It has been a week since we got knocked out of the playoffs, so a popular question I have been answering is, "What do you do now?".
Last night I filled in my time by reacquainting myself with the sport of indoor cricket. As a child cricket was my number one sport so anytime I get to have a crack, I take up the opportunity. The grade in which the 4TO Trailblazers participate is not going to rival the new IPL in India, but it was a whole lot of fun to join seven other punters and throw the willow around. For anyone who cares, yes we won.
The rest of my week has been filled with surfing the net and checking out the NBL playoffs.
I guess my attention has switched a little more to the NBA and NCAA's right now as I do not really care who takes out the NBL championship. If I cannot win it, I'm not too fussed about the end result.
The NBA becomes interesting now because there have been several trades made that will have an impact on the playoff race. Plus there are about thirty regular season games left so teams start making a push towards the playoffs.
As for the NCAA's, it is only weeks now until March Madness and the tourney begins. This is always a great spectacle and a whole lot of close games, so it is worth a look if you have ESPN. Watch out for the Gonzaga Bulldogs at tourney time!
In my spare time I have also been checking out what follow bloggers have to offer. Rod Benson who plays in the D-League is a regular who I always check out for a little lite hearted view of things.
You may be interested in checking out this you tube piece courtesy of Benson. Our very own "Homicide" Williams has a cameo appearance.
Another piece that I peruse every week is a journo by the name of Jason King. I find his "King of the Road" column a good read all the time. He even spares some column space to the Aussies playing over there. Got to like that.
I'm sure I will be able to fill the rest of my time in very easily, I have three children!
Friday, February 29, 2008
It has been a week since we got knocked out of the playoffs, so a popular question I have been answering is, "What do you do now?".
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Our season got off to a rocky start thanks to a handful of injuries to key players such as Rosell Ellis, Ben Pepper, and Brad Sheridan. However, one of the true tests of professionalism is how an individual or team is able to respond to adversarial conditions.
I believe that our team came out the other side of this situation stronger. We did not hang our heads and many of our young players relished in the opportunity to grab more court time.
The experience that guys like Michael Cedar, Drew Williamson and Greg Vanderjagt got showed late in the season when they made some fantastic contributions in key games. I think this season, these guys solidified their positions as quality NBL players.
In fact, we were able to go to any of our ten players with confidence and not many teams can say that.
I will credit Trevor Gleeson for not allowing us to dwell on our battered and bruised personnel. Trevor’s philosophy on basketball is not tricky: if you do not play hard, you will not play. The reverse also holds true and if our bench showed they were up to the challenge, they got the nod. A 3-7 record turning around to become a 17-13 finish demonstrates that he did motivate us to get on with business instead of making excuses.
The next stage of the game will be an interesting one. Who makes up the roster for next year?
Only five of us are signed on for next season: Brad Sheridan, Daniel Egan, Kelvin Robertson, Ben Pepper and me. We are all are Australian born players with experience, which makes a good base to build from.
Our two imports, Corey Williams and Galen Young, have expressed their interest in coming back. So, too, has injured import Rosell Ellis. I am no math wiz, but I know that three into two does not work. It will be interesting to see the solution to this equation.
Cedar, Williamson and Vanderjagt are all free agents. As I mentioned earlier, their stock has risen considerably since the beginning of the season. As much as we would all like to see them back in the Crocs’ green, that may not be the way the script was written.
I am in no position to speculate what will happen with this trio, but this is a business and like any other business deal, you have to strike while the iron is hot.
If you take a look at the solid group of players already signed for next season and remember our strong finish in the second half of this NBL season, I don’t think we are too far off being legitimate championship contenders.
There is a lot of water yet to go under the bridge between now and when the first ball is thrown up to start the 2008/09 NBL season. But with a little tinkering and a bit of luck, the Croc faithful may be in for some real excitement at this time next year.
You can find my article in the Townsville Bulletin weekly.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Pat Mills had a tough night at the "office". Now we all have tough days, but Mills got to experience something in that game that he would not always come across in basketball here in Australia. What I'm talking about is quickness.
Mills demonstrated in the Kiwi's series back in August that he has serious jets, when playing in the Oceania area. Lucky for Mills he will get to compete against athletes just as quick as he is on a regular basis over in college so his game can keep improving.
Just through sheer numbers in the sport, Australia cannot provide the type of athlete Mills needs to diet on if he is to maximise his talent. The college scene can provide this. No doubt on nights Mills will have a better skill set than some of these athletes, but they will be able to match his athleticism and keep him honest. He would never get this on a consistent basis here in Australia, even in the NBL.
I can hear people saying, "what about the Brad Newley's of the world?". My answer here is, they can always come back home and play at the drop of a hat. In using Newley as an example, he would have enhanced his chances of going straight to the NBA had he of gone to college. I'm not saying he won't make the NBA, but his chances would have improved. The scouts get to see you 30 games a year if they want. Play in Australia and they might see you 3 or 4 times, so you better make each one count.
To add to the argument I will throw Andrew Bogut's name out there. I have no doubt Bogut would have made the NBA no matter what route he had taken. There is no way he would have turned himself into the number one pick if he had not gone to Utah first, though.
There is no denying that college is not for everyone, but if you want to boost your odds of taking your basketball to the highest level, I believe starting down this path can only help you achieve this dream.
Is Joe Ingles better than Aaron Bruce? I think Ingles has better skills for the NBA than Bruce, but through my eyes Bruce has a better chance of the NBA right now purely because he can be seen on a daily basis by scouts. As for Joe, he has to provide his best on demand if and when the scouts make the treck Down Under for a game or two during the year.
A debate on this topic could, and has, gone on for years. If it was me and with Aussies being the "flavour of the month" right now, I would run for the border and find the right school to attend.
Why? You can always come home and play when you run out of options!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
At the start of the season all teams comment on how being in the top four is such an advantage come playoff time, so the team goal is to achieve top 4 status. This is very true and it should be this way. Everyone knows how it works when we begin the season.
If the playoff format becomes a level playing field you are actually taking away from the regular season play. There is no doubt that travelling over to Perth after playing the Blaze less than 48 hours before is tough. We also lost games to Singapore and Wollongong during the season. Wins here and we would have had a mortgage on fourth. Every team has their hard luck story!
Maybe to put of an emphasis on the playoffs, we shorten the regular season and turn the playoffs into three game series again.
Please remember in the "Glory Days" the season was 26 games long, you played each team twice, and you only played on weekends. Do we need to revisit this format? Crowds were pretty good too!
With a shorter regular season, you can extent the length of the playoffs and make teams really earn their way through to a championship.
Have a top six that play a best of three game series. 1 vs 6, 2 vs 5, 3 vs 4. After the first round the highest losing seed gets a second chance. You still need to reward having a good regular season with a second chance, just in case you have a hiccup.
Semi finals remain a three game series, while the championship can be five if you think that is the right thing to do.
Sure we can all throw our ideas out there and say they are the right one for the situation, but once the first game got underway this year, we all knew how the playoffs would work.
Sure it is a tough road for a low seed to advance, but who said life was fair!
Friday, February 22, 2008
We have successfully made it over to Perth unscathed and ready to go. With a quick delay in Brisbane it was back on the plane and across the Nullabour into Wildcat territory.
Once we touched down it was off to our hotel for a little dinner followed by taking in the second half of the Taipans and Breakers game. It is always a good feeling watching that game when you have had a win the night before.
Many Townsville fans were happy to see the Taipans knocked out. Sure I see their point, but they are on the opposite side of the draw, so it did not really matter to me who won. It would be good though to be involved in a Far North Finals series one day.
There is no doubt we are expecting a hostile reception tonight from the fans at the “Jungle”, but if we play smart and mistake free that could be enough to silence them.
Composure will be a huge key in this contest. Yes, we have to play well for all 48 minutes, but it will be how we handle the peaks and valleys of the game.
Well, it is time for me to head to shoot around and start to get ready for the day ahead. I just hope when I blog again I will be still involved in the playoffs.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Finally the ‘money end’ of the season is upon us. The preseason and regular season are a distant memory and eight teams are now set to battle it out over the next three weeks. Only one can walk away with a championship trophy and the title of NBL Champion.
Who will it be? I have my hunches, but I am certain of one thing; anything can happen this time of year, starting with tonight’s action at the Swamp.
For those of you who are not up to speed, I’ll give you a quick overview of how the first couple of rounds of the playoffs in the NBL work.
The first round consists of four single elimination games played Wednesday through Saturday. If your team loses just once on any of those nights, their season is done.
If and when your team survives this week of action, they get a chance to breathe and look to round two. This time around there is a slight margin for error because they face either the no 1 team, the Sydney Kings, or the no 2 team, the Melbourne Tigers, in a best of three series.
So for all the Crocs fans out there, here is our scenario:
Tonight we host the Gold Coast Blaze and it is do or die. After winning that game, we board a plane for Perth on Thursday where we will take on the Wildcats Friday night.
Win that game and we move on to face the minor premier Sydney Kings in the semi finals. Lose at any time before this and you will find me fishing on the banks of the Ross River by week’s end.
The action will be fast and furious this first week and I cannot wait for the jump ball tonight. This is the time of year every player should absolutely live for. There is no time for excuses and no time for hiccups. We are now playing for all the marbles.
Here are some fast facts about tonight’s game:
Brad Sheridan has never finished lower than the semi finals during his ten year career. I hope we can continue this streak for “Rowdy”.
Ben Pepper will be playing in his first playoff game since 2003 when he was a member of the Brendon Joyce coached Wollongong Hawks. (Joyce now coaches the Blaze)
Blaze teammates Scott McGregor and James Harvey, will be looking forward to making their way back to playoff action after being members of the woodenspoon recipient West Sydney Razorbacks the last two seasons.
Kiwi international and Blaze big man Pero Cameron will get his first taste of finals basketball in the NBL tonight.
My weekly article can be found in the Townsville Bulletin every Wednesday!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Well, what can I say after some quality time spent on the couch. I'm back as a fan of "All Star Saturday". Deron williams set a new record for the skills course, while Jason Kapono equalled the all time score in the three point shootout. Daniel Gibson could not quite complete the double of three point champion and sophomore/rookie game MVP. He went a straggering 11/18 from down town in that game to capture the MVP honours.
The pinnicale came during the slam dunk contest (check it out on you tube to the left). Dwight Howard just flat out put on a show. Obviously he had put some thought into it, with maybe a little help from some teammates.
My hat goes off to Howard as I believe he has re-energized this event with his creativity. (Not since Jordan and Dominque went at it in '88 have I been so excited over a dunk comp) The dunk he pulls off while dressed in a "superman" cape is one that people will talk about forever.
You have to hand it to David Stern and the NBA, there timing is great as far as producing something worthwhile when necessary.
On another note, photographer and massive Taipans fan Mr Gordon G was all over me like a cheap suite the other night. "Why haven't you plugged my happy snaps on here", he asked. Well here it is! If you have not seen his work, check it out here.
You will be able to find a picture of your favourite player somewhere amongst all the photos, even if there are Taipans fans in the background. If you like one, just get in touch with him and he is more than happy to help you out! Maybe contact him before a game and request that special shot of your favourite player.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I just happened to be putting up a new You Tube piece and I came across "trick shots". If you happen to watch the third screen (look down the left margin), it seems to me that it is an Aussie punter (Dave Black) done good.
If my eyes are not deceiving me, he will be from Victoria and plays or invents around the Knox Raiders area. You can see the Raiders logo in the background.
I would love to track this guy down and dedicate a one on one interview to him (I want to find out what makes this guy tick and how I can improve my trickiness). So, if anyone knows this artist or if the artist reads this site himself, drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Can anyone help me find this guy who creates a thing of beauty out of shooting?
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
With only one week remaining in the NBL regular season, the placings of most of the top eight teams are still too close to call. But I think I have my picks for the individual awards picked. Here they are:
MVP: I’m giving this one to Chris Anstey because I think he is a necessity for his team if they have any chance of winning the title. If he doesn’t play, they become average quickly.
Ebi Ere will get a lot of votes because he scores a lot of points, but a player like Anstey can have (and has had) multiple games where he contributes 20 points and 20 rebounds. This is something this league has rarely seen once, let alone several times in one season.
If Ere comes away with the prize in this category I won’t lose any sleep, but Anstey gets my vote for MVP.
Coach of the Year: When a team goes 25-3 (which is the King’s record to date), it’s an easy choice. Brian Goorjian has his Kings humming along nicely. This accomplishment may be one of Goorjian’s best as a coach. If you rewind to the start of the season, no one would have dreamed that the Kings would have such a successful regular season.
My hat is off to Goorj. Let’s hope he can continue with a little of that midas touch at the 2008 Olympics.
Rookie of the Year: Nathan Jawai…then daylight. In a season filled with good rookies, this Taipan has out shined them all and has put together a great season. “Baby Shaq” has not only been the best rookie, but one of the league’s best players this year. Now the question is, “Will he be in the NBA next season?”. I hope so.
Best Sixth Man: Stephen Hoare of the Melbourne Tigers has owned this award the last few seasons and has had another solid year. But Sydney Kings’ import Dontaye Draper wins the award in my book. Draper has single handedly won games for the Kings this year with his speed and creative ball handling. As they say, Draper wins the award, more so than Hoare loses it.”
Best Defensive Player: Setting aside any personal bias, I’m going with Galen Young. Galen has very quietly “locked up” some of the most dangerous offensive players in the league this year. He goes about his business often undetected by anyone and everyone,…except the opponents he battles each and every night on the court.
Most Improved (or as I’m going to call it, Most Improved Court Time): This one deserves to go to a former Croc, Cameron Tragardh. He has had a stellar year with the Wollongong Hawks. For many years he had been dubbed an excellent ABA player who had not stepped up to an NBL level when given a chance. Well, Tragardh had a massive opportunity with Wollongong and did not let this opportunity go by without producing a number of 20 point/10 rebound games over the course of the season. Which now begs the question, can he do it again next season?
There you have it, my list of award winners. I better get back to practice so I can help the Crocs receive the most important award, an NBL champions.
My article can be found in the Townsville Bulletin weekly.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Speculation is definately building over the vacant South Dragons coaching job. The suspects in line for the job are Brain Goorjian, Ian Stacker, Guy Molloy and Brett Brown is a smokey if you can believe Sam MacKinnon.
Stacker and Molloy have both shown that they can build a franchise from the ground up. Stacker turned the Crocs into a regular playoff team, with 2001 being the highlight when they reached the Finals.
Molloy took over a struggling Cairns franchise (2 wins) and lead them to their first ever playoff appearance only to be bundled out by a very good West Sydney team.
Goorjian has amassed the best basketball coaching resume this country has seen, so if Mark Cowan and Co can pry "Goorj" away from his last year in Sydney...I can see this being a perfect fit for both parties.
I come to this conclusion because, Melbourne is the home of basketball, so Goorj belongs there. He can spark up a new rivalry with good friend Al Westover and the cross town Tigers. Championship winning teams in Sydney did not help the sport, so lets give Melbourne a crack at reviving the sport with big corporate dollars and free to air TV.
Another point that will make this job intriguing to Goorj, the cupbaord is not exactly bare in Dragonland. With young talent like Joe Ingles and Jacob Holmes you have some pieces in place, add a healthy Matt Burston and you will have Brian rubbing his melon with excitement.
A quick look through the free agent list and Goorj will be happy to know he can bring a few of his troops with him. I'm speaking of Kendall, Smith and MVP candidate Mark Worthington. If history repeats itself, Goorj always travels with some current players, they need to help him impliment his "culture".
Throw in a few Seppos (Americans) and this all of a sudden becomes an attactive franchise for Goorjian to put his trademarks all over.
I know time will tell, but I will look back at this posting in six months and see how close to the mark I am. I believe the results will be a little more accurate than my weekend's work of one for six from downtown!
Boxscores from round 21:
cats v pigs dragons v taipans breakers v tigers hawks v bullets
blaze v kings crocs v bullets tigers v dragons pigs v hawks
kings v slingers 36ers v taipans ladder
Kings can get better! NBA scouts Jawai Anstey MVP: Westover More good ink for Mills
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Whether you like him or not, you have to have some sort of deference for Shane Heal; someone who believed enough in his own abilities to attempt the dual role of coach and player for the South Dragons. Well, the honeymoon lasted about 18 months. Over the course of the last month, he has gradually phased out one thing after another until last week he was relieved completely all duties with the Dragons.
So, it got me thinking,…Is it possible to do both?
I don’t mean physically possible. Obviously that can be done, given you are able to find a boss that is willing to allow it. I mean can you be truly successful jumping between both pairs of shoes in the current business of professional sport?
In my book, the answer is no. However, I will admit that 18 months ago I would have said that if anyone were to prove me wrong on the issue, it would be Shane Heal. Yet here we are, and there he goes.
Why can’t it be done?
The key obstacle for anyone is time.
As a player, you can expect to put in around about twenty hours per week as a team, split between on court and gym sessions. On top of that, any player worth his weight will spend extra time working on his individual game.
Athletes that put so much demand on their bodies also needs to look after themselves away from the court. This can be anything from massage to physiotherapy, which most players will visit a time or two each week.
All up, you are looking at a total of around 30+ hours if you are any good at what you are doing.
Now you have to go to your second job, coach. You are able to kill two birds with one stone, time-wise when you are on the court. You can play your dual role there. But, before each session begins, it’s your job to plan what is going to happen during that time.
Then there are the meetings with your assistants to make sure everyone is on the same page and rowing in the same direction. There is video that needs to be watched, opposition scouting that cannot be put off until tomorrow, travel arrangements that must be attended to and the emotional and physical well-being of your team to examine.
I think you get the point.
Oh and don’t forget the issue of accountability to those who are watching over issues which pertain to the bottom line. The CEO may have some things to discuss with you about some business figures. And if he doesn’t, there is always your presentation at the monthly board meeting to prepare for.
Phew,…I’m exhausted just trying to put it all on paper.
You add it all up and to do both jobs well, you could be looking at in excess of 80 hours/week, which makes sense. They are both positions filled by full-time professionals.
I don’t know too many people who practice as both doctors and lawyers at the same time. And I certainly don’t know anyone who would use them if they did.
My article can be found weekly in the Townsville Bulletin.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
On the night of July 5th 1997 a bald meloned guy by the name of John Rillie passed (10), rebounded (10) and scored (19) his way to his first career triple double against the North Melbourne Giants at the Powerhouse. My math says that was 11 years ago and I never remember Rob sporting the bald look.
All apologises can be sent to the comments section on this blog or via e-mail!
Now that I have that off my chest, Bob Knight has retired. After amassing 902 wins in college basketball, press conferences will never be the same.
Knight will be remembered more for his antics after the game instead of his three national titles he won at Indiana. After 42 years patrolling the sideline (Army, Indiana, Texas Tech), he has handed the reins over to his son, Pat.
Who knows what Knight will get up to now, fishing or hunting probably, but basketball has lost the best teacher of the motion offense. (I need to get one of his videos to show my sons and daughter!)
I guess when I first headed to the States to play college basketball, there was a small part of me hoping that someone like Bob Knight would send me a letter asking me to join their program. That is the type of aura Knight had. People called him asking to play. Instead I attended Gonzaga University and had a great time while I had to settle watching Knight and his Hoosiers on TV.
All I know is college basketball has lost one of the best ever coaches and press conferences will not be the same.
Talking of Gonzaga, they had a big conference game against Pat Mills and the 25th ranked St Mary's Gaels today. Gaels got the win in OT and Mills made the big plays down the stretch. He scored the last 10 points in regulation and five more in OT. (recap, boxscore)
I will give credit to St Mary's (Eric Cooks, Dan Kickett and EJ Rowland attended here), but I will like to see if my comments page lights up when they play the return leg in Spokane.
This has become quite a rivalry and will start to get some national media attention as both are pressing for top 25 spots. Why I make comment of this is, there are currently 3 Aussies on the Gaels roster, while they have another that will join the squad next year. This is great exposure and experience for kids from this country.
I look forward to hearing from you all when the Zags get payback!!!!!
Sunday, February 3, 2008
After tonight's game, Blaze vs 36ers, there is a log jam from 4th thru 7th. All four teams are on identical records, 15-12. (And no Taipans fans, I'm not leaving you out.) 8th placed Cairns sits at 14-12, so they are not out of the race for fourth yet either.
I can only speak for the Crocs, but we control our own destiny, provided the Wildcats lose one for us. Over the remaining two weeks we have the Bullets and Blaze at home, with our regular season finishing in Cairns.
If we manage to win all three and Perth does the same we end up in 5th spot because Perth (4th) had a bigger win on their home court, so they get the 1-1 split over us.
Breakers can continue to win as much as they like because we have the split on them. Very much the same scenario as how Perth got the split on us.
If Perth, New Zealand and us all end up the same, I have know idea who gets the higher seed. I will take and educated guess and say this does not happen.
With only two rounds remaining and many of the seedings still undecided, it would be a good chance for the NBL to promote the league and the importance of these games going down the stretch. The players could do their part and produce some ripsnorters on Fox. Hopefully the Crocs and the Bullets do their part this Saturday night.
It's hard too believe the playoffs will be under way in 16 days, but between now and then, there will be some fireworks worth catching at the games. Hope to you at the SWAMP!
Just on another note, Julius Hodge recorded a triple double for the 36ers in their game against Brisbane over the weekend. My congrats to Julius, but it has been published in media outlets/forums etc that Rob Rose was the last 36er to manage this acheivement. My sources believe that this stat is in fact incorrect. Can anybody help with setting these people's knowledge straight?
tigers v bullets slingers v dragons kings v hawks pigs v crocs breakers v wildcats hawks v tigers
taipans v blaze 36ers v bullets wildcats v kings dragons v breakers blaze v 36ers
Blaze make Playoffs Kings minor premiers Hawks Stayin Alive? Goorj to Dragons?