Did the Boomers make a mistake with Mills omission?
One name stood out when the star-studded Boomers line-up was announced for the upcoming 2015 FIBA Oceania Championships and European tour. The name was that of the San Antonio Spurs' offensive dynamo, Patty Mills, and it wasn't on the 12-man roster.
Mills is unavailable for the matches against Slovenia and Lithuania as he rehabs his injured shoulder, and was exempted from the FIBA Oceania Championships due to squad selection criteria.
National coach Andrej Lemanis said that while Patty will be sorely missed, it is in the best interests of the team that Mills be excluded from the FIBA Oceania Championships, which will double as the Rio 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
"As difficult as it is for us to leave Patty out of the team, at the start of our planning for this Rio qualification, the coaching staff agreed that it is vital that we undertake preparations for the Oceania Championships as a team to better understand how, as a group, we can embark on a successful campaign in Rio."
Coach Lemanis has shown that he treats all players equally, whether they are NBA stars or NBL battlers. Mills is one of three current NBA stars to miss the tour, along with the Detroit Pistons' Aron Baynes and Utah Jazz swingman Joe Ingles. Baynes is in rehab following ankle surgery, and Ingles is recovering from the aftereffects of a grueling debut NBA season.
“Patty has a proud and passionate commitment to the Australian Boomers and I’m looking forward to working with him, Joe and Aron in our determined push for a long-awaited medal at the Rio Olympics.”
Mills was the leading scorer at the 2012 London Olympics with 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists, forming a dynamic back-court tandem with Cleveland Cavalier Matthew Dellavedova. The value of Mills to the Boomers is not to be underrated. He brings an offensive skill set unrivaled by his Boomers teammates, along with star power that will be a huge draw for fans at home. Mills is limited by injury, and if there were a time to make exceptions to the squad selection policy, this would be it.
https://youtu.be/N_mSeshu0fk It is in Basketball Australia's best interests for Mills play with the Boomers this year. It would be another opportunity to work out how the team should best utilise the extensive backcourt depth of Exum, Mills, Dellavedova and NBL stalwart Adam Gibson heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While Mills obviously strengthens the team on the court, off the court it only makes sense for one of our most successful and recognisable NBA players to play in one of the few opportunities basketball has to showcase itself live on free-to-air on the Nine Network on Gem.
The depth of the Boomers' backcourt ensures that leaving Mills off the squad will give much needed international opportunities to the rising crop of their young guns. In saying that, is it worth risking an Olympic berth to send a message on team unity and commitment?
At the end of the day, Mills is available for the FIBA Oceania Championships. Given his sterling international and NBA performances so far, would it be too much of a stretch to say that he's earned a little leeway?
One has to wonder if this was the actual Olympics tournament and Mills was unavailable for the warm-up matches, yet healthy in time for the main tournament, would he still not be named?
Boomers squad: David Andersen, Cameron Bairstow, Andrew Bogut, Ryan Broekhoff, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Adam Gibson, Chris Goulding, Nate Jawai, Damian Martin, Brock Motum and Brad Newley.
2015 Boomers European tour
July 29, vs Lithuania – Klaipeda
July 31, vs Lithuania – Siauliai
August 3, vs Slovenia – Ljubljana
August 4, vs Slovenia – Ljubljana
2015 FIBA Oceania Qualifying Series
Melbourne, Australia – August 15, 2015: Jayco Australian Opals v NZ Tall Ferns Airbnb Australian Boomers v NZ Tall Blacks
Tauranga, New Zealand – August 17, 2015: NZ Tall Ferns v Jayco Australian Opals
Wellington, New Zealand – August 18, 2015: NZ Tall Blacks v Airbnb Boomers