Australia will extend the longest active streak of Olympic men’s basketball appearances next summer.
The Australians clinched a spot in their 13th straight Olympics when New Zealand failed to advance out of its group at the FIBA World Cup. Oceania gets one Olympic qualifier out of the World Cup, and Australia took the spot by advancing to the second stage of group play.
Australia is the most accomplished basketball nation yet to earn an Olympic men’s medal. It finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, going winless in eight games with a medal at stake.
Australia’s medal hopes in Tokyo may be dependent on Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons.
Simmons passed on the Rio Olympics in favor of preparing for the 2016 NBA Draft, where he was the No. 1 overall pick, and the start of his pro career. He originally committed to the World Cup but withdrew on July 16 in favor of again preparing for the NBA season. But in withdrawing he said he would be “honored and humbled” to play at the Olympics.
Players on the World Cup roster with NBA experience include 2005 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and fellow Olympic veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.
Japan is in the 12-team Olympic field automatically as host nation. Six more nations will qualify for the Olympics at this month’s World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa and one from Asia.
The final four Olympic qualifiers will come from last-chance tournaments in 2020.
MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!
Australia’s men’s basketball squad could be without its big man at the Rio Olympics. Andrew Bogut suffered bone bruises to his left knee Monday night that will keep him sidelined six to eight weeks.
The Golden State Warriors’ center collided with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The team announced Wednesday that he’ll miss the rest of the Finals, but won’t need surgery.
The six-to-eight week timeline puts Bogut’s Olympic participation in jeopardy. Six weeks from today is July 27. Eight weeks from today is Aug. 10. Australia’s first game is Aug. 6.
Bogut sitting out would be another blow to the Aussies, who will already be without young phenom Ben Simmons. The 19-year-old will be one of the top picks, possibly No. 1, in this month’s NBA draft, and he’s opted to focus on his NBA career rather than the Olympics.
The Australian Olympic team could still be led by NBA players Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. Basketball Australia will set its roster after a July 5-10 selection camp.
Bogut suited up for Australia in the 2004 and 2008 Games, but missed the 2012 London Olympics after having ankle surgery the previous spring.
MORE: USA Basketball doesn’t expect more withdrawals, awaits LeBron’s decision
Ben Simmons, who could be the No. 1 NBA draft pick on June 23, will not play for Australia’s Olympic team in August, according to ESPN.com.
“Ben Simmons will postpone playing with the Australian Olympic team this summer in order to concentrate fully on his NBA activities following the upcoming 2016 NBA draft,” Simmons’ agent said, according to the report.
Simmons, who is turning pro after his freshman season at LSU, was one of 26 players named as candidates for Australia’s Olympic basketball team last month.
Without Simmons, the Australian Olympic team could still include NBA players Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova, among others.
Simmons, a Melbourne native, was among the final five cuts for Australia’s 2014 FIBA World Cup team.
Basketball Australia will cut down to 16 ahead of a July 5-10 selection camp. The Olympic Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5.
Australia’s men’s basketball team has never earned an Olympic medal, falling in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2012.
MORE: Australian Olympic great retires from basketball