Aussie NBA stars Aron Baynes and Ben Simmons are set to go head to head as the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics prepare to play in front of a sold-out crowd at London’s O2 arena this week.
The NBA London Game 2018 be the eighth time a regular-season game NBA game is held in London. With Baynes Celtics sitting atop of the Eastern Conference right now Boston’s future seems bright but Baynes made it clear when it comes to the future of the Australian Boomers he sees two 76ers draftees (Simmons and Jonah Bolden) and the Milwaukee Bucks Thon Maker as reasons why Australia could win a gold medal within the next 2 years.
Baynes has been impressed with Simmons, who is the clear frontrunner for the NBA Rookie of the Year award. On Monday he continued his strong form with 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks in 32 minutes against the Phoenix Suns.
“He’s such a big point guard and causes some match-up problems, but that’s where we are lucky because we are so versatile we can throw different looks at him defensively,” Baynes told reporters on a conference call to promote the London game.
“When he keeps getting the same look throughout the 48 minutes that’s when he gets comfortable and starts finding a rhythm for himself.”
Baynes has been an integral part of the Celtics success this season, he was able to record a career high in assists (4) on Sunday, also adding five points, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block as the Celtics improved their record to 30-10.
Baynes is averaging 6 points and 5 rebounds this season but among NBA circles it’s well known that his numbers in the stat sheet don’t reflect his real-world impact on games.
“[Baynes is] a great communicator, he understands schemes, he understands coverages, and he plays with multiple efforts,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens .
“It’s a combination of things. You don’t get anywhere defensively without the multiple-effort part. But the offenses are so good, spread out, and you change coverages so often within a game that those other things matter.”
Baynes, Simmons and Australia’s NBA contingent of Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Thon Maker, Mangok Mathiang and another 76ers draft pick, Jonah Bolden, are expected to come together to form the strongest squad in Australian basketball history for the 2019 World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
While Baynes is expected to be the defensive anchor of that team, he see’s Simmons, Maker and Bolden as key to winning a gold medal.
“We’re definitely excited to incorporate Benny into the Boomers program,” Baynes said.
“We have that solid core group of guys, but we have a lot of young guys coming through as well – not only Benny but Thon, Jonah and a whole list of young guys that are going to be the foundation for the Boomers moving forward.
Thon Maker must have been listening to Baynes comments as he tied his season-high with 16 points yesterday, making 4-of-8 field goals, 5-of-5 free throws and 3-of-4 from downtown in 18 minutes. On the opposite side of the globe Jonah Bolden has continued to develop his game also, this week he dropped 23 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against Isreali rival Ironi Nahariya.
The game also featured former NBL star Corey Webster who had 27 points for Ironi Nahariya.
While Boston coach Brad Stevens is confident the Celtics can come away with the win, he acknowledges it won’t be an easy one with a long flight and plenty of media requests expected.
“The time change to London is pretty dramatic for a couple days but one thing I think we do a pretty good job of is using science to figure out how to adjust appropriately.
“We have a great deal of respect for Philly and Brett Brown, the way they play and how good they are.” said Stevens.
The game is scheduled for Thursday 11 January 2018 and will also feature Melbourne born NBA star Kyrie Irving.