Baynes to make NBA mark at San Antonio
THE surreal journey from Mareeba to the NBA was given the official seal yesterday, but a typically stubborn Aron Baynes is not content yet.
The 26-year-old was all the talk yesterday, signing with NBA pacesetters San Antonio Spurs following two weeks of speculation linking him to the Texas-based franchise.
He is in line to debut against the Dallas Mavericks this weekend in what is a fairytale story about a boy who was "tall, unco and couldn't catch'' when he started playing in Cairns as a teenager.
That was the thoughts of his first coach Brad Burdon, who spotted him as a 15-year-old at Cairns State High School.
But it is likely another coach with initials BB - Spurs' assistant Brett Brown - can see a bit more in him now.
Having left Slovenian Euroleauge club Union Olympija, Baynes has been reportedly offered a $3.5 million contract over four years.
He will be just the 11th Australian-born NBA player, but the Far North's second following draftee Nathan Jawai in 2008.
"Yeah you've got to take a step back and look at how far you've come,'' the 26-year-old told The Cairns Post.
"It's something I never thought would happen when I first picked up a basketball, but I've worked really hard and got my body in the right shape and now it's really just the first step.''
He is serious, too.
Baynes, who will wear the number 16, was all business as he took part in rock star-like five-minute phone interviews with a queue of international journalists yesterday.
It was almost midnight in San Antonio and he had only just met his new teammates that include Australian Boomers buddy Patty Mills, American big Tim Duncan and internation stars Tiago Splitter, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker
But the 208cm giant was not star struck, in fact he was already plotting his next move.
"It has been a long process to get here, and it's just another step really,'' he said."I had a plan a couple of years ago and now it's about establishing myself here. I don't want to just make up the numbers.''
The Spurs are no mugs either, leading the Southwest Division with a 33-11 record, the equal-most wins of any side in the league.
"They are one of the world's premier teams and there is just no comparison really,'' Baynes said.
"I have to learn the system now and get assimilated, but the Spurs have an international flavour and I'm sure I can fit into that culture well.''
Still living in a hotel, Baynes will hunt for an apartment and ideally be joined by Cairns girlfriend Rachel Adekponya once settled.
"I am definitely looking at getting her over here,'' he laughed."But I've got to focus on a few other things first.''
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Fairytale story: Mareeba's Aron Baynes plays his first NBA game with the San Antonio Spurs this weekend. Picture: TOM LEE