Sport

Boomer warms up for NBA

IT isn't every day that one of the world's great sporting organisations comes knocking.

And when they do, why would you say no?

Aron Baynes certainly didn't when NBA power, the San Antonio Spurs, offered him a $A4.4 million deal over four years at the start of 2013.

The 26-year-old was playing for Union Olimpija in the Slovenian Basketball League at the time, on slightly less than half that money.

Baynes, one of the best players for the Boomers at the London Olympics, had trialed with another NBA club, the Sacramento King, in 2009. But after failing to earn a spot on the roster he headed back to Europe where a host of Australia's best basketballers ply their trade for double what they would earn in the struggling NBL competition back home.

In a star-studded roster that included the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, it was no surprise Baynes struggled to get game time, especially considering the team was on top of the western conference at the time and would go on to play against Miami in the NBA finals.

"San Antonio is one of the best organisations in professional sport in the world. That was certainly part of my decision to go," the 208cm forward/centre said.

"I went in mid-way through the season so I knew there wasn't going to be much room for change. It was more about complementing what was already in place.

"The finals was a great series to be part of - unfortunately we didn't get the result."

With the NBA pre-season not starting until October, Baynes has been in camp in Canberra where the Boomers have been preparing to take on New Zealand's Tall Blacks in the two-game Oceania Championships, starting in Auckland tonight.

While a hamstring niggle will keep him sidelined for game one, the Aussie line-up will include Spurs teammate Patty Mills, plus players from leagues across Europe including David Barlow, David Anderson and Joe Ingles.

Baynes said he and Mills were using the series, which will help determine seedings and groupings at the 2014 world championship, as a springboard for the coming NBA season.

He also the pair were keen to do all they could to help the sport in Australia.

"We're trying to be ambassadors for basketball in Australia - I love playing for Australia," Baynes said.

"The sport has been through a tough time with teams dropping out of the NBL, so anything we can do to help raise the profile, we will."

Despite those problems, the sport continues to churn out talented youngsters.

Dante Exum, 18, Cameron Bairstow, 22, Ben Simmons, 17, and Ryan Boroekhoff, 22, will all have the chance to show their wares against the Kiwis as new coach Andrej Lemanis builds a squad for the world championship, and also the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Game two of the Oceania Championship will be in Canberra on Sunday.

Baynes had worked out for NBA teams including the Sacramento Kings in 2009, but didn't stick in the big league.

After flirting with Erazem Lorbek in the offseason, Spurs brass were no doubt impressed by Baynes' EL regular-season display (during which he looked much like Lorbek, 2011-12 edition) in which all he did was lead the league in two-point attempts, two-pointers made, offensive rebounds, total rebounds and performance index rating.

$US3.5million over four years.

Born in Gisborne, New Zealand, Baynes most recently played for Union Olimpija of the Slovenian Basketball League in 2012-13. In 10 games he averaged 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in 26.2 minutes.

Baynes, 6-10/260, began his professional career in 2009-10 playing for Lietuvos Rytas of the Lithuanian Basketball League, a squad that went on to win the Lithuanian National Championship. In 2010-11 he played in Germany for EWE Baskets Oldenburg before joining Ikaros Kallitheas in Greece the following season.

In the summer of 2010 Baynes was named to the Australian senior national team and competed at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Baynes then represented Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where he averaged 7.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting .656 (21-32) from the floor.

Baynes played collegiately at Washington State from 2005-09, where in 122 career games he averaged 8.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.0 minutes.

Baynes will wear No.16 for the Silver and Black.

XXX

NBA players Patty Mills and Aron Baynes headline a 15-man Australian men's basketball squad named ahead of this month's Oceania championship series against New Zealand.

The San Antonio Spurs pair will join six other London Olympians in Canberra next Wednesday for a final training camp before the two-game series tips off on August 14 in Auckland.

The second match will be played in Canberra on August 18.

Along with the experience of Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova, coach Andrej Lemanis has added a swag of young guns to his squad for the biennial competition - which Australia won in 2011.

Teenagers Dante Exum and Ben Simmons as well as Cameron Bairstow and Ryan Broekhoff - who led the Emerging Boomers to a silver medal at last month's World University Games in Russia - will be looking to stake their claim for a spot in the final 12.

Lemanis said he was pleased with the commitment shown from the Boomers most senior players who made themselves available for the championship series.

"We all know that the successful teams - the teams that win medals - spend time together every year," Lemanis said on Friday.

"This year we are working with a heavily reduced schedule, but it is still great to get to work with a core of guys who have been with the program for a period of time.

"The players are here for the right reasons - we are all here to represent the Boomers, represent Australia on the world stage and have a shot at winning a medal."

Lemanis said the Boomers were "in a good place" and he was looking forward to seeing his youngest charges start their development within the team.

"The series against NZ will be a great challenge. They are coming off eight games preparation in China. Our build up will be more limited, so it will be a good test for us to see how we respond.

Australian training squad: David Andersen (free agent), Cameron Bairstow (University of New Mexico), David Barlow (free agent), Aron Baynes (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Ryan Broekhoff (free agent), Matthew Dellavedova (free agent), Dante Exum (BA CoE), Adam Gibson (Adelaide 36ers, NBL), Joe Ingles (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Luke Nevill (Townsville Crocodiles, NBL), Brad Newley (CB Gran Canaria, Spain), AJ Ogilvy (Sydney Kings, NBL), Anthony Petrie (Adelaide 36ers, NBL), Ben Simmons (Montverde Academy High School, USA).

Topics:  basketball, boomers, nba, san antonio spurs


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