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Doubters, travel nightmares and that basket-brawl: The Boomers’ road to redemption

“This new (qualification) format, it’s a process for sure and it’s nice now at the end of all that to hopefully give ourselves some reward for all that work.”

Bogut wasn’t part of the side that travelled to the Philippines and were implicated in a nasty on-court brawl that led to 13 players, including 10 from the host nation plus their coach and assistant, being suspended.

It has been a tough road for the Boomers, but one they have navigated superbly to date.

It has been a tough road for the Boomers, but one they have navigated superbly to date.Credit:Getty Images

But the NBA veteran-turned NBL MVP with the Sydney Kings says the last fortnight has had its challenges too.

“It’s tough, it’s tougher than an NBA schedule,” he said after their quarter-final defeat of the Czech Republic.

“FIBA is way more physical than the NBA, first and foremost, and it’s pretty hard recovering, just 48 hours’ rest (between games).”

China has brought with it its own extra challenges, particularly with the Boomers forced to snake their way up the country through four cities with just one day between games.

Twice they have played at night knowing that result determined their next day’s movements.

Australia’s quarter-final did not finish until nearly 11pm on Wednesday in Shanghai and they’ll play their semi-final in Beijing on Friday at 4pm.

“Everything in China takes twice as long as they say it’s supposed to; traffic, a lot of people everywhere, nothing every runs on time,” Bogut said.

“Our last hotel was a shambles, so we had to figure out where to eat half the time, and had to figure out those things on the fly.

“But that’s part of travelling all over a country. We’ve experienced this before, and I think we’re resilient when it comes to the off-the-court stuff.”

A shot at the naysayers

The Boomers all say they’ve have been waiting for this moment, but the fact it’s even arrived is “a shot at the naysayers” and a big tick for coach Andrej Lemanis, according to Andrew Gaze.

The five-time Olympian will be in the Beijing crowd when the Boomers meet Spain, a basketball grudge match three years in the making.

Australia have finished fourth at the Olympics four times, most recently falling by one-point to the Spaniards in 2016 when a dubious foul went against them at the death.

The Boomers have stayed incredibly united through the challenging campaign.

The Boomers have stayed incredibly united through the challenging campaign.Credit:Getty Images

They have now pulled off a historic 6-0 run in China, doing so without as many as five unavailable NBA players.

Patty Mills is pushing his case for tournament MVP while Lemanis’s preferred nine-man rotation have all chipped in to ensure they remained flawless while the similarly below-strength United States and an imposing Serbia both fell at the quarter-final stage.

The Australian coach copped some flak for overlooking Deng Adel, Brock Motum and Mitch Creek – who later replaced the injured Xavier Cooks – from his original squad, while eyebrows were raised when Ben Simmons and Jonah Bolden were both in-then-out in a stunted Cup preparation.

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How they may fit into next year’s Olympic plans, along with fellow NBA pair Dante Exum and Ryan Broekhoff among others, will be the coach’s next assignment once their China campaign closes on Sunday.

Before that though, Gaze thinks Lemanis deserves some credit.

“Their performance has been a bit of a shot at the naysayers who thought it (talking up their medal prospects) was just basketball rhetoric and promoting your own,” he said.

“They’re playing with great spirit and have clearly established their roles and they have the variations to deal with anything that’s thrown at them.”

Spain, powered by dynamic guard Ricky Rubio and veteran centre Marc Gasol, remain favourites on Friday while France, who Australia beat in the second round, are still favourites with bookies to win the title.

They will play Argentina in Friday’s other semi-final, while the United States play Poland for seventh place on Saturday in what will be the American’s worst-ever finish at a major tournament.

“I see it (the final four) as being really, really even and Australia not being outright favourites but equivalent of everyone else,” Gaze said.

THE BOOMERS’ ROAD TO BEIJING:

  • Qualifiers began in November 2017 and included trips to Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Iran.
  • Australia went 10-2 through those, with the brawl in the Philippines drawing international headlines and a trip to Kazakhstan coming the week before Andrej Lemanis coached Brisbane in the NBL finals.
  • The Boomers have since beaten Canada, Senegal, Lithuania, the Dominican Republic, France and the Czech Republic to reach the final four in China.
  • The Boomers’ semi-final will be their seventh game in 13 days across four Chinese cities.

FRIDAY’S SEMI-FINALS:

  • Australia v Spain 6pm AEST
  • Argentina v France 10pm AEST

AAP

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