I was one of many Australians who stayed up to watch our boys play off for the Bronze Medal game at 12.30am Monday morning, playing off against the world Number 2 Spain outfit. The look on the boys’ faces says it all.
We gave it absolutely everything we had. Pau Gasol was nothing short of brilliant and looked nothing like a 36 year old, crafty as always! But Patty Mills had different ideas, single handedly carrying our offence once Bogut fouled out early in the 3rd. A veteran of 3 Olympic campaigns, Mills finished the game with 30 points, and was clinical in his performance!
Aron Baynes, who had looked extremely timid, hit a go ahead basket with 9 seconds to play only for one of the most heart breaking moments in Australian Basketball history to occur with 4 seconds to play.
A broken down play saw Spanish Point Guard Sergio Rodriguez drive to the rim. Mills guarding him seemingly lost his footing but back tracked away from Rodriguez to avoid contact. Rodriguez, trying to create contact, jumped through the gap out of control and missed the lay up. As Baynes would have secured the missed lay up a late whistle was blown. Most thinking it was an over the back foul on the rebound….no! They had called a call on Mills…a ghost foul! One that is sure to have broken many hearts across the nation as Rodriguez calmly knocked down both Free Throws to put Spain back in front.
Our Boomers had one final chance but didn’t get a shot off, and just like that the Bronze Medal was lost. Never have I seen an Aussie team so gallant during a campaign. Their semi final showing was bad…real bad. But this team was never going to give up hope against Spain and left it all out on the floor. Seeing Delly and Motum in tears after the game killed me. All these guys had worked for…taken away by a late whistle…an incorrect one at that, and I must admit I was shaken by the loss as were many Aussies, it’s just such a tough one to take!!
So where to now? As gut wrenching as it is to try and forget about this game, we have to. We have to see the positives of this campaign and move forward towards the World Championships in 2019 in China, and the 2020 Tokyo games. We have to build on these games, knowing who we have coming into this squad can only excite us and realise that this goal of a medal is more than in reach!
Ben Simmons, Thon Maker and Dante Exum will slot into this squad, which will again feature our two-standout guards Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. Then the question marks begin, who else makes the squad?
Andrew Bogut has put his hand up straight after the games saying he would be interested, and it shows that having veteran bigs around our squad (take David Anderson for example, the 36 year old was nothing short of outstanding) is huge for the younger members of the squad. Aron Baynes will again be there, and going off his brilliant performance against Spain, Brock Motum you’d have to think will also remain in the squad. Ryan Broeckhoff’s ability to hit shots will also see him recalled.
Someone with a question mark is Joe Ingles. I believe he gets picked but he really was disappointing these games. Which was a real head scratcher considering how well he played in the NBA this past season. If these younger guys step up to the plate over the next 4 years, then he may have his work cut out for him to at least retain a starting position in this team…
But then where do we look? The competition will surely heat up with plenty of young college talent playing in the States, Isaac Humphries and Deng Adel to name a couple.
Jonah Bolden’s name has also been thrown around in the mix. Jonah, leaving UCLA this season to pursue a professional career, will definitely be an interesting one to keep an eye on. He really has a unique playing style and at the international level it could help. It’ll really depend on how he goes about transitioning from College play to the much more physical European leagues. It can only do him the world of good.
After this Olympics performance there really is no more “Little Guy” mentality. We knocked off European giants like Serbia, Lithuania and France. We pushed the might of Team USA and came within a point of pulling off one of the greatest wins in the history of our game against Spain (That late whistle will haunt us forever).
With who we have to add to this squad for the next games, not winning a medal would be a huge surprise. Spain are aging, likewise Serbia and Lithuania now. Argentina are also going to be in a massive transition phase. The next crop behind the states and ourselves seem to be the Croats and Canada if both are full strength.
Be proud of what we have accomplished Australia, Australian Hoops is on the rise and that medal we have desired for so long is hopefully only another 4 years away (or 3 if we want to give the World Champs a red hot crack!) Until then we will sit and lament what happened Monday Morning, but do that with a whole lot of pride knowing we are back on the world Basketball Map!