Aron Baynes has delivered some refreshing clarity to the Boomers’ uncertain Olympic campaign next year, saying he’ll defy the NBA’s late finish and suit up if the Games go ahead in Tokyo.
The Australian centre signed two year, $A19.5 million deal with the 2019 champions on Monday (AEDT) after a career-best season with Phoenix saw the free agent become a man in demand.
The father of two has another child due in early December, his family’s move complicated by the fact the Raptors will be based in Florida, not Canada, because of coronavirus when the season begins later next month.
Admitting his relief at being signed to a team in contention after a “stressful, frantic” free agency period, the 33-year-old could realistically feature in the NBA Finals just one month before the Games begin on July 23.
Whether they even go ahead is still to be determined, with the pandemic threatening what could be the last campaign for Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Baynes as they chase a maiden international medal.
The squad, under returning coach Brian Goorjian, could also feature NBA All-Star Ben Simmons and recent No.18 draft pick Josh Green.
Queenslander Baynes has plenty on his plate but has set the tone by declaring a gold medal in Tokyo his priority.
“My first sporting memory is being glued to the TV for the 1992 Olympics,” he told SEN Breakfast.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to get to the Olympics’. I didn’t care what sport.
“Basketball has been so good to me and playing for the Australian team has been so good for my career, there’s no second thought for me ever, it’s always ‘I’m doing whatever I can to get out there and play’.
“Getting to go out there and play on the floor with my brothers is going to be fun and we’re going to go get the gold medal … we know we can do it.”
The Cairns-raised Baynes shot a career-high 35 per cent from deep to go with a career-high average 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Suns last season, scoring an Australian NBA record 37 points in a game in March.
“As weird as it sounds I feel I’ve gotten better every single year,” the eight-year NBA veteran said.
“I was definitely confident I’d be in good situation but when jobs are going pretty quickly you take a big breath wondering if it’s going to work out for you.”