Greek Freak awaits: Boomers’ Paris path locked in

Murray Wenzel and Roger Vaughan |

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Greece past Croatia and into the same Olympic group as Australia.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Greece past Croatia and into the same Olympic group as Australia.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will be another giant hurdle on the Boomers’ path to a Paris medal after the superstar helped end Greece’s 16-year Olympic basketball absence.

Milwaukee’s two-time NBA MVP ensured his place at what’s been touted as the most talented Games assembly, guiding Greece past Croatia 80-69 to win their Athens qualification tournament and earn a place in Australia’s pool.

World No.2 Spain will also feature in their group, beating the Bahamas 86-78 in Valencia to earn a spot.

Heavyweights Spain also now await the Boomers at the Olympics after qualifying. (AP PHOTO)

Greece had knocked out Luka Doncic’s Slovenia – beaten in the Tokyo bronze medal game by Australia – on the journey to qualification for the first time since 2008 in the 12-team event that begins later this month.

The powerhouse nations will play world No.5 Australia and a Canadian team led by Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and brimming with NBA talent.

In other qualification tournaments, Brazil thumped world No.6 and hosts Latvia 94-69 to book their spot while Puerto Rico earned the final place with a 79-68 win against Lithuania in San Juan.

The United States will be overwhelming favourites to defend their title, Steph Curry set for a maiden Olympic campaign as part of a full-strength roster.

The Boomers will play the US and Serbia in practice games in Abu Dhabi next week on the way to France.

The top two from each of the four Games pools, as well as the two best-performed third-placed teams, will progress to quarter-finals.

“There’s going to be no easy games … there’s very, very little room for error,” Boomers Olympic rookie Josh Giddey said.

The Australian point guard, traded to Chicago after three years at the Thunder, is relishing the opportunity to lead the side after his role was restricted by Gilgeous-Alexander this season.

Josh Giddey relishes the challenge of being the Boomers’ playmaker. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“It was a little different; the year was up and down, which is not a secret obviously,” he said.

“To be the playmaker I see myself as and lead this team from the front … it’s something I’ve been excited to do for a number of years.

“To have the ball in my hands is kind of like how I like to play.”

Giddey was among the last cut ahead of the Tokyo Olympic campaign and responded emphatically to become the youngest to register a triple-double in his rookie NBA year.

He said the prospect of an Olympic debut had been a beacon of light during a tough third campaign that included a police investigation into an alleged underage relationship that was eventually dropped.  

“Knowing it’s been on the cards, especially this year – getting back around the Australian environment, the Boomers culture – it lived up to everything I hoped it would.

“It’s always fun being around these guys.

“It’s as special as it gets for an Australian … growing up, you idolise these guys and the Boomers. It’s very exciting.”


* Boomers v Spain, July 27

* Boomers v Canada, July 30

* Boomers v Greece, August 2