Boomers' pre-World Cup series against Canada "unconventional": Longley

What a rollercoaster already.

Within 24 hours we've been hit with the unfortunate news that Xavier Cook was ruled out of the World Cup through injury, and that Mitch Creek would replace him in the roster. Creek, of course, was one of the contentious omissions from the original squad.

By the way, can we agree that good players miss out on selection? It just happens when you're trying to construct a successful roster that checks all the boxes. The reality is that the top six or seven players in the rotation will largely determine the fate of the Boomers.

Don't forget, Ben Simmons' withdrawal also meant the Boomers brains trust had to pivot to Plan B in their catalogue. But it's time to move forward, folks.

And in moving forward, the Boomers will have the opportunity to iron out the kinks in a series of exhibitions pre-World Cup, starting with a two-game mini-series against Group H rivals, Team Canada.

"It's probably unconventional," Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley says of facing their World Cup pool rivals three times over the next fortnight. "Nick Nurse is a crafty coach, he'll keep stuff up his sleeve. We won't, of course. We'll put everything out there for Nick to see."

This was before Longley broke into a chuckle during his chat with ESPN.

The games against group rivals not only allows the Boomers to fine tune their preparations, but also to gauge their aspirations for a medal.

Also speaking to ESPN, before the selection camp, Andrew Bogut cautioned against the challenges of being fixated on a result, without going through the necessary process.

"There's a bit of an unknown of who's going to get minutes, who's not," Bogut said at the time. "How competitive are we going to be? Are we a genuine gold medal chance in this tournament? We'll see how we pull up after camp. We go in there thinking we've got a medal chance, but camp will tell us what style we're playing and how potent we look."

These two upcoming games in Perth will provide the Boomers the opportunity to either to confirm that they're on the right track, or learn valuable lessons ahead of the games that matter.

Much has been made of the NBA withdrawals from Team Canada; only Cory Joseph and Khem Birch remain who are on NBA rosters, after the withdrawal of Kelly Olynyk through injury. Canada will still be dangerous - no games are easy.

They will still have world class coaching, and Toronto Raptors' NBA Championship-winning coach Nick Nurse will exhort every ounce of production from the talent at his disposal.

Cory Joseph, an NBA veteran and team stalwart will lead them. Khem Birch (Orlando Magic) is an athletic centre. The Canadians have some players who have played across Europe, including Kevin Pangos, who has played for Lithuanian giants Zalgiris, and currently plies his trade with Barcelona.

It's an odd situation where pool rivals -- both vying for the coveted top two spots in Group H -- will effectively get the opportunity to get a feel for the opposition and what to expect.

In that respect, what should we expect from the series?

The short answer? Expect both teams to be cagey. For the Boomers specifically, the focus will be inward. With the Rio core surrounded by a relatively new supporting cast, there will be a period of assimilation.

"As far as our sets, I think we'll keep it fairly straight-forward," Longley says.

The priority will be to develop on-court chemistry, finalise a working rotation -- of which they'll already have some idea -- and most importantly, reconcile camp expectations with actual gameplay - a measure of where the Boomers are truly at.

"Probably the first thing for us is to see what combinations we want to play on the floor - who plays well with who," says Longley. "We'll experiment with our pick-and-roll coverages a fair bit, and see what our guys are most comfortable with, and what's most effective."

Expect to see some full court pressure as well.

On offence, the Boomers will try to get some easy buckets in transition to ease the scoring load in the half-court.

"Because I think for us to win," says Longley, "we have to score some easy buckets. We'll be pushing the ball."

Though camp is over, these exhibitions will also provide the opportunity for players to press their claims for actual minutes.

Aside from the Rio core of Bogut, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova, the rest of the rotation is uncertain, and these games provide the canvas for in-game auditions.

One would suspect that Bogut and Baynes would start, with Andrej Lemanis likely to opt for familiarity and continuity to open the series in their first competitive game since selection camp.

If the beefy combination is to be separated, Bogut may get the starting nod over Baynes; the Warriors and Kings big man is still a world class defensive presence, and his passing ability meshes better with what the Boomers will have on court.

Baynes provides more offence and works better as a fulcrum in the second unit. In that scenario, Jonah Bolden would get the starting power forward nod.

These rotations aren't set in stone, and Jock Landale and Nick Kay will have ample court time to jockey for position and press their claims. The injury to Xavier Cooks is a real shame, both for him personally, but also as he presented interesting piece of the puzzle - Australia's version of Kyle Andersen.

The coaching staff were fans of his versatility; he was picked as a wing, but there were thoughts that he could also slide up to the 4-spot, to give opponents a different look. His length, instincts and basketball intelligence were all factors in him making the final squad. Mitch Creek replaces Cooks in the squad, and will get the chance to prove he should've been there in the first place.

Before selection camp, Bogut rued the absence of Ryan Broekhoff from consideration for the tournament.

"The one no one talks about," he said at the time. "He's a massive out for us because he creates so much space for us, the way he shoots the ball."

Without the Dallas wing, Chris Goulding and Cam Gliddon will offer that off-the-bench weaponry from deep; Goulding can create his own shot, and is a world class shot-maker; Gliddon is more your catch-and-shoot type, but his defence is stout. Expect Lemanis to toggle with either depending upon the match-up.

The coaching staff also rave about the intensity and explosive athleticism of Nathan Sobey, a dimension at guard which the Boomers have never had. Expect him to hound the opposition ballhandler from in a full court press.

But perhaps the greatest advantage for the Boomers over Canada, and perhaps their other World Cup rivals, is as Longley puts it, "the driving force of never having medalled at a World Cup or an Olympics."

"I think that's really at the forefront of a lot of guys' minds," he tells ESPN, "and the kind of condition that I saw our veteran guys come into selection camp in told the story that they were absolutely serious about this campaign."

This Boomers' squad is versatile, and for them, it's now putting together the puzzle pieces and seeing how it all fits. From a purely talent-based appraisal, they are the better overall team for this series. But as Bogut cautioned earlier, we won't really know until the games start.