They know it’ll be a dogfight, but two of Australia’s NBA title holders reckon the Boomers are a legitimate chance of winning their first ever Olympic medal next year.
The men’s team booked a place at the 2016 Rio Games on Tuesday night after sealing the Oceania qualifying series with a 89-79 win over New Zealand in Wellington.
It was a job well done in the eyes of Golden State Warriors champion Andrew Bogut, but only just the start.
“The bigger goal is to try and get (a medal) at an Olympic Games or a world championships,” he said.
“It’s never happened before.
“But it’s easier said than done. Every country seems to get better and better – including us.
“If we can have all of our horses healthy and ready … we have a chance.
“It all comes down to which group comes together the quickest and how chemistry is with the national team, because you don’t get a lot of preparation time.”
San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills agreed.
“It’s going to be a dogfight and it’s not going to be delivered on a silver platter, but it’s a goal,” he told AAP.
“We believe that we have a great chance in achieving next year, as long as everyone’s healthy and we’ve got the right system in.
“It’s a definite reality and in the mindset of everyone to go and get it done.”
Australia had a record seven players in the NBA last season – four of whom played in the series against the Tall Blacks.
Dante Exum was almost there but suffered a torn ACL during their warm-up tour of Europe, while Aron Baynes was recovering from surgery and Joe Ingles resting up after an intense rookie year.
All are aiming to be fit for Rio 2016, with No.1 draft prospect Ben Simmons also wanting a spot.
With more than a starting-five worth of NBA players, Bogut said confidence within the team was high.
“It’s going to help our camps be more fluid and more competitive,” he said.
“The tough task is on coach (Andrej) Lemanis and our coaches to pick a side without a camp; that’s probably going to be the toughest part. They’re going to have to watch a lot of film.
“To pick a 12 out of that is pretty tough, there’s a lot of pressure on them.”
Mills, who got a late call to replace Exum, said the Boomers’ combination of youth and experience would bode well in Brazil, where competition will step up another notch.
“Being involved in different situations in games throughout the world is going to be a big boost for us,” he said.
“It’s obviously a credit individually to those guys getting to that level, but you put them all together and it’s a different ball game.”