Weighty issue: Andrew Bogut says he was frustrated by the "injury-prone" tag lumped on him. Photo: Paul Jeffers
NBA star Andrew Bogut believes Australia's national basketball team coaches must think beyond keeping their jobs and use up-and-comers in the Olympic squad to develop the Boomers into genuine medal contenders.
Bogut was ruled out of the London Games because of an ankle injury which will prevent him from running until at least the middle of August. But he was adamant Boomers coach Brett Brown should learn from the team's Olympic history and use positions 9-12 in his squad to infuse some young blood.
''I believe the top eight players should be your best and your next four should be young blood,'' he said. ''Groom them for the next world championships or the next Olympics.
''That's why when the [Andrew] Gazes and all the big boys retired, or ran their legs out, there weren't many young players coming up because all the spots were constantly being taken by the older blokes.
''We need to groom not unknown players, but younger guys, so they've been through a world championships or an Olympics campaign.''
Bogut acknowledged the pressure on the coaches to succeed meant it was easier for them to bank on experience, but he also described such an attitude as detrimental for Australia's basketball future.
''The coach of the national team is usually trying to keep his job so he's not looking two or three campaigns down the track,'' Bogut told The Sunday Age.
''It's a major issue because they're pressed to win and their job isn't really to groom young guys, it's to win now.
''But, look at the history of the side and the 9-12 players are normally 30-year-olds which I think is ridiculous. We definitely need those three or four spots so we're not carrying [veterans], we want young and energetic players so four years later they've been through the hoopla of an Olympics. It's better to do that than having guys who've never been in a team and when they're thrown in it's like [watching] a deer in the headlights. Look at the year 2000 [Sydney Games] since those guys have retired we've never had a successful national team. We haven't played too well, but part of the reason is where was that next generation and who was grooming them? The answer is no one. Apart from Sam Mackinnon, and he was in his mid-20s, who were the other guys coming through?
''In 2004 we had [Chris] Anstey and [Matt] Nielsen and they weren't involved in Sydney. If I was doing it I would have my 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds taking the 9-12 spots. They could even be [US] college kids.''
Bogut, who was traded from Milwaukee to the San Francisco-based Golden State Warriors, said Australia's hopes in London rested on Patrick Mills, Joe Ingles, Nielsen, Brad Newley and Aleks Maric.
''Patty Mills has a tough time ahead of him,'' said Bogut. ''He's a scoring point guard but he's our quality distributor as well and it's [an] important [role] because we have some quality big men in our team.
''Aleks provides an X-factor because he provides a presence defensively. Patty is the other. We need production from Joe Ingles or Brad Newley; they're athletic guys and we really need them to have good campaigns.''
He said the US had a great opportunity in London to emulate the feats of the legendary 1992 Dream Team which won gold at Barcelona and featured superstars Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, ''Magic'' Johnson and Michael Jordan.
''Essentially America is the favourites, they were so dominant in the last campaign,'' he said. ''You look at the three or four before that and they weren't [as dominant].
''They've ramped things up and are not just picking whoever puts their hands up for selections.''
Bogut's immediate priority was to return to the US ready to go for the November 1 opening round of the NBA season after his ankle surgery.
This year he'll be in the unfamiliar colours of the Warriors and said it excited him to think of relocating to San Francisco as an adventure.
''It's the second chapter of my NBA life so it's an exciting time,'' he said. ''I had some good and some bad times in Milwaukee but I'm excited to be in the Bay area because it is very much like Australia; a good climate, it's multicultural, a restaurant and cafe lifestyle and because it's on the coast I liken it to Melbourne and Sydney … I couldn't have asked for a better place [to be traded to].''
Bogut said there was a lot of hard work before he returned to the court.
''It's a long process,'' he said. ''I got off the crutches a week ago but am still in a walking boot.
''I have another three or four weeks in the boot and get assessed at the end of the month.
''I hope to do some light running in mid-August. I'm a long way off putting the pressure from my 120 kilo [frame] on my ankle.''
The 27-year-old, who was driven to succeed in basketball after being cut from a Victorian state junior under-16 team, said he was frustrated by the ''injury-prone'' tag lumped on him in the US after extended stretches on the sideline due to the ankle and, before that, an elbow problem that occurred when he hit the floor. ''For a non-contact sport it's a lot of contact,'' he said of basketball. ''Especially where I am down back and feeling the full brunt of LeBron James coming full steam ahead and trying to contest his shot and going body- to-body.
''I have felt the full wrath of that over the last few years with an unlucky run of injuries and hopefully it is behind me. I've suffered the worst of most players in the last three years and it gets gruelling, but that's what we get paid for.
''I had the label injury-prone … that's the reality of it. I'm always trying to defend it and probably too much, but these injuries aren't from a lack of conditioning - where I've come from the off-season and pulled my hamstring - these are two freak injuries. I can't sit and stress over it. If it was due to a lack of conditioning it would be a problem.
''I just have to stay positive and hope I've turned the corner.''