Free-agent center Aron Baynes reportedly could miss the entire 2021-22 NBA season after suffering a significant neck injury at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Baynes was not with Team Australia when they received their Olympic bronze medals Saturday and is instead at the hospital with severe nerve damage in his neck.
Baynes suffered the injury during Australia's win over Italy in group play and went on to miss the final four games of the tournament.
The Toronto Raptors signed Baynes to a two-year contract last offseason, but they waived him Wednesday, making him a free agent.
Baynes saw some of the most extensive action of his NBA career last season, appearing in 53 games and making 31 starts for the Raptors. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from beyond the arc.
The 34-year-old veteran was a useful player for Toronto, but he experienced a fairly significant drop-off from his career year with the Phoenix Suns in 2019-20.
Baynes played a career-high 22.2 minutes per game for Phoenix and also averaged career highs across the board with 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 three-pointers made per contest. Baynes shot a solid 48.0 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from deep as well.
In addition to one-year stints with the Suns and Raptors, the 6'10" Baynes has played for the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics during his nine-year career.
Baynes won an NBA championship with the Spurs in 2014 and boasts fairly extensive playoff experience, appearing in 54 postseason games.
When healthy, Baynes is capable of providing much-needed big man depth, and he showed in Phoenix that he is capable of shouldering an even bigger load as well.
Potentially missing the entire 2021-22 season will likely make it difficult for Baynes to land a job in free agency, but when he does get cleared, there should be plenty of teams in the market for a skilled and versatile center like him.