Boom times for Aussie basketball
BOOMERS and San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills, who has matched it with LeBron James and won an NBA championship ring, believes there is "no question" Australia can win its first Olympic basketball medal in Rio.
Mills said the Boomers were not going to Rio intimidated, despite drawing the top-ranked USA in Group A.
The 11th-ranked Aussies will also encounter France (fifth) and Serbia (sixth) in the pool stage.
"No question mate," Mills told Australian Regional Media when asked if he believed Australia was a genuine medal chance.
"And I don't think we would be saying it if we didn't genuinely believe that we could win a medal.
"The youth and experience that we have within our group, and the calibre of guys and how much it means to them to get this job done, it confirms our belief in how much we want to do this."
Australia's chances of bettering its three fourth-place finishes (1988, 1996, 2000) may come down to the availability of newly signed Dallas Maverick, Andrew Bogut.
The winner of an NBA championship ring with the Golden State Warriors last year, Bogut is racing the clock to play in Rio after suffering a knee injury in the finals against Cleveland in June.
Mills is hopeful the big centre will be right to go.
"You get the feeling (Bogut will play) because of how much he has committed to the team, and you wouldn't expect anything less from an NBA champion and someone who's represented his country at an Olympics before," he said.
"Just knowing how bad his injury is but how much he's still trying to make himself available is uplifting for us."
Fellow big man and Detroit star Aron Baynes is ready to step up if Bogut does not make it in time, with Australia's first game in Rio against France this Sunday morning.
"I think Baynesy has done a great job in his development over the years. Ever since he's made the NBA he's made strides year after year," Mills said of his former Spurs championship-winning teammate.
"With him and Boges on the floor they're some tall timber that will be hard to score against.
"His physical stature is obviously the big thing about him (Baynes), but he's put that skill level together and combined them both and he's a real powerhouse."
Mills comes off contract at San Antonio - the 2014 title holders - at the end of the next NBA season.
There is a lot on his plate until then, starting with the mission of winning Australia's first basketball Olympic medal.
"It's early days. Having this Boomers preparation as a main focus now with one more year left at the Spurs, it's one of those situations where I've got to take it step by step," he said.
"Next year is going to be a big year with the Spurs. Then we'll burn that bridge when we come to it."
Mills, who played with the Melbourne Tigers in 2011, did not rule out the possibility of returning to play in the NBL at the back end of his career, just like former NBA player and Boomers star veteran David Andersen.
The 36-year-old has been signed by Melbourne United for the coming season and Mills believes he will be vital to the Boomers' medal hopes.
"He (Andersen) has been a European veteran for so long, played in the NBA and now he's got an opportunity to come back to Melbourne and play with United," Mills said.
"I think that's going to be a great thing for the NBL and for basketball in this country."
"I love the NBL. I think it is definitely heading in the right direction. There's still a lot of work to do, but I'm very happy the Brisbane Bullets are back in.
"That was a team I followed very closely with my uncle (Danny Morseu) who played for them. So I'll be a huge supporter and follower of the Bullets.
"You don't rule it (a return to the NBL) out, for me anyway.
"We want to come back and be able to play in front of our family and friends."
Mills promoted the NBA 2K17 computer game by Visual Concepts before taking off for Rio.
He said the Boomers' inclusion in the game showed how much players from Down Under were being followed in the US, Europe and around the world.
"This is really exciting. It gives an opportunity for us as players to take a step back and see what we're doing and achieving around the world is paying off and being recognised," he said, with the game to be released on September 16.
"It's not just the NBA. It's recognition here in Australia, college, Europe and across the world."
That recognition will only increase if, as Mills hopes, the Boomers can secure a medal.