When it comes to next year’s showdown between Team USA and the Australian Boomers at Etihad Stadium, Luc Longley has an interesting perspective.
The three-time NBA champion and Boomers assistant coach thinks the noise of the venue may be more of a distraction than the sight of a basketball court, raised up one-metre, in the middle of the AFL oval with crowds over 50,000 expected for both games.
Longley saw plenty of sights and sounds during his unforgettable run with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls but as he looked out over the soon to be Marvel Stadium on Monday, he recalled playing in front of over 30,000 fans at Toronto’s Sky Dome in 1996.
“I reckon it is going to be almost as much about the sound, I’ve been in here for a footy game and when they kick a goal it is deafening and impressive so I imagine it will be that and more out of our increasingly enthusiastic basketball fans,” Longley said.
“How the court and the stadium comes out, I’ve been reassured that all works and I’m excited to see that.
“I played in front of 30,000 people in Toronto in the frenzy of MJ’s return and I thought that was overwhelming so this will be great.”
Tickets for the two games on August 22 and 24 next year go on sale to the public on Wednesday and organisers are confident they could be sold out quickly judging from the pre-sales.
Sydney 2000 Olympics gold medallist Allan Houston, Brooklyn Nets signing Mitch Creek and Longley helped launch the sales on Monday.
The USA will play Australia before flying to China for the FIBA World Cup, the first one in five years after FIBA changed its calendar and introduced multi-year qualifying campaigns.
USA won the last World Cup in 2014 with then young guns James Harden and Stephen Curry and now they are NBA superstars, Australian fans are desperately hoping they will again be in uniform along with others like Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
But with an 82-game NBA season plus playoffs still to come, there is no guaranteeing who will be in uniform for the USA or Australia.
Boomers star Ben Simmons was non-committal about the World Cup when he was in Melbourne recently as he could still be in negotiations for extensions on his NBA deal with Philadelphia 76ers and potentially his shoe contract with Nike before the event.
If he isn’t too exhausted from the season and has signed off his new deals, the Boomers hope he will be in uniform as he already has stated his desire to again play for his country.
Having played alongside Jordan, Longley empathises with Simmons.
“I don’t know what he is planning to do and it’s a balance between working hard to encourage him and not being a pain in his backside,” Longley said.
“Ben is non-committal, we hope he plays and it would be good to get him into the group a year out from the Olympics so we can learn how to play with him and what he brings.
“More than anyone on staff I probably understand the amount of pressure Ben is under from all kinds of directions - from himself, Nike, his team, us, so Ben has to navigate that and he is a young fella so he will be taking his time to figure that out.”
USA Basketball faces a similar challenge and usually sees its veteran superstars opt-out of World Cups and wait for Olympics.
But with next year’s event being in China, one of the world’s biggest markets for basketball and shoes, they could have the bulk of their best players.
All their 35-man squad attended a mini-camp in Las Vegas recently and USA Basketball chief executive Jim Tooley said that and the chance to play for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would see a great roster assembled.
“We have a very deep pool of guys,” Tooley said.
“We didn’t invite the first year guys [NBA rookies] to this camp so some of them will be invited to join the pool then who ends up on the roster is to be determined.
“But we have a culture now where guys have a great respect for it, Kevin Durant has played a lot for us and his 2010 World Cup was his coming out party, Russell Westbrook is the same.
“So you will have guys like that, they take it seriously because it is a big part of who they are as players.”
Tickets for the two games go on public sale on Wednesday at 1pm.