Aussies take center stage in Friday's Warriors-Spurs match up

Aussies take center stage in Friday's Warriors-Spurs match up
February 22, 2013, 2:15 pm
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The Warriors have lost 48 of their last 55 against the Spurs and seven straight at home. (AP IMAGES)

Tonight’s game against San Antonio has a chance to be special for Warriors center Andrew Bogut -- and it has nothing to do with the short-sleeve jerseys the team will unveil.

Never before have three Australians participated in a single NBA game and with fellow Aussies Patty Mills and Aron Baynes on the Spurs roster, the game has a chance to become historic Down Under. It’s also contingent on Bogut’s health -- he’s questionable to play with back spasms.

“It’s a pretty interesting stat and there’s a lot of people in Australia who are pretty hyped up about it,” Bogut said. The 7:30 p.m. game, or 2:30 p.m. in Sydney, will be televised live nationally in Australia.

All three players spent time at the prestigious Australia Institute of Sport before coming to the United States to play college basketball. Bogut at Utah, Mills in the Bay Area at Saint Mary’s and Baynes at Washington State, where he was a teammate of Warriors guard Klay Thompson for one year.

The trio represents the only Australians currently in the NBA and come from a group that includes just 13 in league history. With all due respect to Luc Longley, who carved out a 10-year NBA career after becoming the first Australian to play in the NBA in 1991, Bogut will likely go down as his country’s best basketball export.

If Bogut plays, it’ll be the first time he’ll play in four-straight games as a Warrior. In the team’s 108-98 win at home against Phoenix on Wednesday, Bogut turned in what was arguably his best game of the season with seven points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a pair of steals.

The former No. 1 overall pick has been absent from the Australian National Team for the past two major international competitions -- the 2012 London Olympics (broken ankle) and 2010 FIBA World Championship (broken elbow). As a result, he has never played with the 6-10, 260-pound Baynes, who made the jump to the NBA in January after most recently playing for Union Olimpija of the Slovenian Basketball League.

Baynes also had stops in Lithuania, Germany and Greece after his Pac-10 career.

“He was a great teammate. I always thought he could play in the NBA,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be great seeing him, I haven’t seen him a few years with him playing overseas. He’s a massive human and a great athlete.”

Despite being similar in size to each other, Bogut said he and Baynes have distinctly different styles of play.

“I think he’s more of a four,” said Bogut, who is listed a 7-feet, 260 pounds. “He’s more of a physical specimen than me. He’s more of a banger inside and I’m more in between banging and finesse.”

Baynes has appeared in just seven games with the Spurs, averaging 1.6 points and 0.8 rebounds in 4.8 minutes per game. He did, however, register eight minutes and six points as the Spurs emptied their bench in a 116-90 win at the Clippers on Thursday.

Mills, the fifth Australian to play for Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s, spent two years in Moraga before declaring for the NBA Draft, where he was drafted in the second round in 2009 by Portland. The leading scorer at the London Olympics (21.2 ppg) -- just ahead of Kevin Durant (19.5) -- has appeared in 45 games with a pair of starts this year for the Spurs.

Bogut said he chats with Mills on occasion and was impressed by his game when they were teammates at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Like Bogut, neither Spurs player is a lock to see playing time.

"It could depend on how we are going. But Patty and myself will be ready and Boges will be out there doing his thing,” Baynes told the Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun. "We'll do whatever the team needs, but if it doesn't happen right now, down the road there could be more times to make it happen."

A win for Bogut would mean a lot considering how many of his countrymen will be watching, but more so because of what it would mean for the Warriors (31-23), whose recent history against San Antonio (44-12) has been abysmal. The Warriors have lost 48 of their last 55 against the Spurs and seven straight at home.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson said the recent struggles are a non-factor.

“First of all that’s not my history and that’s not this team’s history. Truth be told a lot of teams have that body of work when you’re talking about the Spurs,” Jackson said. “We’re not into looking at what has taken place the last 15 years. No, we know they’ve played well against us that past year and a half, that’s our history, but the rest of that is somebody else’s.”

San Antonio has won five straight and 16 of their last 17 games and has the best record in the NBA.