Andrej Lemanis’ heart must have stopped when he saw Andrew Bogut’s knee injury today. The Boomers lofty Olympic medal goals – Gold, no less – rested chiefly on the NBA champion’s shoulders.
With less than two months until the games begin, reality is setting in for Australian fans that this may be another major tournament where we are missing our best big man.
So, where do we go from here? Should the Boomers downsize their goals in response to this loss?
Australia is just the latest in a line of national teams to lose one of their most instrumental pieces in the lead up to Rio.
Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden pulled out of the USA team due to personal reasons last week, with more expected to follow.
Marc Gasol has pulled out for Spain, and his All Star brother, Pau, raising his own concerns about the Zika virus.
France might be without Nicolas Batum for their Olympic qualification charge, as he is yet to officially commit to the games.
This year is a contract year for a lot of NBA players, many of whom will not risk injury for their chance at Olympic glory.
There will surely be more omissions to be announced in the coming weeks.
Brazil is the only men’s national team that is currently boasting its full NBA contingent.
Andrew Bogut’s injury, as jarringly unfair as it feels, is just another case of a headline talent being taken from a national squad for the Rio games.
Despite the likeliness that Bogut will not be available for the upcoming Olympics, Australia should still have one of the greatest teams it has ever assembled, with six current NBA players vying for spots. There is still much room and reason for optimism.
At Bogut’s position is a plethora of Australian centers with NBA experience. While a player like Bogut is irreplaceable, the Boomers should be adequately serviced by Aron Baynes, David Anderson, Cam Bairstow and Nate Jawai.
The biggest loss the Boomers will be feeling is that of Bogut’s rim protection. We do not have a noted shot blocker or shot changer.
Our help defense will need to be keyed in to minimize the damage in this area.
The Boomers will be facing a problem they are used to in this regard. Bogut has not played a major tournament in eight years, and the rest of the squad has gone from strength to strength in the NBA and various highly regarded leagues in the world.
With Patty Mills fit and healthy, and the squad continuing to mature, the 2016 Rio Olympic team should be much better than the 2014 World Cup team that beat Lithuania.
It should also be much better than the 2012 London Olympic team that beat an undefeated Russia and gave the Dream Team three quarters of fodder for thought.
And with USA in Australia’s group for the pool stage, the Boomers will not have to face them in the preliminary finals. The biggest obstacle to their last few medal charges has been removed.
Rather than face the might of the USA in the cross-overs, Australia would be pitted against either Lithuania, Brazil, Spain or Argentina in the quarterfinals – certainly not walk-overs, but they’re all beatable opponents given the circumstances.
And winning a quarterfinal game would launch the Boomers into the top four. That would equal Australia’s best ever Olympic performances from Sydney 2000, Atlanta 1996 and Seoul 1998.
It is also fair to note that the 1996 Boomers were without Luc Longley, facing much of the same challenges as this year’s Australian team will while missing Andrew Bogut.
The wonderful thing about basketball is anything can happen. That is why we play the games. You can trust the Boomers will have a crack at this regardless of personnel, or lack thereof.
If Australia plays with the same tenacity as it did in the above-listed upsets, they can come home with a medal.
It would be wrong to say Bogut’s loss will have minimal impact on the team.
His basketball IQ, locker room personality, and goliath-like defensive prowess will be much missed.
And as the old Aussie proverb goes, “Ah well. Just get on with it!”
These are the reasons why the Boomer’s Olympic campaign is still alive and well.