The “unfulfilling” NBA season driving Aron Baynes’ gold medal tilt with the Boomers at Tokyo

Boomers big man Aron Baynes doesn’t waste words when asked about his frustrating and ultimately failed NBA season with the Toronto Raptors.

“It definitely wasn’t fulfilling,” Baynes said frankly.

“Just knowing what I can do and can bring to a team.

“I wasn’t able to go out there and have the role that I wanted, but it one of those things where it is the nature of the beast unfortunately.”

Baynes’ two-year $AU18.9 million deal with Toronto was trumpeted as a success, but it could end in a bitter divorce with the Australian not gelling with his new teammates or performing to his potential in the centre role vacated by the departures of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Baynes also tested positive for COVID-19 in the summer of 2020 while playing with Phoenix, causing him to miss the entirety of the NBA bubble in Orlando.

The Covid-19 diagnosis and missing the bubble prompted him to go more than eight months without playing an NBA game.

The “unfulfilling” NBA season driving Aron Baynes’ gold medal tilt with the Boomers at Tokyo

Camera IconBoomers big man Aron Baynes during his one season stint with Phoenix Suns, which was impacted by a positive Covid-19 test. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Credit: News Corp Australia

There is no questioning this extended stint on the sidelines, coupled with a forgettable season with Toronto, had an impact on Baynes.

Thankfully for Australia, the boy from Mareeba in Far North Queensland, is primed to use his pain from a poor NBA season as motivation to help the Boomers win a maiden Olympic medal in Tokyo.

“The good thing is I’ve been able to shift my focus to the Olympics and getting my body right physically and focusing on what I need to get right to play with my second family out there representing Australia,” he said.

“There is no better thing for us when it comes to playing basketball.

“So, as tough as the season had its ups and downs, the Olympics is something that I’ve been looking forward to.

“I can’t wait to get out there and get cracking with the fellas.

“We’ll see how things sort themselves out and hopefully I get to go out there and show what I can do because I know I can add great value to teams.”

Baynes is currently spending time in Brisbane with family and training in preparation for the Boomers’ pre-Olympic training camp in Los Angeles from June 24 and next month’s warm-up games in Las Vegas.

He has become well accustomed to training hard after spending two weeks in hotel quarantine prior to arriving home in Queensland.

“I had the skipping rope and body weight exercises in quarantine, and I’ve continued that every morning as well as training at the gym,” he said.

“I got out of quarantine just over a week ago, so I’m enjoying being back on Australian soil, all be it is going to be a short trip.

“The last time I was home was before the World Cup in 2019 when we had the Melbourne preparation.

“I try and get out for a few hours each morning to stay fit and stay on top of the body, but beyond that just hanging out with the kids.

“I’ve got three little Americans here with me now, but one, she will be more Aussie than American compared to the other two.

“But just getting them around family and getting out and doing things without having to wear a mask is pretty awesome.”

Following the retirement of Andrew Bogut, 34-year-old Baynes is now the Boomers‘ most experienced big.

He is excited about becoming more of a leader for emerging Boomers bigs like Jock Landale and Isaac Humphries.

“The thing about our core group is that it never comes down to one guy – we all share it,” he said.

“It was great having Bogues around in the last few years to learn from him. He is a guy that we all looked up to because he has been through so much.

“It is going to be a big loss, but we will be carrying him on regardless, just like all the past players that we carry with us every time we wear the green and gold.”

Baynes believes the Boomers possess the pieces to field Australia’s finest team at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Senior stars like Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, combined with the next generation led by three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons, makes the Australian men’s side among the most feared in world basketball.

Baynes knows a maiden medal is on the horizon for the Boomers, if they can maintain the team’s strong culture and execute on the big stage.

“That is the exciting part about it,” he said.

“Good luck to Goorj picking the final 12-man team. That is going to be a hell of a task, but that is the best problem in the world to have.

“It is exciting times for us, and we just can’t wait to get out there and get accustomed with everyone and try and get on the same page as quickly as we can.

“Hopefully getting into camp in LA that week early and being there together will give us a leg up on the other teams.

“A lot of other countries won’t have all their players together, so whatever we can do to get an advantage we are all ready to make that sacrifice.”

 

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