Team USA Challenge a Sign of Respect for Australian Men’s Basketball Team

BOOMERS coach Andrej Lemanis says the two-game series against the star-studded USA in Melbourne next year shows how much global credibility and respect has been earned by Australian basketball.

A full-strength Australia will play the might of the Americans at Etihad Stadium on August 22 and 24 in the build-up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China which starts on August 31.

More than 50,000 spectators will pack the AFL venue for each game with more than 20 NBA players on show.

Waiting lists for tickets have already been set-up to cater for the demand.

The USA team will be coached by the legendary Gregg Popovich and will contain the best of the best from the world’s premier competition.

The presence of the five-time NBA championship winning coach at the helm of the ‘Dream Team’ could convince superstar LeBron James to make himself available for US selection.

“It (Popovich coaching the USA) factors a lot … I’ve said that before. He’s just a great mastermind of the game of basketball,” James said at a press conference last year when asked if he would resume his international career.

The Boomers should feature most of their NBA-based stars including Ben Simmons, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum and Andrew Bogut.

Lemanis said the series against the US was a “fantastic outcome’’ for the sport in Australia.

“It’s certainly an indication of the respect that Australian basketball has now. In some ways, it’s reaffirming that all the work put in by a lot of people has been recognised,’’ Lemanis said.

“Basketball Australia have done a wonderful job and the NBL connection with the NBA and our teams going over there last year and acquitting themselves well wouldn’t have hurt.

“It’s a phenomenal thing for Australian basketball. Just incredible.’’

Aussie NBA star Ben Simmons is expected to play for the Boomers in August 2019.

The Boomers boss said the two-match series was also the best possible preparation for the World Cup where the Boomers need to finish in front of New Zealand to directly qualify for the Olympics.

“Before the Rio Olympics, we needed to ensure we were playing the best teams so we targeted France, Spain and those sorts of teams,’’ he said.

“Now to get two quality games against the US is a great opportunity. We need to go to the World Cup and do well.

“To play the best team in the world just before a World Cup puts us in a great place.’’

Barring any injuries or contract issues, Lemanis is hopeful of having Simmons and the rest of Australia’s NBA stars available for selection.

“We’ve got to get through another NBA season after this one. The indications from all the guys so far have been really positive because they understand the importance of the World Cup,’’ he said.

“There is a general acceptance that everyone wants to play but everyone’s individual circumstance have to play out. This series will help because I know the guys are proud ambassadors for the game in Australia.

“To represent their country and play in front of family and friends against the US is something they’d want to be a part of.’’