With his career having nearly been ended by a severe spinal injury, Boomers star Aron Baynes has a new perspective on basketball – and life – as he embarks on an NBL journey that will hopefully lead him back to the promised land of the NBA.
Baynes, 35, has signed a two-year deal with a Brisbane Bullets side desperate to become a legitimate NBL title threat.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Baynes, who was born in New Zealand but moved with his family to the Far North Queensland town of Mareeba as a toddler.
And while he’s delighted to be home, Baynes’ stay could be short-lived as he targets a return to the NBA, where he won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in a nine-year stint that also included spells with Detroit, Boston, Phoenix and Toronto.
But regardless of where he plays, Baynes is just happy to be on court again after suffering a serious injury during Australia’s bronze medal-winning Olympic Games campaign last year in Tokyo.
Baynes fell while in Tokyo, leading to what was described as a “freak spinal cord injury”. He was unable to walk and spent three months in hospital.
While reluctant to reflect in depth on the injury, Baynes said he was grateful for the support he had received on his road to recovery.
“Retrospectively, everything’s a little bit different in the moment – there’s definitely ups and downs,” the 208cm big man said on Friday.
“For the most part it’s great because my family is around as well and that alleviates any stress I do have about anything else.
“I’m just worried about what the next game is going to be or (whether) we are going to the ice-cream store, (which is) their biggest worry.
“I get a different perspective on my biggest worries as well. I know that my happy place is being on the basketball court and I can lose myself within the routine that I have going about doing my business daily.
“The foreseeable future for me and my family is here in Brisbane. Trying to build a community that my family is part of is definitely something big for me everywhere I go, let alone when it’s the long-term future for my family in where we’re going to be.
“I’m just trying to make an impact both on and off the court as much as I can while I’m here.”
And how long that is remains unknown, with Baynes having a clause in his Bullets contract that allows him to join an NBA club.
Bullets coach James Duncan said while the club would be “disappointed” to prematurely lose its star recruit, there would also be a sense of pride in providing Baynes with a pathway back to the NBA.
“We should be super excited about him potentially getting back into the NBA, but that’s something that’s down the line,” Duncan said.
Baynes promised not to put excess pressure on himself in his bid to return to the NBA.
“It’s just going out and doing what I’m known to do and how I play basketball. That’s what got me to the NBA to begin with,” he said.
“I didn’t go out there to try to do something that I’m not capable of. It’s about going out there and playing the right way every time I do hit the floor, showing that I can still do what I was able to do before.”