Tag: Dane Pineau

South East Melbourne Phoenix Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Season Summary:

South East Melbourne Phoenix entered their second campaign in the NBL looking to improve on their eighth placed debut season, and coach Simon Mitchell got exactly what he would have asked for. The Phoenix just managed to edge out last season’s grand finalists the Sydney Kings to claim fourth spot and ensure the club’s maiden finals berth.

A rollercoaster of a season saw the Phoenix end up with a 19-17 season record, aided by a mid-season purple patch, where the team won six out of seven games between Rounds 9 and 12. Mitch Creek was a huge part of the team’s successful season, as he continues to help build the club from its foundations.

Like most clubs, the Phoenix had their fair share of interruptions this season with star import Keifer Sykes missing time with an ankle injury, veteran Adam Gibson battling with calf issues, and Creek missing two weeks without playing or training due to a police matter. In addition, the club was without big man Dane Pineau, as the rebounding defender (who was nominated for Defensive Player of the Year last season) could only manage one game, battling numerous injuries.

Despite the dramas the team rallied, and the mid-year signing of Ryan Broekhoff from the NBA, was another good move as they fell just short of reaching the grand final.

How It Unfolded:

From the start of the season the Phoenix looked a danger, averaging 91.5 points across the first 10 games, starting the year 5-5, including a couple wins over reigning champions Perth.

The biggest problem for coach Mitchell was trying to get his guys to perform consistently, as they were quite up and down during the season, apart from their mid-year seven-win, two-loss run. A few late defeats to the Taipans (once) and the Bullets (twice) opened the door for the Sydney Kings to hunt down fourth spot, but the Phoenix managed to hold on.

A semi-final match-up against crosstown rivals Melbourne United saw the Phoenix lose the first game, before winning the second match up in the best of three series, but it was eventual champions United who got the upper hand to move on to the big dance.

What Worked Well:

As the saying goes ‘one man’s loss is another man’s gain’, unfortunately for Pineau injury disrupted his season, but it allowed teammates Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell to step up, with both players in the team’s top three for rebounds, as well as top two for blocks.

Offensively, there was a lot to like for Phoenix fans, with the team leading the league for points scored (3217) averaging 89.4 per game. They led field goals made (32.8 per game), shooting at 46.3 per cent (ranked second), and they were equal third for three pointers made (9.4 per game), with a shooting percentage of 36.1 per cent (ranked second).

The recruitment of Sykes was a success, as the guard went on to average 14 points and five assists per game, playing second fiddle to Creek, who led the team in scoring (18 per game, 51 per cent field goals made, 41 per cent three pointers made). Kyle Adnam also had a solid year playing 36 games and averaging 12.6 points and 3.6 assists and finishing in third place for the leagues Sixth Man of the Year award. Cameron Gliddon was also an offensive weapon averaging 11.5 points (2.7 threes per game on 40 per cent shooting).

What Went Wrong:

Although Wetzell and Moore had great seasons, the Phoenix did miss the presence of big man Pineau, as they ranked second last for rebounds and blocks, which Pineau had averaged 8.6 and 1.1 respectively in the 2019/20 season. They also conceded the most points by any of the finals teams, conceding 86.8 points per game, over four points more than Melbourne United (82.1 points conceded per game).

The Phoenix had their chance to face off against Perth in the last week of finals, but they blew a 15-point lead to United in the decisive game three, going on to lose 74-84, putting an end to their season.

MVP Conversation:

Last year’s winner Mitch Creek will again be the firm favourite to take out the club’s top honour in its second season. Creek was named in the NBL All Second Team, after averaging 18 points across 31.49 minutes this season. Creek played 34 games and had a huge impact in the team’s success. He was second in rebounds (6.4 per game), and third for assists (3.6 per game) in what was a great output despite his interruptions earlier on in the season.

Sykes may have given him a run for his money had he not suffered his ankle injury which kept him out for over a month. Sykes was second in scoring and led the team’s assist numbers this year.

Creek should take out the top honour again, making it two from two.

Roster News:

Some important moves have already been made by the Phoenix, with Creek electing to trigger his player option, meaning he will be at the club next season. Broekhoff has re-signed for two years, after playing 16 games this season, since returning from a stint in the USA. Adnam and Izayah Le’Afa have both agreed to two-year deals, with Le’Afa gaining a contract after being signed as a development player in his first season.

Pineau, Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi all remain contracted for next season, while Wetzell is on the move to his home country, with the New Zealand Breakers securing the big man on a three-year deal.

Looking Towards Next Season:

It was a very positive outcome from the Phoenix this season, climbing four places on the ladder from last season. With key players like Creek and Broekhoff signed on for next season, the team looks in good shape to challenge the best again. With a good off-season, coach Mitchell will be hoping  Pineau, can make a healthy return to help sure up his side’s defence after they looked shaky in that aspect this season.

You get the feeling the Phoenix will be a must watch next season.

Photo credit: South East Melbourne Facebook

Phoenix snap slump to steamroll over Taipans

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix’s three game losing streak is over, following a clinical 86-66 win over the Cairns Taipans on Sunday. The Phoenix travelled to Cairns Pop-Up Arena out of form and needing a win to keep themselves away from the fifth placed Hawks, and in Adam Gibson’s 450th they put on a show.

The Phoenix were initially scheduled to face off against the Bullets in Brisbane, but the shock lockdown enforced in Western Australia saw the Bullets trapped in Perth, unable to make the clash. The NBL quickly shuffled the board and the Phoenix shortly after found themselves on their way up to Cairns to take on the last placed Taipans.

The drama before the game mattered not as the visitors took a 20-point lead early into the first term, led by an exceptional performance from their starters, consistently finding avenues to score. The Taipans fought back to bring the deficit down to 13 at the first term and carried this momentum into the second term. The Taipans outplayed their opponents in the second term to bring the game to within eight points at half time as the game’s momentum looked to be heading one way only.

This wouldn’t last long as the Phoenix showed their class in the third term as they broke away from the home side. They were clearly motivated by Gibson’s milestone, extending their lead to 18 points at the final term, led by the exceptional shooting of former Cairns captain Cameron Gliddon. The final quarter saw the Phoenix put the game into cruise control as they ended the match with a 20-point victory to regain some desperately needed form.

With the NBL season edging closer to the postseason, the Phoenix were eager to put themselves back on the winners list, especially with injuries to Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens, all key contributors when healthy. The victory appeared no easy feat, as the Taipans had won two of their last three matches to find a slight spark towards the end of the season. These circumstances clearly mattered not to the Phoenix who celebrated Gibson’s special night in style. The veteran guard is the only current player to reach the 450 game mark, and the 29th in NBL history. Gibson only scored four points, but the occasion overshadowed the performance.

For the victors, Gliddon was the star of the show, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds against his former side, where he also showcased his range, finishing with four three pointers for the night too. He was well assisted by teammates Reuben Te Rangi (13 points), Kyle Adnam (12 points) and Mitch Creek (11 points and eight rebounds). For the Taipans, Venky Jois tried hard all night, trying to provide some spark off the bench with 12 points in 23 minutes of action. Import Scott Machado was restricted to 6 points on 2-11 shooting and couldn’t get free to contribute to his side’s scoring.

The Phoenix will be finally facing off against the Bullets on Thursday night if all goes to plan with the lockdown in Western Australia, and the Taipans have a shot at redemption on Sunday as these two sides face off again.

Phoenix set franchise-record fourth straight win over stagnant Sixers

AFTER trailing for quite literally the entire game last night at John Cain Arena, the South East Melbourne Phoenix have earned a remarkable come from behind 96-89 win over the Adelaide 36ers, winning the contest with a superb overtime period and earning a four-game winning streak in the process – the longest ever in the franchise’s short history.

The undermanned Phoenix (Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau were back in the line-up) kept up with the 36ers throughout the first chunk of 10 minutes, trailing Adelaide by a mere five points with Yanni Wetzell putting together 12 first-quarter points. But a wide spread of scorers for Conner Henry’s 36ers side saw six individuals find the bottom of the net, the reason responsible for their lead in the second (25-20).

It was the visitors that came out of the first break hot though, with Adelaide putting seven-straight points on the board over the initial three minutes. However, the Phoenix’s firepower from the field was able to undo the initial damage that the 36ers had inflicted on the home side tying the quarter at 22 points each.

As Adelaide still maintained a five-point advantage at the end of the opening half, they could credit it to their ridiculous 58 per cent field goal efficiency, while South East Melbourne was sitting at around 40 per cent on their end (shooting 11 points from the free throw line on 11 attempts). Furthermore, Adelaide moved the ball extraordinarily well with 11 assists compared to the Phoenix’s five, but the hosts led in categories like second chance points and points scored from turnovers.

Again, the Phoenix were sluggish to start a period, this time the third, giving up an 11-2 run in favour of their opponents, which saw Adelaide’s margin balloon quickly out to double digits once again as Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson continued to run amuck in the paint.

Some key plays created by Pineau late in the third marked the end of another comeback run by South East Melbourne, pulling the deficit back to three points (59-62) after 30 minutes of play, with Ben Moore starting to become a nuisance for the 36ers with 13 points and six rebounds at three quarter time.

The fourth was more level in terms of scoring production from both teams, and the game would hang in the balance heading into the final minutes. South East Melbourne completed their comeback efforts following a triple off of Kyle Adnam and a layup by Wetzell with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

New revealed Adelaide import Brandon Paul missed a chance to win the game in the final second after settling for a contested three, and the result would mean a session of overtime for the two sides.

A 12-2 run to start overtime for the Phoenix was more than ideal and to make matters worse for the 36ers, a rolled ankle from Giddey saw the youngster miss out the last two minutes of the game.

Thanks to their late run, South East Melbourne were able to attain a much-needed victory off the back of what has been an eventful last few weeks – and without team leading scorer Mitchell Creek.

All signs pointed to Adelaide being the superior of the two sides leading the way in statistics such as shooting (52 to 44 per cent), assists (16-15), bench points (30-21) and fast break points (7-2). But the Phoenix hung around to earn a plus-seven in rebounding, turnovers and free throws, therefore willing themselves back into the game.

Key players for the Phoenix included Moore, who accounted for 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as well as Wetzell having 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Adnam and Cameron Gliddon each accounted for double digits, whereas Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was a standout with 10 points in 26 minutes of court time, including some valuable defensive plays late in the game.

For Adelaide, Paul was their major scorer with 20 points and three assists, while the one-two punch of Giddey and Johnson was kept to relatively harmless numbers. Giddey had himself a full game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists before his premature exit, whereas Johnson also had 15 points, but a small contribution on the glass with three rebounds.

Moving on from their win last night the Phoenix have no further outings in Round 10 but will have their form tested a week from now when they face off with Melbourne United. Adelaide will try to recuperate and head back to the drawing board as they will need to try and steal an away win from the Cairns Taipans, however, many answers await following the potential injury of Giddey and if there will be a period of rest associated with the outcome.

Phoenix season to reach crossroads over next few weeks; will Broekhoff break out?

OVER at the South East Melbourne Phoenix camp, it has certainly been an eventful last couple of weeks to say the least, with the upcoming months set to be just as interesting because of the consequential effect it will have on their NBL21 campaign.

To rattle off the list of recent events, the Phoenix have acquired an ex-NBA sharpshooter, won their last three games, secured a top-four seed as a result for now, and lost Mitch Creek for an indefinite amount of time after being charged by Victoria Police with alleged assault. All of these moments have led to now and South East Melbourne’s upcoming fixtures. This will be an opportunity for the Melbourne based side to show just how deep they can bat and if they can prevail in adversary.

After news hit that former Dallas Mavericks member Ryan Broekhoff would be signing with the newest side in the National Basketball League (NBL) back in mid-February, many have been eager to see how the Victorian would have an impact on the rest of the competition.

Broekhoff did not make his first NBL appearance until March 12, but that was to follow after the Phoenix began their recent run of form just days earlier, when they shocked both their cross-town rival and league leaders, Melbourne United.

In their Round 9 matchup against United, South East Melbourne had just nine active players ready to suit up as Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens and Broekhoff were out of action for a litany of reasons.

Nevertheless, for Creek, he ran away with 31 points and 10 rebounds next to Kyle Adnam who also had a productive evening with 18 points and eight rebounds. The performances by these two carried a reduced Phoenix squad over the line into overtime, where Reuben Te Rangi shone, assisting the team to a 97-92 victory and a Melbourne Throwdown win to remember.

Creek’s season-high scoring performance on the night was indicative of the forward’s presence on the floor so far this season, which points to how much of a loss his absence will be going forward. The loss will primarily come from behind the arch where he causes so much damage off the dribble and the occasional three when he is in rhythm, not including his diligence on the glass and ability to make his teammates more involved on the floor.

Moving on from their big win against Melbourne, the Phoenix had a lowlier opponent waiting in the distance for their next clash. But this time, the Phoenix had the opportunity to show off their new signing in Broekhoff.

Despite playing just a minor role off the bench in South East Melbourne’s 85-81 win over Cairns, Broekhoff was a wonderful addition on the night. Playing over 13 minutes against the Taipans, he shot the ball just six times but converted on three attempts. Knocking down these three field goals including a trademark triple, Broekhoff finished with a minor contribution of seven points, but it was enough to put the NBL on notice with the Phoenix adding another weapon to their arsenal.

Broekhoff once again exhibited relatively low production numbers in the Phoenix’s next outing against New Zealand to conclude the NBL Cup, finishing with only three points in nine minutes of play. Coach Mitchell limited his new signing’s minutes to help him settle in, meaning the one-two punch of Creek and Adnam was called upon once again, as the pair combined for 42 points with each finding the mark for 21 points apiece and helping South East Melbourne to their third straight win leading up to today, toppling the Breakers comfortably 103-89.

Defeating United, Cairns and then New Zealand in Round 9, the Phoenix did not only place second in the NBL Cup standings meaning a reward of $100,000 for the club, but also helped improve their regular season record to nine wins and seven losses. Due to this, South East Melbourne now sit tentatively in fourth position on the NBL ladder.

With a top-four position to defend from this point on and an abundance of games still yet to be played, the Phoenix need to recognise that they now have a target on their back which they will find out in their upcoming contests.

First up on the docket is the Adelaide 36ers at home, who are currently seeking some good form coming out of the NBL Cup with the second worst record over the three rounds (two wins and six losses). But with the Phoenix to set foot on the court without their leader in Creek, perhaps now is the time to release the long-range damage of Broekhoff, as they now have 21.2 points, 3.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds to replace – a big amount of statistics to fill before facing Melbourne again in Round 11.

Adding to this, Adnam will also need to step up in the backcourt, more so than ever with his captain out of action. The 27-year-old guard has averaged 17 points and six assists during his last three games. Cameron Gliddon (11.2 points per game this season) will also need to be a big producer on the hardwood as too will Yannick Wetzell down low.

Big weeks lie ahead for South East Melbourne, and it is safe to say that it will be the true test of will for this side in NBL21, because firstly, they are severely undermanned at this time and furthermore, the Phoenix have a tough stretch of games heading into postseason action.

Creek inspired Phoenix win in an overtime thriller

MISSING a number of crucial cogs, South East Melbourne Phoenix starred in overtime, taking down top of the table Melbourne United last night stealing a five-point win (97-92). The Melbourne Throwdown lived up to the hype, with the two sides leaving no stone unturned, fighting tooth and nail to edge each other out of the contest. But in the end it was the grit and determination of the Phoenix that secured them the win, while handing Melbourne United their second straight loss.

Undermanned with only six rostered players available, given Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens and new signing Ryan Broekhoff were unavailable, the Phoenix dug deep to lead for majority of the game and withstand everything United threw at them. Both sides came out with a point to prove and that was evident in the opening term of play as they put up a number of shots to keep the scoreboard ticking over. However it was the Phoenix that made United pay, posting 29 points to 24 taking a handy five point lead into the first change. Keeping that momentum flowing in the second term, South East Melbourne added to their tally with Mitch Creek impressing in all facets of the game to shoulder the load and establish a handy eight-point lead.

With a lot to play for in the third quarter, Melbourne started to kick into gear with some of their familiar names such as Jock Landale finding their rhythm while star import Yudai Baba got going. But it was not enough to worry the opposition who relied on the likes of Creek to steer the ship and provide that calming and composed element to the squad. Although United won the quarter 21 to 20 thanks to their increased offensive efforts they still faced a six point deficit heading into the final change.

Playing with more momentum and conviction across the court, United started to take advantage of the Phoenix’s tired legs. Mounting a comeback, United could smell blood, pressuring the Phoenix at every turn both physically and on the scoreboard to eventually take the lead at the three minute mark. Melbourne steadily added to their lead pushing out to as much as four points ahead before the Phoenix fought back through the hands of Creek who was having a game to remember. As the clock ticked down the momentum shifted between the two sides as they wrestled for any form of ascendancy once again drawing level with just over a minute to play before scoring dried up and they were stuck at 84 points apiece.

Cue overtime. Landale landed the first blow but from then on it turned into one way traffic as the Phoenix shifted up a gear determined not to let the win slip through their fingers. Their overall attack and intensity increased with Reuben Te Rangi stepping up to the plate to well and truly deliver while Melbourne simply could not compete falling victim to a Phoenix masterclass. It was an enthralling battle between the two sides, with plenty of heart in your mouth moments and exciting passages of play to keep fans, coaches and players alike guessing which way this match could turn. But in the end it was the Phoenix who walked away with the ‘W’.

Creek dominated in the outing with a season-high 31 points. He also managed 10 rebounds, with eight of them defensive plus three blocks in an all-round stellar performance. Kyle Adnam continued to impress boasting 18 points, two rebounds and eight assists while Te Rangi proved his worth with 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists. New Zealander Izayah Mauriohooho-Le Afa plied his trade in the win posting nine points as Ben Moore also had an influence on the game through his 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

The usual suspects in Landale and Chris Goulding impressed for Melbourne United with the pair registering 22 points apiece. Landale managed seven rebounds, three steals and five blocks to accompany his 22 points while Goulding collected two steals and a rebound. Mitch McCarron provided a handy option producing 12 points, seven rebounds all of which were defensive and five assists. Jo Lual-Acuil just fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds and 10 points to his name as Baba and Shea Ili posted seven points apiece.

No Sykes, no problem as Phoenix hold firm around top of the table

A SUNDAY double-header to end round seven action kicked off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix meeting and beating the Illawarra Hawks for the second time this season, 93-76. Two of the three teams in the league that average more than 90 points per game were both coming off tough losses and were looking to bounce back to solidify their place around the top of the table.

With stringent and physical defence from the Phoenix handing the Hawks their first season loss in their first matchup, the key difference this time was the absence of star import Keifer Sykes who is carrying an ankle injury. He joined the already sidelined Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau, as well as the recently signed Ryan Broekhoff who is still in quarantine. Kyle Adnam stepped up in his absence as the Phoenix again restricted the Hawks to their lowest score the season and served them their biggest loss.

The Phoenix picked up where they left off from their last matchup and were intense on both ends of the floor from the outset. Adnam and Cam Gliddon led the charge early with tidy distribution and shot making being key areas that gave the Phoenix an early lead which they did not squander.

While their intensity was clearly superior early, South East Melbourne was also able to take the Hawks off the dribble and either straight to the rim to score or find passes inside to big men like Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore.

With Sykes’ injury forcing the Phoenix to make rotation changes, star of the New Zealand National Basketball League Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was given extra minutes having played just four minutes this season. He made an immediate impact with his known defensive abilities, forcing an eight-second backcourt violation in his first possession on the court.

The offensive stalwarts for the Hawks in Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey struggled for much of the game, with air balls for each of them highlighting their struggles. The pair also struggled in their last matchup, as coach Simon Mitchell made a point of reminding his players to always know where they are and force them right.

The quarter-time score read 25-13 for the Phoenix as they shot the ball 19 per cent better and had six more assists, areas they would continue to dominate for the rest of the game.

Brian Goorjian pleaded for more physicality from his outfit, and despite a couple of easy baskets and poorly missed shots, an and-one from Andrew Ogilvy, and triples from Deng Deng, Deng Adel, and Harvey combined with some intensity on the defensive end saw them back within six points.

Losing the offensive fluidity they enjoyed to this point, the Phoenix sought to get to the free throw line to halt the Hawks’ momentum and did so to great effect. They had 17 attempts to Illawarra’s five.

The Hawks, however, continued to shoot well from deep and if it were not for some Mitch Creek magic down the stretch, the Hawks would not have been trailing 45-37 at the main break.

Although the margin was only eight points, South East Melbourne still felt in control and they proved it with a big 28-18 third quarter to give them an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter. An up and down start to the term would eventually be dominated through the Phoenix’s sharp ball movement, and offensive glass prowess headed by Moore.

The margin was extended to 20 points after an Adnam floater was followed by his tenth assist on the night.

The final quarter comeback would have needed to have been the biggest of the season, but it was not to be as the rest of the game ebbed and flowed. Two Cameron Bairstow triples gave the Hawks life, but the Phoenix pushed through and kept the Hawks to their lowest score of the season again winning 93-76.

The Phoenix enjoyed another huge NBL Cup outing from Creek who had 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 58 per cent shooting. Gliddon put up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, while Adnam fell just short of a double-double with nine points, 11 assists, and four steals. Moore also enjoyed one of his best games this season with 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, which included 12 of 12 from the free throw line.

South East Melbourne has 23 more free throw attempts in the game and managed to force Illawarra into 16 turnovers. This disciplined defenced managed to hold the Hawks’ key players in Jessup (seven points) and Harvey (14 points) quieter than usual. Justin Simon (13 points, six rebounds) was the only other Illawarra player to score more than 10 points.

The Phoenix will look to carry this momentum into their Wednesday matchup with Perth, while the Hawks will look to bounce back on Thursday against the 36ers.

NBL21 season previews: South East Melbourne Phoenix

THE National Basketball League (NBL)’s newest club, South East Melbourne Phoenix might have had a challenging first season after a strong start – finishing eighth with a 9-19 record – but were able to show at their best they could compete with the top sides. Now a year on, the Phoenix are better prepared as a unit, and aside from some retirements, have effectively kept a large portion of their list together, as well as brought in some exciting developing talents over the off-season.

Amongst some of the earliest retirement announcements, Tai Wesley and Ben Madgen both decided to call it quits at age 34 and 35 respectively, having been a part of the Phoenix’s foundation season. The announcements came following the re-signing of import Kendall Stephens, providing an established option for Madgen’s departure. Almost immediately following the back-to-back retirements, Cameron Gliddon signed on for a fresh start with the Phoenix.

The Brisbane Bullets guard gave the Phoenix an immediate starter in the back court, having been released from his contract with the Bullets a year early after not having the impact he could have late in his career. The 31-year-old has plenty of talent and was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, so will be hoping to rekindle his form with the Phoenix.

Whilst not much basketball might have been going on in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand took centre stage with the NZNBL taking place. It helped hand Reuben Te Rangi and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa contracts, the former on a full contract, the latter as a development player. They were joined by another Kiwi in Yannick Wetzell, who signed on then exercised his out clause to play in Germany, only to re-join the Phoenix after passport complications.

A couple of later import recruitments occurred late in the off-season, with Ben Moore and Keifer Sykes signing on. The American duo have plenty of experience across the globe, with Sykes playing in Turkey, Italy, China and Greece, while Moore also played in Turkey alongside a long stint in the G League having had a one-time two-way contract with Indiana Pacers back in 2018. Sykes was once touted by Forbes as the “James Harden of China” following a ridiculous 50-point game and averaging 34.6 points in that league.

Sykes brought the intrigue with his signing, and will replace outgoing scoring machine John Roberson who lit up the league on a number of occasions. American duo Terry Armstrong and Devondrick Walker also departed, while the re-signings were just as big as the signings. Mitch Creek remained on board in search of another chance in the NBA, with the forward one of the most dominant players in the league.

Alongside Creek, Kyle Adnam, Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau also remained at the club, to create a stable core of players from last season. Dan Trist headed to New Zealand to play with the Breakers, but the inclusion of Gliddon along with Te Rangi and Tristan Forsyth as a development player meant the depth in the front court is not a concern.

Overall the Phoenix look stronger than last season, which should equate in a better season and move up the NBL21 ladder.

Picture credit: AAP

NBL Free Agency Update: Kings, Phoenix and Wildcats

TO wrap up Draft Central’s National Basketball League (NBL) Free Agency updates to this point, we delve into the moves made by the reigning premiers, the Perth Wildcats, and last season’s runners-up Sydney Kings. We also look deeper into how the NBL’s newest team, South East Melbourne Phoenix, is shaping up for their second season in the country’s top basketball competition.

SYDNEY KINGS

Even though the Kings have made minimal changes to their line-up for NBL21, last season’s minor premiers have still made some noteworthy signings for the upcoming campaign. Firstly, for Sydney, it was their decision to re-sign Craig Moller on the NBL’s newly introduced club option rule. Moller’s re-signing got the Kings going in regard to outlining what their squad would start to look like, currently holding Brad Newley and Jordan Hunter under contract. To help bolster their side with young and exciting faces, the Kings re-acquired one of the biggest surprises of last season, Shaun Bruce, as well as fully recovered Xavier Cooks to the fold.

With the retirement of potential Hall of Famer, Kevin Lisch, and the future of Andrew Bogut unknown, the allowance of new signings for the Kings has also increased. The poaching of another sought after NCAA graduate from the United States took place, as former Miami Hurricane, Dejan Vasiljevic, made his way down-under to continue his successful basketball career. The three-year-deal between the Kings and Vasiljevic embodies the next few years of transition that the purple and gold will undertake, as they start to bring in new talent. Furthermore, 21-year-old Angus Glover will make the hour and a half drive northbound to Sydney, after putting pen to paper on another three-year contact under Will Weaver. Having served as a key part of Matt Flinn’s rotation last season with the Hawks, Glover would average a modest 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Contracted:

Brad Newley
Jordan Hunter

Re-signed:

Shaun Bruce
Xavier Cooks
Craig Moller (Club Option)

Signed:

Angus Glover (The Hawks)
Dejan Vasiljevic (Miami Hurricanes)

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Following the retirement announcements of two of their most senior players and leaders in Tai Wesley and Ben Madgen, head coach Simon Mitchell now has his hands full to try and re-shuffle his squad for the NBL21 season. The additional losses of star shooter John Roberson to Spanish side Estudiantes and Dan Trist to the New Zealand Breakers, as well as promising young prospect Yanni Wetzell due to his European opt-out clause, does not make life easier for the Phoenix.

While the losses to this point have been sizeable, the Phoenix administration have made headway in reconciling this dilemma. The re-signings of Chicago-native Kendall Stephens and pivotal power-forward Dane Pineau, both of whom were members of the Phoenix’s inaugural season, will look to suit up in the green for at least one more fixture.

In terms of new additions, two members of the Brisbane Bullets can now look forward to some less consistent weather, as both Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi announced their intentions to move South. Gliddon, an Australian Boomer, has represented his country on numerous occasions, having served the green and gold at both the 2017/2018 FIBA Asia and World Cups. Linking back up with teammate Mitchell Creek will be an added bonus to the team’s morale when the season’s preparations start to ramp up. Te Rangi, who was a late inclusion in this year’s NZNBL representing the Canterbury Rams, looks to continue his rapid development in Australia’s top-flight. Te Rangi helped the Rams to an unexpected title run, which saw the team make it all the way to the competition’s semi-finals, despite finishing the regular season with a 4-10 record and finishing at the bottom of the standings.

Contracted:

Adam Gibson
Kyle Adnam
Mitchell Creek

Re-signed:

Dane Pineau
Kendall Stephens

Signed:

Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets)
Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets)

 

PERTH WILDCATS

After what was a hectic start to their off-season movements, with both Nick Kay and Bryce Cotton opting out of their contracts and then Cotton re-signing for three-years, the defending champion Wildcats have well and truly started to rebuild their squad, as they endeavour on yet another successful NBL season.

The first of many was the Club Option taken on big-man Majok Majok, as the Wildcats look to centre their offseason on obtaining big bodies and after Majok’s contributions last season, one would not argue how valuable he is to Trevor Gleeson’s squad. Next up in the batting order, is fourth-year player Todd Blanchfield, who has transferred to the West Coast after two years with the Hawks, averaging over 13.5 points and 45 per cent shooting from the field during his time in Wollongong.

To help reinforce Perth’s backcourt, 36ers guard Kevin White will help mentor his younger peers in his fourth year of NBL action. The 33-year-old will look to step in where Damian Martin left off after his Hall of Fame career came to a fitting end after winning his sixth NBL Championship and with the re-signing of Taylor Britt and purchase of John Mooney, some fresh legs will look to insert some explosiveness into the depth of Gleeson’s gang.

Contracted:

Clint Steindl
Jesse Wagstaff
Luke Travers
Mitchell Norton
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

Re-signed:

Bryce Cotton
Majok Majok (Club Option)
Taylor Britt

Signed:

John Mooney (University of Notre Dame)
Kevin White (Adelaide 36ers)
Todd Blanchfield (The Hawks)

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 NBL memorable moments: #3 – John Roberson’s 21 points in last six minutes to win game

FANS across the nation played witness to a John Roberson masterpiece in Round 11 against Cairns Taipans. South East Melbourne Phoenix fans got front row seats to one of their teams most spirited comebacks in their short history. Up by as much as 10 points throughout the clash, the Phoenix’ night looked all but over down by six with 12 seconds remaining. With the win looking out of reach for the home team some could be forgiven for thinking it was time to leave the stadium and beat the traffic. But the Phoenix had other plans unleashing one of greatest clutch shooting streaks in NBL history.

On this night, Roberson knocked down back to back threes to send the game into overtime. To tip that off, he scored a mind-boggling 21 of the last 23 points to win the game. This game was neck and neck from tip off. Both teams grew leads but they were never substantial enough to release the building tension. Towards the final minute, a fatigued home crowd began to feel the intensity of their efforts being squandered as losing grew increasingly more anticipated. This would have been their sixth loss in seven games. As a brand new franchise, the fans knew that each loss moved the team closer and closer to a possible expiration. 

With 18 seconds left on the clock, Phoenix’s offence turned to a scramble as Ben Madgen missed a good look from corner three. Mitch Creek ran all the way from the arc to tip the ball back in the air, while bulldozing two Cairns players as they dived to the floor. Dane Pineau came up with the ball and dished it to Adam Gibson in a frenzy. He swung it to Roberson who nailed the shot. The crowd went berserk. All of a sudden a small hope of victory manifested itself through Melbourne Arena.

Even though they were down three points, without possession, and their backs against the wall, Phoenix fans knew there was a chance to see a rare win for the South East team. With Jarrod Kenny inbounding, the noise of the stadium could not get any louder. That was until Pineau got a finger to the pass and handed it to a running Roberson. Roberson ran to the right side, faked a handoff to Creek and nailed a running off-balanced jumper to send the game to overtime. 

To start the extra period, Roberson nailed another three and would not slow down from there. Knocking down six three pointers in three minutes and 40 seconds, he would score 15 in the extra period and finish with 32 points, while going 8-14 from three. That goes beyond feeling hot. But apart from Roberson’s decision to go video game mode on the Cairns, as well Pineau’s clutch rebound and steal. Credit must be given to Gibson for draining five three pointers of his own in a vintage 25-point display as well as Creek who put up a spectacular 25 points and nine rebounds. However, this night will be remembered in fan’s minds as the most exciting end to an NBL game. 

Top 10 NBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 Phoenix upstage United in opening round
#9 Scotty Hopson’s consecutive buzzer beaters
#8 Bryce Cotton drops 39 points in grand final preview
#7 Bryce Cotton hits game winner in grand final rematch
#6 Casper Ware torches former team in regular season
#5 Greatest comeback in NBL history
#4 LaMelo Ball posts back-to-back triple doubles
#3 John Roberson’s 21 points in last six minutes to win game

NBL1 South Men’s team summary: Melbourne Tigers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Melbourne Tigers’ mens side that had a dominant home record, but suffered defeat in the elimination final.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 5th (lost in elimination finals)
Wins: 11
Losses: 9
Home: 10-1
Away: 2-7

What went right:

  • Home court dominance best in the league
  • Won 10 of the last 14 games to make finals
  • Combination of Dane Pineau and Nic Pozoglou
  • Steals (9.9 per game, ranked first overall in the competition)
  • Rebounding (14.3 offensive per game, ranked second overall, total 40.9 ranked fourth overall)
  • Disciplined (17.6 personal fouls, ranked fourth least overall)

There was plenty that went right for the Tigers in 2019, reaching the NBL1 finals on the back of a barn-storming finish to the year. Outside of three consecutive losses in June-July, they won 10 of the last 14 games – 10 out of 11 outside of that mini losing run – to put themselves in top four contention. Whilst that fell short, the dominance of big men, Dane Pineau and Nic Pozoglou shone out, combining for 38 points and 25 rebounds in a dominant one-two combination. Along with their on-court results, the Tigers also led the league in steals, with 9.9 per game and the duo, along with Mike Wells led the way in that regard. It was no surprise to see them also high up in the rankings for rebounding (second offensive, fourth overall), and incredibly disciplined as well, ranked in the top four in terms of least personal fouls committed. Most of all, their home court at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) became a fortress, losing just the one game there during the regular season to be the most dominant side at home in the competition.

What went wrong:

  • Elimination final disappointment
  • Free-throw accuracy (60.5 per cent, ranked 18th overall)
  • Started slow, winning just two of the first six, then Tasmania trip in June

For all the home court dominance, it was quite a shock for fans of the league when the fifth placed Tigers went down to the eighth placed Bendigo Braves who had only just snuck into the post-season series. In that match, the Tigers led at the first two breaks by six and seven points respectively, before a disappointing second half saw Bendigo – led by Ray Turner – produce some unbelievable basketball to run over the top of the Tigers with a 49-32 half and win by 10 points, 86-76. Turner finished with a double-double of 27 points and 15 rebounds, while Pozoglou – missing his partner-in-crime Pineau – put up numbers of 21 points and seven rebounds for the losing side. Aside from ultimately the last match of the season costing them greater success, the Tigers needed to improve their free-throw accuracy, shooting at just 60.5 per cent from the line, as well as the regret of starting slow, winning just two of the first six and playing catch-up, while a trip to Tasmania yielded back-to-back losses against non-finalists.

Top Players:

Dane Pineau

The NBL1 season would set up Pineau for a strong NBL season with the Sydney Kings, as he would make the NBL1 All-Stars Starting Five off just 13 games. They were a pretty influential 13 games however, with the 206cm forward putting up numbers of 18.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks, seemingly doing it all. He was accurate from the field with 57.8 per cent accuracy, but like his teammates, struggled from the line with a worse free-throw accuracy than his field shooting, recording just 54.2 per cent. Despite this, it really propelled him for a big NBL season.

Nic Pozoglou

Pozoglou was a little unlucky not to win post-season awards for his year, which was just as good as Pineau’s considering the future Perth Wildcats talent played every game in the NBL1 season. He averaged 19.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game, leading the team in points across the journey. He sank a third of his three-point attempts with a solid long-range game in the competition, and could have been even more effective had it been for his field goal shooting (44.2 per cent) and free-throw shooting (53.8 per cent). Overall though, Pozoglou is coming into the prime of his career and is exciting to watch.

Michael Luxford

Handy across the board, Luxford was one of four other players outside the top two to average more than 10 points, and the only one to average five rebounds and five assists per game in the side in 2019. He finished the year with 11.6 points and 2.0 steals – leading the team in the latter stat – and while his accuracy was down from the field (39.7 per cent), he still managed a third of his shots from three-point range.

Young Gun:

William Hickey

Coming into the season as a 20-year-old, Hickey was able to really establish himself in the Tigers’ lineup. He played in every game, starting in two of them, and averaged 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal per game in season 2019. Most importantly, he stepped up in the absence of Pineau, putting up 19 points and seven rebounds in the finals loss to Bendigo, and it is no doubt he can only get better from here.

Christmas list for 2021:

A strong center. Whilst the Tigers had an impressive starting five, they realistically made do with taller forwards to play the role of a center, with the two listed centers playing just 11 combined games last year. If they can get another big to play that role, it releases their dominant bigs to focus even more on their offensive game.

Summary:

The Melbourne Tigers might view 2019 as the season that could have been, because they were dominant at home throughout the year and would have been confident heading into that elimination final. It was not to be, and Bendigo had a ripping finals series, but the Tigers should be strong coming into next year, with plenty of promise to be a title contender.