August 8-20.
“The core group (of NBA players) are not in camp this off season, but 2020 is the goal and we need to keep building as a squad towards that goal,” Lemanis said.