Tag: sydney kings

2019/20 NBL season review: Brisbane Bullets

IT took three seasons for the Bullets to get off the bottom of the NBL standings since their resurrection as a franchise. This fact meant that the people of Brisbane now had a standard of basketball expected of their city’s team.

Under the guidance of former-Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis, the Queensland side would have all the pieces needed to make a finals appearance. But luck would not be on their side this time as their fate would lose out to United following the final game of the season.

Biting the Bullet

All signs looked promising from the get-go as a result of a 2-0 start to the season, which included an away win in Wollongong and a convincing win over would-be finalist Cairns. However, their three-straight losses that would follow would outline how most of the first half of their season would look.

Both winning and losing streaks would eventuate, leaving the Bullets with an 8-11 record at the turn of the decade. Such a poor record held by a team as skilled as Brisbane’s meant that the side needed to get its act together. The Bullets would do exactly that, and in a big way.

Starting on January 5 with a 12-point win against the Perth Wildcats, the Bullets would go to win seven of their final nine games in what would become an impressive collection of victories. The main highlight, however, would be the hectic turn of events that would conclude the NBL 2019/20 season.

Fresh off demoralising defeats to the New Zealand Breakers and the Wildcats, the Bullets would need to amass a huge win against the Taipans one more time, by at least 34 points to match with New Zealand on percentage. Following a massive first half effort, the Bullets would claw their way to a 36-point demolition job of Cairns, putting them in title contention with Melbourne United still to play.

Despite Brisbane’s optimism, Melbourne would totally outclass the South East Melbourne Phoenix in the final match of the competition and as a result, United would edge out Brisbane for fourth spot in the standings, which by extension would kick the Bullets out of the finals.

Like the Breakers and United, a record of 15 wins and 13 losses would be the final by-line for Brisbane’s regular season. But in any competition with only four postseason slots available, any defeat late in the season is detrimental to a side’s success.

Almost all the right pieces

Lamar Patterson

Successful basketball teams need a number of things to have the recipe for victories, one being a backbone of the team. Leading in essentially every category, Lamar Patterson would solidify himself as the team’s biggest producer of play, even the League’s. He would later be recognised for his efforts as he was amongst the leading vote getters to receive All-NBL First Team recognition.

Patterson was an essential role in last season’s Bullets side, but even so he was required to take his game up a notch this season. Playing at least 30 minutes every time he stepped onto the floor this season, Patterson would go onto average 21.4 points, six rebounds and four and a half assists per contest in a tremendous season for the American import.

Although Patterson has made himself feel at home on the northeast coast, he has made no comment on whether he intends on playing his third consecutive season with the Bullets. If so, the next step in establishing himself as a franchise name would be getting the Bullets past the semi-finals stage.

Will Magnay

Without a doubt the NBL’s biggest surprise of the season, Will Magnay really found traction later on in the season when his production at both ends of the court started to skyrocket. Thanks to these performances, not only has Magnay been invited to train with NBA teams this offseason, but he was also awarded this season’s Most Improved Player award.

While Magnay’s statistics are not through the roof like his peers, he would prove to be more than a nuisance for opposition frontcourts. Alongside him was Matthew Hodgson, and when these two provided good defensive communication, there was rarely another duo that could contest them on the boards.

Magnay would go onto lead the league in rejections, averaging 2.2 blocks per game as his minutes would increase five-fold compared to the previous season. Additionally, he would tally eight points and six rebounds a game to round out his stat line.

Nathan Sobey

After four seasons with the Adelaide 36ers, Nathan Sobey made his way up north to take the Bullets to the next stage, given his prior championship success. The 29-year-old took on a new role as a leadership figure at a club he was new to. He proved he was up to the position with grace which is evident in his numbers.

Shooting at 41 per cent, Sobey would tally numbers higher than any point in his professional career, averaging 16.5 points per game. He would also pool together four rebounds and three and a half assists per contest, while proving to be a reliable source from the free-throw line.

The Coach’s Corner: Andrej Lemanis

In terms of great Australian coaches, Lemanis has an extensive coaching resume that compares to the likes of Lindsay Gaze and Trevor Gleeson. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Australian-Latvian would feel like he somewhat failed as a result of his side missing out on the finals and regressing as a franchise slightly. Nevertheless, Lemanis has constantly admired his side for their mental toughness and ability to fight until the end.

Following the Bullets’ 36-point win against the Taipans in Round 28, Lemanis addressed the Bullets’ fateful giving his gratitude to this season’s team.

“I’ve never been more proud of a team…just coming out and giving ourselves a shot,” he said. “We talk about being tough and unified and wanting to be known as that and tonight certainly displayed both of those values.”

With pieces such as Magnay re-signing for two more seasons, many Queenslanders can start to look forward to an action packed 2021 season at the Armory.

2019/20 NBL season review: New Zealand Breakers

MUCH like the 36ers of the 2018-19 season, the Breakers were keen to make amends for their failures from the previous season. The administration of the club saw that the best way to undertake their season objectives was to rip up the carpeting and make an abundance of signings in the preseason stages.

Not a bad finish

The Breakers would be slow to get off the ground early on in their campaign, as they would lose both of their opening games to the Kings in Round 1. Luckily for New Zealand though, the Breakers would host the bottom-of-the-table Hawks on their home court to put their best foot forward, demolishing Illawarra 103-72 in Round 2. But this is where it would all start to go downhill for Dan Shamir’s side.

Following an altercation at a bar, marquee import signing Glen Rice Jr would be arrested by Auckland police, which in turn would lead to his and the Breakers decision to part ways. The Breakers would accumulate a detestable 4-10 record at the midway stage of the season, which would entail losing eight out of their first ten matchups, signifying that not much was going the way of the Breakers organisation. Furthermore, this bad run of games was marred more by the injuries of important individuals such as Finn Delany, Rob Loe and Scotty Hopson. The most devastating event during the first half of the Breakers season, struck the heart of every New Zealand basketball fan, as long-time team manager Fata Letoa would unexpectedly pass away.

As the next half of the season began just a few days before Christmas, a hard-fought win against the Phoenix started to shift the tide across the Tasman. As a result, a solid five-game winning streak would arise for the Breakers and suddenly they were one victory off the .500 mark with nine games remaining. Next up, back-to-back losses to the Taipans and the Bullets would manifest as the Breakers only blunder throughout the second half of the season, which in hindsight was all that was needed for the Breakers to miss out on their second straight finals appearance for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Breakers would go on to win six of their last seven games of the season to finish with a record of 15 wins and 13 losses. Their fate of sixth position in the end was one based on percentages, alongside the Bullets in fifth and United in fourth.

For many however, the season is best summarised as ‘the best of a bad situation’, which provides promising building blocks going into next season. The main concerns however are the re-signings of important players with Hopson and Brandon Ashley’s futures in question. These two mixed with the club’s faces Tom Abercrombie and Delany, could very well provide the basis for a championship-calibre side next season.

The Breakers platoon

Scotty Hopson

Even though Scotty Hopson missed seven games this season due to injury, he still proved himself to be one of the League’s most lethal players on the offensive end. Shooting the lights out at 47 per cent from the field, Hopson would conclude his season averaging over 19.1 points per game, slotting him in the League’s top 10. He would also go on to tally himself fifth in the category of assists, averaging 4.7 dimes per contest. He also earned himself the title of one of the League’s best rebounding wingmen (5.8).

While these numbers did not earn himself an All-NBL first team selection which many would say was unjust, Hopson has earned himself a reputation as a standout international prospect. At the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G-League side, Hopson has increased his minutes and has started to increase his role in turn. If the Breakers can re-sign Hopson for next season, then that would put his team in a very handsome position for success.

Sek Henry

Alongside Hopson was another import signing in Sek Henry. With Henry in the backcourt, it created space for both players to work, and more often than not it was a major hindrance on other teams. Henry’s season was successful from an offensive point of view for his first season in the NBL. Putting up 13.6 points and three and a half rebounds a game was a relatively impressive way of arriving on the Australian basketball scene. He would also be instrumental to many of New Zealand’s unexpected victories. With the 22-year-old turning many heads this past season, his worth as a player has been tested and any club would be happy to have him in the future.

Tom Abercrombie

The heart and soul of New Zealand’s basketball scene, Tom Abercrombie was needed more than usual to lead his side through the fog of this season. Abercrombie undertook his twelfth season at the Breakers and what was demanded of him was as high as it has been since the 2015-16 season. Playing 31 minutes a game and for the time since his rookie season back in 2008/09, he would shoot at 50 per cent from the field. Not only that, but he would also remain a reliable contributor from the free-throw line averaging 91 per cent from the charity strike, the best rate ever throughout his career. Additionally, he would return to old form on the scoreboard as he would average 12 points per game for the first time in five seasons. As Abercrombie has no intention of retiring just yet, the 33-year-old will continue to provide Shamir’s side a reliable leadership figure. One that would be more than willing to do what it takes to put his team in a successful position.

The coach’s corner: Dan Shamir

Shamir is the down-to-earth, see it as it is kind of guy, which is why in an interview with Stuff he was very hopeful with how his side was gonna stack up for next season in a country his family has started to call home.

“The beginning of the season was very tough for me personally because I’m all about the basketball,” he said. “We didn’t win, and it was very hard. “Although it was very good to come here, when you’re losing like that it makes for difficult times. But my family was so happy every day, from the moment we came here. “My kids love it here and don’t want to go back to Israel. “My wife enjoys it a lot. “From a family life perspective, it was great from day one. “Then we started winning and things became even better over here.”

If Shamir can keep the winning going for the Breakers, then his second season at the helm would make his trials and tribulations in his debut NBL season worth all the trouble.

2019/20 NBL season review: Adelaide 36ers

THE NBL season for 2019/20 was one of the closest ever in terms games between first and seventh position. Unfortunately for Adelaide 36ers, they had to settle for seventh. Despite the 36ers’ disappointing ladder position at the end of the season, their single game performances would suggest that their record was not a true reflection of their season.

Falling two wins short of a .500 record, it’s hard to argue that the 36ers season was a failure, it was just simply the inability to win close games, particularly on the road that proved to be the difference. Nevertheless, the performances of numerous players on the Adelaide roster were enough to help keep Adelaide’s season record respectable. However, in a season as competitive as this one, respectable is not good enough to attain success.

Second straight finals absence

The 2018-19 Adelaide 36ers missed out on a finals appearance by the smallest of percentages, which made them eager to get off the ground early in the 2020 season. After winning two of their three opening games in an action-packed Rounds 2 and 3 for Adelaide, it looked as if they were getting the good start to the season that they were hoping for. One of Adelaide’s main problems through the first half of the season however, was their inability to string victories together and really get their noses out in front of the rest of the pack, and this resulted in a 6-7 record at the halfway point of the season.

Once again, the 36ers were on the outside looking in, and if they were to avoid repeating history, they would need to start outplaying better sides to climb the ladder. That desperation would start to kick in as they opened up with two victories in a double-header weekend against the Phoenix and the Breakers who were also mid-table competitors. But again, Adelaide would undo all the good work that they worked for with losses in games they should have won. That was what happened in Round 12 as they would let a home game slip through their hands against the bottom-of-the-table Hawks, going down 84-93, which was then followed by an eight-point loss against Cairns Taipans. The 36ers would redeem themselves against the Hawks in Round 14 and would follow up with another win against Melbourne United off the back of a 23-point outing from point-man Jerome Randle, ousting United 100-86.

Again, Adelaide were showing signs that were indicative of a strong second half of the season. But yet agin, and for the final time, that not the case. Onwards from their loss to the Cairns Taipans in Round 16, it would kick off the beginning of one of the worst finishes to a season in the 36ers’ franchise history. Winning just one of their final six games leading to the finals, teams such as Brisbane and New Zealand were able to sneak by Adelaide’s mistakes, pushing South Australia’s side further and further down the standings.

After 28 games and a very disheartening final run to the end of the season, the 36ers would finish their competition with a record of 12 wins and 16 losses. Perhaps even more frustrating for their fans, was the fact that for the second time in a row, Adelaide’s inability to remain consistent meant they would start preseason early and miss out on the Final Four.

Randle and Co.

Jerome Randle

When it comes to NBL greats, Randle sits right amongst the best, as the 32-year-old made his return to South Australia for the NBL 20 season. If it was not for some of Randle’s individual performances, the 36ers would have been out of the title race long before the turn of the new year. Coming off two years at the Sydney Kings averaging more than 18 points per game, coach Joey Wright had no other choice than to base his offence around the team’s best guard like so many other teams in the League.

Despite being left out of this season’s All-NBL first and second teams, Randle proved his mettle from the first game to the last, as he would go on to average a modest 19.8 points per game, the League’s fifth highest scorer. Randle would also go on to be Adelaide’s main facilitator as well, finishing his campaign with more than four and a half dimes per contest, while also averaging 3.1 rebounds too. While high scores and an abundance of stats are all well and good, players like Randle do not measure season performances on individual accolades, and you can expect him to come back with lofty aspirations for next season.

Daniel Johnson

One of this season’s premier big men in terms of production, Johnson has made his mark in Adelaide, finishing his tenth season at the club for 2020. But unsurprisingly, this season was evidently one of Johnson’s best. For the first time in five seasons, Johnson would average 18 points per game alongside Randle as his pick and roll man. But when Johnson wasn’t providing screens on the perimeter, he was just as, if not more dangerous around the rim. He would go on to add 8.3 rebounds and over two assists to every performance in a breakthrough campaign for the experienced veteran. Furthermore, if his partnership with Eric Griffin were to continue onto next season, then their improved chemistry in the frontcourt would create many problems for opposition teams.

Eric Griffin

The second cog of Adelaide’s frontcourt pair, Griffin was the 36ers’ marquee import signing to kick off the 2019/20 season and was consistently a pivotal part to Wright’s offence, due to his athleticism up and down the floor. While Griffin displayed moments of tremendous play, his output became fragmented and sporadic, which among many things, proved to be one of Griffin’s predominant flaws throughout the season. Nevertheless, Griffin’s numbers would suggest otherwise in his debut season. The Floridian would go on to maintain a respectable 14 points per game. Meanwhile, he would make his presence known on the glass, establishing himself as one of the competition’s best rebounders, particularly on the offensive end averaging 6.3 a game.

The Coach’s corner: Joey Wright

Completing his seventh season with the 36ers as Head Coach, Wright has been awarded multiple accolades during his time in the NBL, such as three Coach of the Year recognitions and an NBL Championship ring (2007) during his time with the Brisbane Bullets. But following Wright’s 500th coaching appearance against the Perth Wildcats on February 15, the 36ers and Wright agreed to part ways leading into the offseason.

In a statement released by the 36ers following their announcement, Wright indicated that he has no intention to stop coaching later down the track, “I feel like I have left the Club in a better position than when I first arrived and I look forward to my next coaching challenge,” he said.

2019/20 NBL season review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

A SIGHT for sore eyes within the NBL community, as a ninth team would enter the competition to begin the NBL 20 season. For the first time since the dissolution of the South Dragons, there was once again a Victorian team to combat Melbourne United. But this time, instead of red and black it would be green and black.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix came into the League with high-expectations, and given their opening round matchup with United, it was the perfect occasion to announce their entry into the NBL.

New Boys on the Block

To begin their season off, the NBL’s first ‘Throwdown’ was set to take place in Melbourne Arena. It was clear after their performance against United, that the Phoenix’s style of play started to shine through. After going 12 of 23 from downtown and toppling United by three points, it would set the tone for the rest of the season, as South East Melbourne would go on to become one of the NBL’s most efficient and high-octane offences throughout the season.

Following from their Round 1 victory, the Phoenix would keep it rolling, knocking over the Bullets and the Hawks at home, tipping off their inaugural season with a handsome 3-0 record. Despite the Phoenix taking home victories against relatively good teams, their first real challenge came in Round 4, as they sized up against the reigning premiers at RAC Arena. Following a very lacklustre first half against Bryce Cotton and his team, the Wildcats would go on to rout the newly formed team, ending their season opening winning streak.

After their trouncing in Western Australia, results would become a lot less consistent, going down to the likes of the 36ers, the Kings and twice to United. But following on from their good start at the beginning of the season, it was paramount to head coach Simon Mitchell, that his side “take it one game at a time”, saying this constantly throughout press conferences in the first half of the season. Coming to the mid-way point of the season, the Phoenix were the definition of average at this point. Sitting just outside the top four with a record of six wins and six losses. The rest of the season was now in the hands of the NBL’s youngest franchise. But the next ten rounds would prove to be anything but smooth.

In the next 16 matchups for South East Melbourne they would go on to accumulate an abhorrent three wins and 13 losses, while also finishing their campaign on an eight-game losing streak. With 20 rounds of basketball completed, the Phoenix would nestle into eighth position with a final record of nine wins and 19 losses. While South East Melbourne would compete relatively well at home, it was their inability to take on opponents on the road. This task of winning on the road was only able to be done a mere three times in 14 contests, which really set back the side in the standings.

The biggest flames

John Roberson

From the beginning of the season, John Roberson was one of the NBL’s most venomous offensive weapons. Leading from the point when Kyle Adnam was on the bench, Roberson was more times than not responsible for the Phoenix’s efficiency from the floor. This is further evidenced by the statistics of his debut season in Australia’s topflight in basketball. Averaging more than 20 points per outing whilst shooting at an impressive 46 per cent for the season, Roberson proved to be a reliable source of production for his side. Not only was Roberson effective from the field as a whole, but the majority of his damage came from beyond the arc. Averaging four three-pointers a game. He would go on to lead the league in this category.

Other categories worth mentioning include being the League’s fourth highest scorer and third in the category of assists, averaging 5.8 per game. He would also go on to break the NBL’s record for overtime points in a game (15) and also the single-season record for three-pointers, which he did back in late-January. If the Phoenix are to keep Roberson on for the 2021 season, then it is almost certain that they will base their 12-man squad around him.

Mitchell Creek

With Roberson taking care of the Phoenix’s backcourt, Simon Mitchell needed someone who could make a difference from the wing, but also be a presence inside if needed there. That someone would be Mitchell Creek. Standing at six foot five inches and weighing 95 kilos, the bulky slasher was exactly the right fit. After gaining NBA experience with the Brooklyn Nets, mostly in the G-League, his skills would become very productive throughout the NBL season, consistently collecting statistics in numerous categories.

Amongst being one of the League’s top-scorers alongside Roberson, Creek would also crack the top 10 in rebounding and steals. In conclusion, Creek would average 20.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game in a season compounded by stat-filling play.

Dane Pineau

The story of Dane Pineau’s NBL 20 season is not one of stat-stuffing phenomenon, but a story of miraculous development. Pineau had joined the Phoenix following two seasons averaging three and half minutes a game as a bench player/reserve at the Sydney Kings. Following his transition to Victoria, he immediately increased his workload to that of an NBL veteran.

Pineau would go on to play in 26 minutes of each Phoenix contest as his undersized efforts would start to garner attention across the nation. His efforts on the defensive end would be recognised by his peers later on in the season, as he would be nominated for the Most Improved Player award come the end of the season. Obtaining a whopping 49 votes within the category, he would fall just four votes short to Brisbane’s Will Magnay, but it would still be a season to remember.

The 25-year-old would average 8.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest, all dramatic increases compared to his seasons at the Kings, making him one of the League’s best power forwards at the moment.

Coach Mitchell’s remarks

Following his side’s loss to Melbourne United in Round 20, coach Mitchell had these comments to say about the first season of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

“What I just asked the guys before [the game] is to look each other in the eye and just savour the moment,” Mitchell said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group but we won’t be the same group next year and we never will be. But no one else will ever be the first roster of the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, so that’s something these guys will have forever, and I just want them to take a moment to reflect upon that.”

2019/20 NBL season review: Illawarra Hawks

THE Illawarra Hawks came into the NBL season with high aspirations, following a disappointing yet somewhat successful 2018-19 season. Finishing seventh out of eight teams, it looked a little worse for wear. But, the fact remained that the Hawks were only two wins off a .500 record, with 12 wins from 28 matches. Nevertheless, with the acquisitions of a couple of major signings, meant the people of Illawarra had something to look forward to for NBL20.

Marquee Signings

LaMelo Ball

Since 2017, the NBL has implemented the ‘Next Stars’ program, where aspiring players could develop in the NBL until they are ready to enter into the NBA Draft, rather than go through the college system that many athletes have decided to go through. Prior to the season, it was announced that up and coming prospect, LaMelo Ball, would be the next recruit to make their way down under. Following his signing to the Illawarra Hawks, the young headliner immediately started to turn heads following his Round 1 performance against the Bullets, collecting 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. This kind of stat line became a weekly occurrence for the 18-year-old, as throughout his 12 games, the Californian averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven and a half rebounds per game. Which for a guard his age and with his style, caused plenty of interest and most importantly was unseen in the NBL. The import was set to miss four weeks due to a bruised foot that occurred in early December during a practice session. Following six weeks out of the game, Ball took to social media to announce he would miss the remainder of the season to focus on recovery in preparation for next year’s NBA draft, finishing his season in partially anti-climactic fashion.

Aaron Brooks

With more than a decade of experience in the NBA, the Illawarra Hawks were set to base their entire offence around former Most Improved Player in the NBA, Aaron Brooks. Following the signing of Brooks, the 35-year-old averaged 17.9 points per game and over four assists in seven outings. Despite winning only one of their opening seven match-ups, the worst-case scenario came to fruition for Brooks, when the guard from Seattle tore his Achilles tendon attempting to block a Bryce Cotton three-pointer. Immediately following this, it was announced that Brooks would miss out on the remainder of the season, compounding the bad luck that the Hawks would go through in regard to their players’ health.

Josh Boone

One of Illawarra’s weaknesses the season prior, was their lack of inside presence, which the Hawks attempted to remedy through the signing of one of their two free agency acquisitions. Josh Boone, who had spent two and a half season with Melbourne, had reached the NBL finals series twice prior to NBL 20, winning the chip in 2017/18. Boone became one the Hawks most prominent contributors throughout the season, finishing with more than eight points and 5.8 rebounds a game in 18 minutes per contest.

Todd Blanchfield

Seasoned veteran and the second of Illawarra’s free-agency signings, Todd Blanchfield was acquired to score from all parts of the court for Illawarra and standing at 200cm tall with the ability to beat most big men off the dribble, Blanchfield provided the Hawks with numerous man of the match performances. Averaging over 13 points per game and close to four rebounds at a 42 per cent clip, Blanchfield proved to be one of Illawarra’s most utilised player playing more than 30 minutes a game throughout the season.

Journey to The Spoon

Illawarra’s objective to move upwards in the standings this season did not look likely following the first portion of the season as the Hawks only won a single game in their first eight contests, solidifying them in bottom position with a big chunk of the season still to play.

Following their rough start to the season, which saw the season ending injury of Brooks against the Wildcats, the Hawks went on to beat the Taipans for the second time, which was significant given the level of play the Taipans played at for the rest of the season. One of the perks that came with the signing of Ball was the amount of attention that the young star garnered wherever he played. Come November 17, the Hawks travelled to Qudos Bank Arena to face the top-seeded Kings in front of an NBL record-breaking crowd of 17,514 people. Going down by just five points in what was considered a very competitive contest for the Hawks, and a day that those who played in that game should remember for the rest of their lives.

While a major highlight for Hawks players would be playing in that record-breaking game for attendance, they would also manage to topple the minor-premier, Sydney Kings the next time out on their home floor in Wollongong, edging out the purple and gold 85-80 later in Round 13.

The rest of the season was rather challenging for Illawarra, as throughout the season, the Hawks’ record was consistently littered with lengthy losing streaks including an eight-game streak to finish their season, spanning January 1 to February 14, concluding their season with a record of five wins and 23 losses. The Hawks had four less wins than the next highest team, South-East Melbourne Phoenix, and unfortunately it was five less wins compared to last season.

Despite their rather unsuccessful season finishing at the bottom of the table, Illawarra Hawks owners Simon and Wendy Stratford said in a media release that they were proud of the club as a whole and were looking forward to a promising future.

“Although it was a tough season on the court, we have made huge strides building the club and the Illawarra Hawks brand, to be a strong force in the NBL,” they said.

The pair would go on to praise Illawarra’s young secondary unit at their disposal following the various injuries the Hawks would have to deal with. Players praised included Angus Glover, Sam Froling and Sunday Dech.

The up and comers

Angus Glover

One of Illawarra’s stand out rookies, Angus Glover proved his worth late in the season following the exit of fellow teammate Ball. Glover’s minutes at the start of the season increased significantly as a result of Ball’s exit from the league, going from below ten minutes a game to averaging over twenty in the second half of the season. Glover’s season stat line would provide him with 5.2 points per game, as well as 2.3 rebounds with 1.2 assists. He also maintained a 44 per cent field goal efficiency throughout the season, which would in turn earn the 21-year-old an Australian Boomers selection for the 2021 Asia Cup qualifiers alongside fellow Hawks teammates Daniel Grida, Sam Froling, Blanchfield and Dech.

Sam Froling

When 20-year-old Sam Froling came into the NBL at the start of this season, many did not expect his progression to happen so quickly, and as a result the youngster is gearing up for a potentially special second season in the NBL. Like Glover, minutes came in small amounts leading into the new season. However, more and more responsibility was placed on the rookie, culminating in a single game where Froling played 23 minutes against an in-form Taipans unit, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds catching the eye of international recruiters in the process. Froling finished his season averaging six points and almost three and a half rebounds per game, whilst maintaining a 46 per cent clip from the field in a successful first year of professional basketball.

Sunday Dech

Illawarra rounded out their young core group of players when they signed 26-year-old Dech, who coupled up with fellow swingman Blanchfield to help facilitate the Hawks offence. Excluding Brooks and Ball, Dech became Illawarra’s second leading scorer on the roster averaging over nine points a game, while averaging 23 minutes of play per game developing into one of the league’s most improved players.

Coach Flinn’s remarks

“Whilst the record is not good, success is measured in different ways,” Flinn said post-game against the Kings in the final round of the NBL 20 season. “Obviously we’re not happy with where we’re at in terms of where we finished on the ladder, but we are quite happy with the forward progress we’re making and the trajectory of the club.”

It is safe to say that Illawarra was easily the worst performing team throughout this season, however it brings up many questions in relation to next season. It has been a number of years since so many players from the same club have been selected to the Australian Boomers squad, and with these selected Hawks’ players still currently being of a younger age, you might just need to pay attention to how Illawarra’s squad is going to shake up for 2021, and whether they might be touted as playoff contenders.

Perth Wildcats announced as 2019/20 NBL Champions

PERTH Wildcats have won their fourth title in five years and their fifth in seven years after being judged the winner of the 2019/20 National Basketball League (NBL) title amidst unforeseen circumstances. With the threat of COVID-19 a big factor in the eventual decision – which saw Sydney Kings withdraw from the finals series on Tuesday, Perth Wildcats were announced the winners after holding a 2-1 lead over the Kings following the first three games.

With Game 4 and Game 5 cancelled, the League investigated the ruling behind what to do in this scenario, and it was clear that the Wildcats deserved the trophy. Following on from the announcement of the title winners, the Larry Senstock Medallist – the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Grand Final Series – went to Wildcats’ star Bryce Cotton winning his second Grand Final MVP after his 2016/17 award.

“We have taken extensive advice on this matter from the NBL Board of Directors, members of our Advisory Board, FIBA and our external legal advisers K&L Gates and I thank all of them for the benefit of their insight and perspective,” NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said. “Having considered all of that advice, we have concluded that there is only one outcome that is most appropriate in the circumstances of the League having made the decision to cancel games 4 and 5 of the Finals Series.

“We feel that the rules set out in the NBL Operations Manual are clear in this regard. “In this instance, Games 4 and 5 were cancelled by the League due to unforeseen circumstances pursuant to Rule 34 of the NBL Operations Manual. “I’d like to offer my congratulations to both our Champions, the Perth Wildcats, and our runners up the Sydney Kings and our Finals MVP Bryce Cotton.”

Perth sealed the championship with a 2-1 lead after defeating Sydney 111-96 at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday, following Sydney’s series-leveller two days earlier of in Perth. It was Cotton who stole the show throughout the series, putting up 90 points (at an average of 30 per game), as well as 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and one steal per game.

It was Perth’s 10th title in NBL history, while it was Sydney’s third straight runner-up attempt following a three-peat from 2002/03 to 2004/05. The Wildcats move a remarkable 10 titles clear of their nearest rivals, the Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne Tigers (four each).

2019/20 NBL title decision: Who should win?

THE National Basketball League (NBL) championship is yet to be decided with the Grand Final Series being abandoned with two games to spare given the coronavirus outbreak. With player welfare at the forefront of the mind, the Sydney Kings decided to call it quits on the remainder of the series and despite the Perth Wildcats leading 2-1 over minor premiers Sydney, the result is yet to be determined. Arguments can be made for both sides in regards to which team should walk away with the title given their impressive seasons. We take a look at the options.

Sydney Kings:

There is no denying that the Kings were the front runners throughout the season, kick-starting their campaign with a seven game winning streak and only dropping a mere eight games for the whole season. They seemed to have all the answers time and time again, with their home court Qudos Bank Arena becoming a real fortress winning a staggering 12 out of 14 games there. Led by big man Andrew Bogut with an average of 8.80 rebounds per game the Kings proved to be too strong with teammate Xavier Cooks also chiming in off the boards to record an average of 9.07 rebounds a game. When it came to scoring, Casper Ware was the go to man, able to hit the scoreboard with ease whether it be from within the paint or beyond the arc with an average of 19.68 points while Jae’Sean Tate also came into his own throughout the season.

Despite their impressive form throughout the home and away season, the Kings looked a bit worse for wear in snippets during the finals, getting smashed by Melbourne United in what was a history making performance by United. While the Kings recovered, ultimately downing their interstate rivals and moving through to the Grand Final Series they have not been able to recapture their signature pressure and winning ways. Ware lost his scoring mojo unable to have his usual influence and while the likes of Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have stepped up it has not been enough to generate a match winning total.

Perth Wildcats:

Up 2-1 in the Grand Final Series it is almost impossible to rip the trophy away from the reigning premiers who are looking for back-to-back NBL titles. The Wildcats have been red-hot premiership contenders throughout the season pushing teams to their limits and notching up key wins against fellow top four sides. The Wildcats have a wealth of key players but none bigger than powerhouse Bryce Cotton. After playing 27 games throughout the 2019/20 season Cotton was second in the league for points per game with a whopping 22.48 something that he well and truly brought into his finals campaign with the dynamo constantly lighting up the scoreboard. While Terrico White had a quiet year in comparison to his previous ones, the likes of Nick Kay stood up to shoulder the load while recruit Miles Plumlee showed his worth off the backboard.

Renowned for their ability to win at home, sitting at an 11-3 win-loss record Perth often used the crowd at RAC Arena to create an intense atmosphere many opposition sides were fearful of. Although they had not won a final at the venue so far in the Grand Final Series, a home court advantage in Game 4 could have been enough to give them that winning edge and claim premiership glory for consecutive seasons. They have shown that they can it match with the best travelling to Sydney on two occasions and taking down their opponents by three and 15 points respectively in Game 1 and 3.

Perth takes 2-1 lead in Grand Final Series

PERTH Wildcats proved too strong in Game 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series running out convincing 15 point winners  over Sydney Kings. The Wildcats edged one game closer to back-to-back championships with 111-96 victory. It was the first time since 1999 that the first three games in a grand final series were won by the visiting team.

As both sides channelled their inner basketball gym memories thanks to the empty seats due to the coronavirus, it was Perth that edged ahead to begin the game. Following the explosive start from Miles Plumlee, earning himself six points, two assists and a couple of blocks within the opening five minutes, the Wildcats finished the quarter holding the Kings to a mere 18 points as they produced 29 of their own, setting the tone early at Qudos Bank Arena.

The second quarter featured a couple of standout performers for the Kings, as three second quarter three-pointers from Brad Newley kept the home side within striking distance, while Jae’Sean Tate made his mark around the rim. Despite these factors, Sydney’s mission to cut the deficit was becoming futile given they had only outscored the Wildcats by one point in the second period, trailing by 10 at the main break.

However, it was in the opening half of the third quarter that Sydney finally made headway, tying up the game off the back of a pull-up three from Kevin Lisch. Nevertheless, that would be as close as Sydney would get to stealing Game 3 from the defending champions thanks to two big three pointers from Nick Kay, who ultimately set himself up for a night to remember. Stretching their lead back out to 14 with ten minutes remaining in the contest, all Trevor Gleeson’s men had to do was conduct their regular brand of basketball to the end, and following an alley-oop jam for Plumlee four seconds into the fourth quarter, it was safe to say Perth would conduct business as usual.

Good shooting from the starters to the bench for the Wildcats would see out a competitive Game 3 winning the contest 111-96, therefore setting up a bid to win the series back in Perth for Game 4. But, given the fact that the home team in all three games thus far has not won yet, it could mean a potential Game 5 if the Kings can pick themselves up. While four out of Sydney’s starting five amassed double-digit numbers, Will Weaver’s men still could not get the job done. Nevertheless, noticeable performances by Tate (20 points and six rebounds) and Newley (19 points and five rebounds) rounded out the Kings’ stat lines. Lisch also made substantial contributions with 16 points, while Casper Ware again struggled from the field with 11 points, going 5-20 (25 per cent) from the field.

For the Wildcats, it was a two man show once again as their NBL First Team stars were the main culprits. Bryce Cotton who shot close to fifty per cent, finished with 31 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in what was an all-around performance from the MVP.

On the other hand, it was a career-high night for Kay, collecting 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as he dominated from start to finish from deep. Alongside his numbers, Kay managed seven threes in a dominant performance offensively further solidifying his spot amongst the NBL’s elite. It is the second time in NBL history (first time since 1986) that two teammates have amounted 30 points each in a Grand Final series game (Cotton, 31 and Kay, 30). Good performances from Plumlee (13 points and seven rebounds) and Terrico White (10 points and four assists) aided the away side, while Clint Steindl made his shots count as he summed up his night with 13 points, going three of four from deep.

With Game 4 scheduled for Friday at RAC Arena, Perth has the chance to retain their championship on their home floor, but whether this kicks the Kings into gear and force a deciding Game 5, we will have to find out later this week.

2019/20 NBL Grand Final Game 3 preview: Sydney Kings vs. Perth Wildcats

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series tied at one game apiece, Sydney Kings return home to Qudos Bank Arena to take on Perth Wildcats. The former hopes to take control of the home court advantage unlike in the first game, and put themselves in a good position to take out the 2019/20 title – their first since 2007/08 – and stop the Wildcats making it back-to-back titles and their fourth in five years.

Sydney Kings bounced back from a two-point loss here at Qudos Bank Arena, to comfortably account for the Wildcats at RAC Area, 97-83. Andrew Bogut was the star with 19 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in Friday night’s game, making his average for the series 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists to be the leading Grand Final Most Valuable Player (MVP) candidate if the minor premiers get up.

If the Wildcats win overall, it seems fairly straightforward that 2019/20 MVP Bryce Cotton will take out the medal, having no fear here in Sydney after a phenomenal effort of 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal in Game 1. Returning home, Cotton was almost as strong, picking up 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal for an average of 29.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and one steal across the two games

Other players for the Kings who have been impressive thus far are Kevin Lisch (18.5 points) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists), while Nick Kay (15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists) has been the sole Wildcat really helping Cotton on the scoring front. Miles Plumlee (8.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) has been strong off the boards but ultimately overwhelmed by Bogut.

In terms of players that need to lift, it is hard to look past Casper Ware and Terrico White for their respective sides. Ware has averaged just 6.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists, shooting at a woeful 16.7 per cent from the field. For Perth, White has just not been able to get his mojo going, averaging 6.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and also holding a lowly 27.8 per cent shooting efficiency.

Looking at overall team statistics, both sides have managed a remarkable 58 defensive rebounds across the two games, though the Kings are much better at second chance points with 26 offensive rebounds compared to the Wildcats’ 12. The turnovers are fairly even with Sydney having two more than Perth (27-25). The Wildcats’ clear strength is their ability to win the ball back and deny the opposition with 16 steals to seven, and nine blocks to three. The Wildcats have also committed more fouls in trying to do so however, recording 40-33 in this series.

Heading into Game 3, the Kings will be favourites to make it back-to-back wins and bounce back from the initial Game 1 loss last week. If Sydney can win, then it puts title favouritism fairly and squarely in the Kings’ court with a guaranteed third home game on offer even if they lose in Perth. For the Wildcats, a win would be instrumental to Perth’s back-to-back chances, because it means the Wildcats have a home game coming up, whereas a loss means they are on the ropes not only having to win at home, but take out the title in a challenging Game 5 here in Sydney.

Cotton’s 32 stuns Kings, Perth leads GF series 1-0

CLOSE to 12,000 people made their way to Qudos Bank Arena to see the two top teams – Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats – throughout the regular season, battle it out in Game One of this season’s NBL Finals Series.

It was the Kings that struck first as there would open up the first quarter 7-2, but thanks to the work of their leaders in Nick Kay and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton, the Wildcats would only trail by a single basket following 10 minutes of play and an entertaining start to the series.

Good shooting by Sydney’s secondary unit was responsible for their good start in the second period as Daniel Kickert, Didi Louzada and Xavier Cooks were culprits in doing this. But offensively, Perth started to find their stride. Finding their way to the basket across the team, the Wildcats were able to edge themselves in front by a point, off the back of a Kaye layup heading into the break.

The home side composed themselves early on in the second half, stringing together a succession of field goals, including a crown raising one-handed jam by Louzada to put the Kings up by 10 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, a massive three-pointer by Terrico White, would cut the Kings’ lead from eight to five with only a couple of seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a little sniff of hope with the final quarter to come.

With both sides trading buckets, the task of getting his side out from under an efficient shooting Sydney Kings outfit, once again fell to their man. Cotton, who was relatively quiet, turned up the heat significantly, alongside new import big-man Miles Plumlee, as they grinded their way back to a late-game lead. To further add insult to injury, Damian Martin, who had yet to make a single field-goal throughout the entire game, gave his side the lead after knocking down a wing triple.

Despite White’s two missed free throws with 11 seconds remaining, missed three-point attempts to win the game by Shaun Bruce and Casper Ware would give the Wildcats the series lead and shift the focus over to Perth for next Friday.

For the Wildcats, a 32-point, six-rebound and four-assist night is becoming pretty standard for Cotton, as he took out Man of the Match honours by a mile, whereas Kay was the next man up with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Plumlee provided substantial numbers too, finishing his night with 10 points and seven rebounds.

While Andrew Bogut made his mark through his four quarters of play (18 points, 12 rebounds), it was Ware that was rather unproductive. Shooting 1-14 and going 0-10 from behind the arc, Ware would finish with five points and four assists, encapsulating one of his worst performances of the season. Nevertheless, three other players would finish in double-digits such as Kevin Lisch (17 points), Jae’Sean Tate (11 points) and Bruce (11 points).

With the Kings set to head to Perth in the coming week, Will Weaver and his staff have some serious tactical meetings ahead as one more loss would put them on the brink of a very anti-climactic end to a somewhat successful season.