Two names synonymous with the Melbourne Tigers are heading north to take over the coaching of the Sydney Kings. One, part of a family rich in Tigers history and the other, a star player with his name and singlet hanging in the rafters.
Wednesday 21st October
Townsville Crocodiles @ Melbourne United (7:30pm)
Pretty straight forward this one, United have far too many offensive weapons to hurt the Crocodiles, while the Crocs themselves only have one definitive threat (Brian Conklin).
One positive for the Crocs is the potential turning point for Jordair Jett. In their first game of round two, he finished with 22pts, 6rbds and 6asts against the Sydney Kings to lead the Crocs to an upset win. He also led the team in those three statistical categories for the game. In their second game of the round against the Cairns Taipans he played a very good defensive game, coming up with three steals. If he can begin to play more consistently and give the Crocs a solid second option then they will be more dangerous to come up against.
It was Daniel Kickerts turn on offense for Melbourne United as they took on the Adelaide 36ers, he finished the game with 22pts by shooting 6/9 from beyond the arc.
Too many threats around the perimeter and too athletic inside, easy win for United.
Sydney Kings @ New Zealand Breakers (5:30pm)
Corey Webster is on his way back to the NZ Breakers and he can’t return soon enough, They need help offensively and he’s just the man to provide it. Opposition teams have been able to knuckle down on Cedric Jackson and restrict his scoring ability. Against the Hawks in round two for example, he shot 0/7 from the field and finished with 1pt for the game. The Hawks won by 21pts.
The Kings never got in a consistent rhythm against the Crocs during their round two game and suffered an upset loss. Cadee and Khazzouh were defended well and Marcus Thornton still loves putting up his shot attempts with very few actually making it through the basket (2/11fg against the Crocs). This was a team that badly missed Josh Childress, not the team that defeated the Taipans without him.
With Webster back in the rotation, the Breakers get this against a Kings team with Childress a chance to still be on the sidelines.
Thursday 22nd October
Cairns Taipans @ Adelaide 36ers (7:30pm)
The Taipans have come out of the gates slowly to start this new NBL season and if it wasn’t for some Cam Gliddon heroics in the final quarter they may not have beaten the Townsville Crocs in round two. Markel Starks and Torrey Craig aren’t setting the world on fire with their play and Mark Worthington is having a disappointing start to his time in orange.
The 36ers on the other hand will have a new import running around the floor and he could prove to be the perfect foil for Adam Gibson. Kenyon McNeail has been released by the 36ers and it’s reported that Jerome Randle will be taking his place. Gibson held Stephen Holt to 11pts and 7asts in round two, while helping himself to 17pts, 7rbds, 3asts and 2stls on 6/9 shooting. If he can do that to the in form Holt then Markel Starks doesn’t stand a chance.
36ers to take this one in front of the home crowd on the back of Daniel Johnson, Adam Gibson and if he plays, new import Jerome Randle.
Friday 23rd October
Townsville Crocodiles @ Perth Wildcats (9:30pm)
The Crocs put in a couple of surprising performances during round two but surely they couldn’t get over Perth, in Perth, after playing a game in Melbourne two nights earlier. The Crocs will need a big game from Luke Schenscher if they are to have a chance here. If “Big-Red” can have a big defensive game (blocks and rebounds) against the duo of Matt Knight and Nate Jawai, then the Crocs will have shut down a big part of the Wildcats game plan.
Having said that, stopping Matt Knight (14pts, 12rbds against NZ) and Nate Jawai is no easy feat. Jermaine Beal could also prove too fleet footed for Jordair Jett and he has been in great form for the Wildcats (19pts, 6asts against NZ).
Wildcats to get the win at home and with the fresher legs.
Adelaide 36ers @ Sydney Kings (7:30pm)
Both teams will have already played this round and the Kings have once again showed that they will be a difficult team to tip for and against. This is a tip for the Kings because it is at home and Daniel Johnson is not good enough defensively to stop Julian Khazzouh.
That’s if Khazzouh gets the ball and isn’t battling against Johnson, Hodgson and Petrie for the rebounds off Marcus Thornton’s poor shot choices.
Saturday 24th October
Cairns Taipans @ Melbourne United (7:30pm)
How can you go against Melbourne at the moment? They are playing great basketball and the atmosphere/energy from the crowd has been amazing to start off their season.
United want to get the ball out and run on every possession while the Taipans like to get their half court sets and really dig in against an opponent. United will prove too athletic and has too many weapons on offense for the Taipans to be able to “dig in” for the whole 40 minutes and that means the Melbourne side will get their second win of the round.
Sunday 25th October
Perth Wildcats @ Illawarra Hawks (3:00pm)
The Hawks only have one game this round while the Wildcats will have already played on Friday at home. The Hawks dismantled both Sydney and NZ last round with Kirk Penney finding his range in a big way.
Tipping in games involving the Hawks is becoming like tipping in games involving United, with the offensive weapons they possess and their current form you wouldn’t be tipping against them.
For the Wildcats to have a chance to win, they will need to get AJ Ogilvy in foul trouble early on so that the Hawks will have very little in the way of defense against the likes of Knight, Jawai and Jervis. Even then, Penney, Tim Coenraad and Oscar Forman will provide a fair handful to contain.
The 2015 version of the National Basketball League Blitz, hold in Townsville, has now been completed. So what has been learnt about the eight teams taking part in the upcoming NBL season?
The 36ers like to play fast, no real surprise given that it’s a Joey Wright coached team but they’ve gotten even more athletic. Lucas Walker has come over from Melbourne United and Nathan Sobey has been someone to watch as soon as he steps on the court. The two biggest things to come out of the Blitz for the 36ers though are Nathan Sobey and Matt Hodgson, both bench players.
In Game 1 (remember each team played three games) Hodgson came off the bench to finish with 8pts and 8rbds on 4/8 shooting, Sobey came off the bench for 2pts, 3rbds, 1ast and 3blks on 1/6 shooting.
In Game 2, again both players came off the bench. Hodgson finished with 7pts and 5rbds on 3/3 shooting while Sobey chipped in 10pts, 5rbds, 1stl and 1blk on 4/9 shooting.
In the 36ers final game of the Blitz Hodgson started in place of Daniel Johnson who was rested, in 11 minutes he finished with 2pts and 2rbds. Sobey continued to come off the bench and finished with 15pts, 5rbds and 3asts on 6/12 shooting.
Sobey is surprisingly athletic, he seems to come out of nowhere to get his blocks and he hassles his player with on-ball defense. Hodgson is a very serviceable big man and if he can chip in 5-10 rebounds per night off the bench while Daniel Johnson is getting a spell, then the 36ers will be getting more than they asked for with him.
A little piece of “what did we learn” to finish off, it’s something that is said every year and every year injury ruins his season BUT Mitch Creek looks like he’s ready to take his game to the next level. Here’s hoping he can do that without yet another injury coming in and ruining his progress.
The roster stability is certainly a good thing with the Taipans and throughout the Blitz we saw once again how each player buys into the team first mentality up there.
The only real thing you could say you learnt about the Taipans over the past week is that they will continue where they left off last season and will once again push for the Championship.
Their depth is unbelievable, Mark Worthington, Cameron Tragardh and Torrey Craig all coming off the bench is something that most teams would absolutely kill for! They also remain as good as last season defensively, with Game 3 against the New Zealand Breakers (where NZ scored 100pts) being the only game where the opposing team got out of the 60’s.
The big three – AJ Ogilvy, Kevin Lisch and Kirk Penney – didn’t get the chance to play together during the Blitz. Lisch didn’t play at all and Penney only played 17 minutes during Game 3. Ogilvy was the only one to play all three games and in two of those three he finished with five fouls, something that the Hawks will have to monitor during the regular season.
One big thing we learnt is that Tim Coenraad has stepped his game up another notch; throughout the Blitz he averaged 16ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.3apg and 1spg. It would be expected that he’ll move to the bench once Kevin Lisch and Kirk Penney hit their stride but if he can hold his form over to the regular season then the Hawks have another good weapon off their bench.
United have a whole lot of offensive weapons on their team, not so many defensive.
Stephen Holt, Chris Goulding, Todd Blanchfield, Daniel Kickert and Hakim Warrick are all capable of scoring 25+ points on any given night and the first four mentioned there are also capable of hitting multiple three’s on any given night. The question will be, who will sacrifice their own shots for the betterment of the team? United have, in a way, recruited their way into exactly the same type of roster as last season; they’ve brought in the big guns but will the big guns be able to fire at the same time or will they start shooting at each other – team chemistry, it’s a big thing.
We learnt that they still haven’t addressed their defensive issues from last season; rebounding and rim protection. Daniel Kickert still acts like he is allergic to rebounds. He had eight rebounds for the entire tournament! Chris Patton, who played 35 minutes total for the tournament off the bench for United, finished with seven rebounds, one less than Kickert who played approximately 75 minutes in the tournament. Thank god for Majok Majok who brought down a remarkable 21 rebounds in Game 3 against the Kings. If he keeps rebounding like that (plus two blocked shots) he could find himself getting more and more game time.
Hakim Warrick played sparingly in Game’s 1 & 2, not at all in Game 3, and provided a few highlight dunks and will definitely be worth watching; if for some reason you weren’t going to before.
New Zealand Breakers:
Cedric Jackson is still as good as ever and will kick into top gear once the regular season begins, while Mika Vukona will continue being Mika Vukona and push the boundaries between amazing physical play and foul trouble.
Tai Wesley, Tai Wynyard and Reuben Te Rangi are the three to watch for the Breakers. All three showed glimpses throughout the three games that the young players coming through the NZ system are bringing the goods. In Game 1 it was Te Rangi with his shooting and rebounding, Game 2 against Perth it was all three lighting it up and in the final game it was Wynyard.
Charles Jackson had a great Game 3, 19pts, 16rbds and 2blks but aside from that he was underwhelming. Here’s hoping he picks it up come the regular season.
Perth has close to the, if not the, best inside presence in the league this season with Matt Knight, Tom Jervis and returning Australian big man Nathan Jawai. In Game 1 the three of them pulled in 20 rebounds, Game 2 the total was 17 and in Game 3 they brought in 12.
Jawai is going to be a great addition to this team, his combination of power, finesse and passing ability down low gives Perth yet another wrinkle on offense. In about 20mpg, Jawai finished with 13pts and 3rbds in Game 1, 9pts, 3rbds and 1ast in Game 2 and 8pts, 5rbds and 6asts in Game 3.
Unfortunately, they also have one major flaw which was seen throughout the Blitz; outside shooting.
Jermaine Beal is still their main offensive weapon when it comes to outside shooting. Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Casey Prather can all hit from long range but are extremely inconsistent and are more suited to the mid range. Wagstaff is best used as a trailer, a player who follows behind the ball carrier for the spot up three at the top of the key, he isn’t consistent enough to be used as a dedicated spot up shooter though.
They also seemed to be lacking a bit of intensity on defense and overall direction without Damian Martin on the court, they didn’t overly struggle but it certainly looked like a spark was missing.
There were three good things and one bad thing for the Kings during the Blitz, well two if count Josh Childress not being able to suit up.
The bad thing first, Marcus Thornton is here to get his and nothing more. He is extremely shot happy from beyond the arc and looks like a sieve on defense. In Game 1 he shot 9/19 (4/12 from deep), 3/7 (2/6 from three) in Game 2 and in the final game against Melbourne United he shot 7/21 (1/9 from deep). So first thing is to cut back on the three point attempts and get to the basket and the second thing is to keep the team involved. That was what made Childress so refreshing last season, he didn’t come in like most imports and try to dominate possession, he kept the team involved and was too unselfish at times.
Now onto the good; Jeromie Hill looks like a very serviceable shooting big to come in off the bench. It’s probable that he’ll get 10-15mpg during the regular season and if he can come in and grab five rebounds a game and/or get 5-10pts then he’ll be doing good.
Jason Cadee once again showed that he needs more time on the court in the regular season. In Game 1 he finished with 14pts, 2rbds, 3asts and 1stl while shooting 4/6 from deep and in Game 2 he had 30pts, 5rbds, 3asts, 1stl and 1blk while shooting 10/14 rom the field including 4/8 from three. He didn’t play in the final game against Melbourne but it’s good to see him carry his strong NZNBL form over.
Julian Khazzouh has come back and is straight to dominating the inside. Looking at just his rebound and block numbers, Game 1 (9mins) he had 2rbds and 2blks, Game 2 (30mins) he had 14rbds and 1blk and in the final game he had 13rbds and 1blk. The Kings have missed an inside presence like him and he will be relied on heavily at both ends of the floor, most likely second only to Childress.
Getting all their players on the court will be the main thing for the Crocs; Luke Schenscher, Mitch Young, Jordair Jett, Mirko Djeric, Brian Conklin and Mitch Norton were all unable to play every game of the Blitz.
Depth is a clear issue for them as well, they seem to only go seven or eight deep while other teams entire roster could get up and play when required. This also raises the issue of where is the scoring going to come from outside of Conklin, Schenscher and Steindl? Corey Maynard showed enough to show he could have a very solid season with the Crocs, Mitch Young also played with plenty of energy off the bench but Jordair Jett looked disinterested, Mitch Norton did very little and Leon Henry is yet to be convincing in a game either.
One thing the Crocs have got is a good thing in Nick Kay. He finished with 18pts, 10rbds and 1ast in Game 1, 5pts, 4rbds and 2asts in Game 2 and i nthe final game had 14pts and 4rbds. He showed more than enough to indicate he will be a very good back up centre to Schenscher.
If the National Basketball League had an equivalent to the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, it would be the Sydney Kings. Showtime has come to the NBL!
Josh Childress returns to the Sydney Kings for a second season, or a first season when you think about how much he was injured during the one just gone. Joining him is 2015 NBA Draft pick Marcus Thornton, drafted by the Celtics and stashed in Australia to work on his game for a season.
Defense, rebounding and injuries have been the major concerns for the Kings since they’ve come back into the NBL. Last season they had Childress, Ben Madgen and Angus Brandt all missing significant portions of the season due to injury. Their rebounding was worst in the league even though they had the league leading rebounder on their team (Childress). Their defense last season had issues in transition and also with staying in front of players on the perimeter.
The Sydney Kings roster for the 2015/16 NBL season is made up of (expected starting five named first):
C: Julian Khazzouh, Angus Brandt
PF: Tom Garlepp, Jeromie Hill
SF: Josh Childress, Dion Prewster
SG: Marcus Thornton, Rhys Carter
PG: Steven Markovic, Jason Cadee
Julian Khazzouh returns to the NBL and to Sydney where he has played his whole NBL career, either with the Kings or with the West Sydney Razorbacks or Sydney Spirit. He last played for the Kings, and in the NBL, during 2012. Since then he has been playing in Poland and Lebanon.
Khazzouh is one of the best big men to play in the NBL and the Kings signing him instantly fixes up their rebounding issues. During his last stint in the NBL he finished with 13 double-doubles (points and rebounds) including a huge 20pt, 21rbd game against the Adelaide 36ers and he also managed 54 blocks for the season (average of 2.1 per game).
Angus Brandt will move to the bench and backup Khazzouh this season. The reigning NBL Rookie of the Year will look to build on a fairly consistent last season, his first in the NBL. His best game of the season came right towards the end against Melbourne United, he finished with 16pts, 7rbds and 2blks while shooting 7/11 from the field. For the season he averaged 7.4ppg, 4rpg and shot 49.6% from the field.
Tom Garlepp had a great season for the Kings in the one just gone, he was one of the most consistent players for the team. He averaged 13.6ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.3apg and shot 47.2% from the field and 47.4% from the three point line. His best game of the season came against the New Zealand Breakers where he had a statline of 24pts, 7rbds, 2asts and 2blks on 8/11 shooting from the field with 8/8 from the free throw line.
His rebounding numbers dropped a little from the previous season but every other statistical category in the season, he improved and in fact, had career highs.
Jeromie Hill will back him up and he is a player that is a decent shooter from range. He isn’t particularly athletic but it’s his shooting that will be of most use to the Kings when it comes to stretching the floor. Probably won’t see too many minutes this season with Khazzouh, Brandt and Garlepp rotating through the big men spots with Josh Childress.
Josh Childress. People originally thought that Childress will be coming to the NBL for a bit of a vacation, how wrong they were. He came, he played, he conquered. His best game of the season came against the Adelaide 36ers where he finished with 36pts, 19rbds, 7asts and 5blks.
On the season he averaged 21.1ppg, 9.2rpg, 4.2apg and 2bpg while shooting 51.1% from the field. His 9.2rpg was enough to have him leading the league in that statistical category. He also only played 18 games and was still in the discussions for the NBL MVP award. He also acted as a great team player and was extremely visible in the media and community, much more than most imports who come to the league.
Dion Prewster will serve as backup SF and it will be interesting to see how many minutes he gets coming in behind a player like Childress. He has played for the New Zealand national team as recently as August, against the Boomers in the Olympic Qualifiers. When he does get on the court, he’ll be expected to come in and lock down a player defensively. He’s a real physical player who will bring plenty of toughness to the team and battle for every possession.
Marcus Thornton, the 45th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft (Boston Celtics), joins Josh Childress to bring showtime to Sydney. During his college career with William & Mary, Thornton averaged 17.1ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.4apg and shot the ball at 43% from the field, 40.2% from deep and 78.9% from the free throw line. He will take the bulk of the points the Kings will miss from losing Ben Madgen and make them his own.
Thornton finished his college career as the all-time leading scorer at William & Mary (2,178pts), three pointers (256), three pointers made per game (2.56) and games played (127).
He’s an absolute jet on the court and with him and Childress on the court at the same time, watch out if they get going on a fast break!
NBL journeyman Rhys Carter has signed with the Kings for this season and will come off the bench at the shooting guard spot. A player who has his own bit of flair in his game, can pull off an amazing pass or get extremely hot from downtown. The Sydney Kings become his seventh NBL team after he played with the New Zealand Breakers last season. He is similar to Rhys Martin of Illawarra in that his career statistics really don’t show how good a player he is – 6.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.9apg, 1spg, 34.7% from the field and 28% from three point land.
Steven Markovic makes the move south from Townsville to Sydney and with the team around him (Khazzouh, Childress, Thornton) he should go close to averaging 10 assists per game. Rhys Martin was mentioned earlier, it will be interesting to see who gets more assists; Martin (surrounded by Ogilvy, Penney and Lisch) or Markovic. Last season Markovic averaged 9.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 4.3apg and shot the ball at 41.4% from the field.
In this team he will serve primarily as a facilitator and will really only shoot if he has an open shot, otherwise he will be the set up man for the big three of the Kings.
Jason Cadee is his back up and he always seems to be stuck behind a very solid point guard, somewhat limiting his ability to show what he really has. For example, in a game against Melbourne United when he got the chance to play 36 minutes, he finished with a statline of 21pts, 5rbds and 6asts on 50% shooting for the game. He’s also been lighting it up this NBL off-season in the NZNBL and showing just how potent a scorer he is. Aside from his great scoring ability, he has great court awareness and vision which gives him the ability to pull off some great assist passes.
The Kings have lacked depth for a number of seasons and this season, it is safe to say they have addressed that. Brandt, Cadee, Prewster and Carter are all very solid bench players/borderline starters and if someone goes down, they’ll be able to fill the void easily.
The addition of Khazzouh is massive in terms of their inside presence and rebounding, both of which were poor last season even with Childress leading the league in rebounding and averaging a couple of blocks a game. The signing of NBA Draft Pick Marcus Thornton also fills the rather big scoring hole left by Ben Madgen heading overseas.
The Kings have assembled an extremely dangerous team and as mentioned earlier, showtime has come to the NBL! Sydney fans would be absolutely stupid if they didn’t turn out in massive numbers to watch these guys play!
We’re a week out from the start of the 2015 version of the National Basketball League preseason tournament, the NBL Blitz. As Townsville Crocodiles player Mitchell Young recently described it in a Q&A with TBL Daily, “It’s a basketball junkies dream!”
And indeed it is:
Wednesday 23rd September
Cairns Taipans v Perth Wildcats
Townsville Crocodiles v New Zealand Breakers
Thursday 24th September
Melbourne United v Illawarra Hawks
Adelaide 36ers v Sydney Kings
Friday 25th September
New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats
Townsville Crocodiles v Cairns Taipans
Saturday 26th September
Illawarra Hawks v Sydney Kings
Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers
Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers
Perth Wildcats v Townsville Crocodiles
PLUS 3pt shooting contest & dunk contest
Sunday 27th September
Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Adelaide 36ers v Illawarra Hawks
Twelve games over five days with each team expected to be at full strength, it promises to be a great showing of NBL basketball!
Here’s the rosters for each of the teams taking part:
Adam Gibson, Matthew Hodgson, Brendan Teys, Kenyon McNeail, Lucas Walker, Anthony Petrie, Nathan Sobey, Daniel Johnson, Ebi Ere, Mitch Creek, Daniel Carlin
Torrey Craig, Cameron Gliddon, Markel Starks, Damon Heuir, Shaun Bruce, Cameron Tragardh, Stephen Weigh, Matt Burston, Mark Worthington, Alex Loughton
Tyson Demos, Kevin White, Andrew Ogilvy, Oscar Forman, Luke Jamieson, Larry Davidson, Kevin Lisch, Rhys Martin, Tim Coenraad, Kirk Penney, Cody Ellis
Chris Patton, Nate Tomlinson, Todd Blanchfield, Daniel Kickert, David Barlow, Majok Majok, Chris Goulding, Ekene Ibekwe, Stephen Holt, Igor Hadziomerovic
New Zealand Breakers
Cedric Jackson, Shea Ili, Reuben Te Rangi, Corey Webster (inactive), Thomas Abercrombie, Duane Bailey, Shane McDonald, Mika Vukona, Tai Wynyard, Jordan Ngatai, Charles Jackson, Alex Pledger, Tai Wesley, Finn Delany
Jermaine Beal, Greg Hire, Jarrod Kenny, Matthew Knight, Nathan Jawai, Tom Jervis, Casey Prather, Jesse Wagstaff, Shawn Redhage, Damian Martin, Corban Wroe
Marcus Thornton, Jason Cadee, Julian Khazzouh, Josh Childress, Dion Prewster, Steven Markovic, Angus Brandt, Tom Garlepp, Rhys Carter, Jeromie Hill
Corey Maynard, Jordair Jett, Mitchell Young, Nicholas Kay, Luke Schenscher, Mitch Norton, Brian Conklin, Leon Henry, Mirko Djeric, Clint Steindl