NBA All-Star Ben Simmons remains in the mix to be part of Australia’s World Cup basketball campaign with Boomers legend and now assistant coach Luc Longley a key facilitator in the talks.
The Boomers remain hopeful they will have their biggest player on deck for the tournament as well as a two-games series against one of their World Cup group opponents, Canada, which was announced on Wednesday.
Australia’s 12-man squad will take on the Canadians at Perth’s RAC Arena on August 16 and 17, a fortnight out from the World Cup in China.
They also have two warm-up games against the USA on August 22 and 24 in Melbourne.
Longley stepped up while head coach Andrej Lemanis was tied up with Brisbane NBL duties.
Given his playing history in the NBA and 12 years on the Boomers’ frontline, he remains a key man in player liaison.
“Luc’s really good in terms of his ability to relate and communicate with the players and keep those relationships strong,” Lemanis said.
“We have good dialogue with him and the people around him and like everybody else there’s an intent to play if all things fall into place.”
Simmons would be given until as late as possible to make a call, with Australian basketball doing all they could to meet his needs, said Lemanis.
Complicating the situation, Simmons is in line to sign a five-year, $200 million contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA off-season and any injury sustained on international duty could hurt his payday.
“Ben’s obviously got a situation in terms of his contract negotiations during the off-season, so all those things need to be worked through,” Lemanis said.
“Our camp starts August 2 so obviously before then is when we need to know. So until then we’ll keep talking and if there’s a way we can make the situation comfortable for him to play, then we will do what we can to get things done.”
Canada’s 11 NBA players are highlighted by 2014 top draft pick Andrew Wiggins and championship winner Tristan Thompson, who skipped last year’s Commonwealth Games campaign, with Australia winning both clashes.
Lemanis said it would be good to get look at their beefed-up side before the World Cup but it also had its drawbacks.
“It’s an interesting twist in the tale in terms that they are our opening game at the World Cup,” he said.
“We’ve been through this before and you just need to be a little bit intelligent in terms of how much to show, both offensively and defensively, but there’s also the reality of needing to improve as a group.
“You can also find out some strengths and weaknesses of your opponent.”
AUSTRALIA v CANADA
Friday, August 16 – RAC Arena, Perth
Saturday, August 17 – RAC Arena, Perth