‘We’ve only got one goal’: Everything you need to know about the Boomers’ bid for FIBA World Cup gold
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The Australian Boomers continue their hunt for a first men’s gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Asia, starting on Friday.
The Boomers have finished in the top four at their past three major tournaments, coming fourth at the Rio Olympics, fourth at the 2019 World Cup and third at the Tokyo Olympics, but this time coach Brian Goorjian has a different, smaller team to turn into a contender.
With the likes of Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes out of the picture and starting centre Jock Landale out of the tournament after an ankle injury, Goorjian views his best option as playing small ball and backing the length and athleticism of NBA stars Josh Giddey, Josh Green, Matisse Thybulle, Xavier Cooks and Dante Exum to defend teams into the ground.
This tournament also continues the handover of the team from the Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova and Baynes generation to Giddey and his generation of players.
Dellavedova was cut from the team during camp, while Giddey is now the team’s playmaker, although Mills and Ingles will assume big roles due to their experience and drive to take the Boomers to gold.
“Stick with us as we head off to the World Cup,” Mills told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
“We’ve only got one goal, and that’s to bring home gold. Gold vibes only.”
Boomer star Josh Green in action against South Sudan.Credit: Getty Images
The path to gold for the Boomers
The 32-team World Cup starts with four-team group stages, played in Manilla, Okinawa and Jakarta, with the top two in each group progressing to the crossover round and the bottom two dropping into classification games.
For the Boomers to make the medal rounds again, they will have to advance from group E, based in Okinawa, where they will play Finland (August 25), Germany (August 27) and Japan (August 29).
Finland looks a difficult side led by NBA All-Star Lauri Markkanen, Germany is possibly the tallest team the Boomers will face, while Japan will have the home crowd behind them.
The two best group E teams will play the two crossover games against theleading teams from group F, which has Luka Doncic’s Slovenia, Cape Verde, Venezuela and Georgia.
Those two crossover games plus the results from the first round are combined on a table, with the top-two teams heading to the quarter-finals in Manilla.
The winning quarter-finalists advance to the semi-finals, with the winners to contest the final, while the losing teams play for bronze.
If the Boomers finish ahead of New Zealand, they will seal qualification for Paris 2024 as the top Oceania team.
The Boomers’ roster
Goorjian has been shifting his players to figure out his best rotations but, following the loss of Landale, it looks likely his starting five will be Giddey, Mills, Green, Nick Kay and Duop Reath.
But you can expect Thybulle, Exum, Ingles, Cooks and Chris Goulding to play key roles off the bench. It appears Dyson Daniels and Jack White will play smaller roles, but both are NBA athletes capable of making a difference in games.
Mills has always carried a big scoring load, but he missed more shots than usual in the three lead-up games in Melbourne and will need more support. They can’t expect Mills to carry them to victory every game.
Josh Giddey blocks Garly Sojo from Venezuela.Credit: Getty Images
Giddey is only in his first international tournament, but it was clear from the three games in Melbourne that he will be the team’s point guard and top playmaker. The Boomers will need him to pull in rebounds, score and set up others, and he is capable of dominating all those areas. Giddey showed a great connection with Reath, and he could make the young centre a force around the basket with his passing.
Goorjian loves what Green brings to the team, with the Dallas Mavericks swingman looking to be a defensive stopper and both a three-point threat and savvy passer on offence. “He’s a bulldog defensively on the ball, like Delly [Matthew Dellavedova] on steroids,” Goorjian said after the win over South Sudan. “Dallas has done a tremendous job with his shot, he’s transformed. That’s a big piece [of our team].”
Many Australians will remember Steve Kerr warmly from The Last Dance documentary and his four NBA championships as coach of the Golden State Warriors. Kerr is now coaching Team USA, taking over from Gregg Popovich, and looks to have assembled a super-athletic team that also has more outside shooting than past groups. As usual, the veteran NBA superstars aren’t playing, but the young guns Jalen Brunson, Jaren Jackson jnr, Tyrese Haliburton, Brandon Ingram and Anthony Edwards make them a legitimate contender despite their inexperience.
Steve Kerr will coach Team USA at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.Credit: AP
Which NBA stars are playing and who has pulled out?
Doncic (Slovenia), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), RJ Barrett (Canada), Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic), Rudy Gobert (France), Nicola Vucevic (Montenegro) and Lauri Markkanen (Finland) headline the overseas NBA stars playing at his World Cup.
Slovenia superstar Luka Doncic.Credit: Getty Images
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Victor Wembanyama (France), Jamal Murray (Canada), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Ricky Rubio (Spain), Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Rui Hachimura (Japan) are among the stars missing the tournament, citing fatigue from the NBA or injury. Many of them will look to join their teams for Olympic qualifying next year.
How can we watch
ESPN and ESPN2 will show all the Boomers and Team USA games live, plus a number of other games each day, among 92 live games in total.
The remaining matches will be only available on the ESPN App or Watch ESPN website – those services are only available to Foxtel or Fetch subscribers.
There is also expected to be an announcement this week on how Australians can watch the Boomers and Team USA games for free.
The Boomers play France in Japan on Sunday at 2pm AEST Live & Free on Gem & 9Now.
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