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Exum's return to Boomers goes beyond Rio
The 26-man preliminary Australia Boomers squad for the Rio Olympics was announced recently, making the headlines for including every single one of our Aussies in the NBA (AITNBA). While the inclusion of the likes of Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, and Joe Ingles, among others, was expected, some eyebrows were raised at Dante Exum making the list.
As we all know by now, Dante hasn't seen the court since an ACL tear on Boomers duty last offseason. The Utah Jazz have been extremely careful with him, and although progress has been made as the year rolls on, any return to the court before the offseason Summer League seems like a far-fetched pipe dream at best.
What isn't in doubt, however, is his teammates' desire for him to be able to join their Rio campaign.
“We all know that he really wants to be there,” Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova told NBA Australia. “He’s desperate to go over [to Rio] and loves playing for Australia. We all hope his rehab goes well, and he manages to be healthy in time.”
Delly's not a blind optimist however; he knows the Jazz have to protect their own interests.
“Obviously, the Jazz have a lot invested in him, so I’m not too sure what will eventuate, but we know that he wants to play and will give it his best shot if his body is right by then.” Delly said.
Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut, the veteran of our AITNBA group, has pretty much been there and done that. His thoughts on Exum joining up with the squad were very realistic.
"We really want Dante to be there with us, and we know he wants to go to Rio and be part of the whole campaign, but it's going to be tough for him. It's a 12-month injury with all the rehab that's required, and you can guess that the Jazz aren't going to want him to play," Bogues said.
"Whatever decision he makes, we're with him, there's no animosity there. He's a young fella, and these kinds of decisions are incredibly tough to make. At the end of the day, he might need to take a step back and be smart. He needs to make sure that his body is right so that he can tackle the rigours of an NBA season."
As a former number one pick and the victim of some very ill-timed (and, once, downright gruesome) injuries, Bogey knows all about the pressure that'll be coming Dante's way.
"He'll face pressure from the Jazz, the Boomers, the fans, the media, but it's about his career, and 5-10 years down the track, people won't care about you if you're not performing well." Basically, safety-first and play the long game.
I don't think anyone really expects him to make the final 16-man roster. Odds are, this is just an opportunity for Exum to keep in touch with the Boomers set up and to continue his rehabilitation process. That said, his inclusion (and Ben Simmons') speaks to the long-term vision of the Boomers coaching staff; it's not just about Rio 2016, it's also about tournaments 5, 10 years down the road.
As a fan, that's about all you could ask for.