AP Photo/Charlie Neibergal
The Australian men’s basketball team is playing with an increasing confidence during the Rio Games thanks, in part, to a roster with NBA championship experience. Bucks guard Matt Dellavedova won a title with the Cavaliers last season and Mavericks center Andrew Bogut was a starter on the Warriors’ 2015 championship team. Spurs guard Patty Mills earned a ring in 2014.
Add two more NBA players in Aron Baynes (Pistons) and Joe Ingles (Jazz) and the Aussies are one win from medaling in the Olympics for the first time in men’s basketball. They beat Lithuania 90-64 in the quarterfinal round Wednesday.
“Going through those paths and winning championships and gathering that experience at such a high level for all of us, and not just our NBA guys,” Mills said, “you bring that together, it’s very powerful. Belief is the word we use a lot here. It’s gathering that experience and knowing how to play throughout the course of the game. Obviously, there’s a lot of game-planning and Xs and Os that are talked about throughout the course of a game, but I think it’s just playing basketball and believing in your abilities.”
Australia coach Andrej Lemanis agrees.
“They’re not intimidated by the big stage,” Lemanis said. “All that experience is coming together for us at the right time.
“There’s certainly a collective belief in this group that we can do something special. I think it’s more than a belief, it’s a desire.”
Bogut said confidence is the difference in this group, they truly believe they can win these games. Australia will play the winner of Croatia and Serbia on Friday.
“To be involved in a unique group that is hungry and eager to achieve something that no other Australian team has done before,” Mills said, “means more than what you can imagine.”