The revamped NBL just kicked off with a five day opening round, an absolute basketball binge for the hungry hoops masses. If you’re at work today with a basketball hangover, we understand. With everything coming thick and fast for almost a week straight, and just two days before the action resumes, ‘Winners & Losers’ is here to break down who killed it this past week, and who came off second best.
Last season Matt Hodgson’s primary activities included rehabbing, sitting on the bench in knee braces and/or crutches, and forking out $10,000 of his own hard-earned to fund his complicated recovery.
On Wednesday night against NZ, Hodgson’s primary activities included dropping 18 points, pulling down nine rebounds, blocking three shots and collecting ‘Player of the Game’ honours in his first NBL game.
Sure, NZ were shorthanded and Hodgson was much quieter against Perth’s enourmous front line. But seeing as the man missed 12 months of basketball and then kicked ass on debut, let’s just enjoy the moment as Hodgson grows into a solid young big in this league.
— NBL (@NBL) October 7, 2015
North Queensland native Todd Blanchfield erupted for a super efficient, career high 29 points on 11/15 shooting, including 7/9 from deep in his first return to Townsville on Friday night.
You never know if you’re going to be calm and collected the first time you see your ex, or a blubbering emotional train wreck. It’s often a similar deal with guys playing against their old teams for the first time, they usually excel or collapse. Fortunately for Melbourne, Blanchfield went with the former option.
He then backed it up with 15 points and 15 rebounds against Illawarra less than 48 hours later.
Blanchfield aside, Melbourne still has too many winners to count, so let’s just put the whole team here.
Chris Goulding was dazzling and explosive against the Hawks on Sunday, despite having a quiet first game against Townsville.
Hakim Warrick is averaging 17.5 points in just 23 minutes per game over his first two outings, while Majok Majok is averaging 12.5 rebounds in 20 minutes a game.
Additionally, United had five players with at least 14 points against Illawarra.
Perhaps most importantly, Melbourne combined with Illawarra to provide the best game of the round –a good old fashioned shoot-out in front of a packed crowd and a free-to-air TV audience.
With a strong crowd decked out in yellow in the soon to be demolished Sydney Entertainment Centre, the Kings made sure they demolished the Taipans first.
Only the most one-eyed of Kings fans had Sydney beating Cairns – one of the title favourites – by 20+ points without Josh Childress, and yet that’s exactly what they did.
The Kings monstered Cairns 87-63, as Julian Khazzouh and Jason Cadee lead the surprise assault. Khazzouh collected 22 points and 9 rebounds while Cadee filled the stat sheet with 19 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The NBL Live App & Fans Everywhere
After years of struggling to find essentials like functional live stats and box scores, every NBL game is now not only on Fox Sports – with a sprinkling of Channel Nine on Sundays – but also available on an app which frankly would’ve surpassed expectations in previous years if it worked at all. It doesn’t just work, it’s great and the streaming is flawless. In terms of league coverage, we went from near abysmal status, skipped average, and went straight to great. I feel like I’ve wandered out of the Nevada desert and straight into a Vegas buffet. After running a delighted eye over Larry Kestelman and his A-Team’s condensed body of work, this should surprise no one.
New Zealand Breakers
With Corey Webster chasing the greenest of pastures in the NBA, as well as Thomas Abercrombie and Alex Pledger sidelined with various ailments, it was always going to be an uphill battle for New Zealand when they travelled to Adelaide for the league’s curtain raiser on Wednesday.
While injuries were out of New Zealand’s control, they quickly made matters worse with numerous defensive lapses and something of a disregard for offensive creativity.
On more than one occasion the offence consisted of Everard Bartlett consigning himself to jacking up ill-advised threes.
In fairness to Bartlett, the Breakers offence featured about as much movement as a frat house on a Sunday morning, and as a result enticing offensive options weren’t exactly jumping out of the bushes. New Zealand shot 37% from the field and went 6/30 from behind the arc.
Fortunately for Breakers fans, Abercrombie and Pledger returned to face Townsville at home on Sunday, which got NZ to 1-1.
I’m always reluctant to have a crack at folks working in TV. My first effort behind a mic and in front of a camera during university was both a long day for me and dark day for journalism.
However, if Fox Sports is trying to present a professional, exciting product – something they’ve done a great job of for the most part – we cannot have CJ Bruton commentating like he could doze off at any moment.
Mark Worthington certainly noticed CJ was struggling and gave him some light hearted curry for getting tongue tied during the pair’s half time interview.
I’m a believer in second chances, and understand TV isn’t easy in the early days; but if Fox wants to set the bar high, CJ will need to lift to reach it.
After hearing McNeail’s story firsthand and quickly coming to understand just how nice he is, I hate to add him to this list. Sure, writers usually strive to remain impartial and emotionally unattached. But how could anyone possessing raw human emotion meet someone as delightful as McNeail and not root hard for him?
McNeail’s slow start – playing just 5 and 8 minutes in two games this week – has been due to a troublesome shoulder. He tweaked it during the pre-season Blitz dunk competition, an event in which McNeail jumped over Murray the Magpie as a team of nervous RSPCA representatives watch on in horror.
— NBL (@NBL) September 26, 2015
McNeail was unable to train leading up to opening night and needed painkillers just to hit the court, clearly playing at well below 100% when he was out there.
The Sixers import played well in the pre season, and passed every test Joey Wright put him through before signing him. McNeail should be a productive starter at NBL level, but when he’ll physically be able to realise that potential remains to be seen.
Townsville’s Grey Road Jerseys
Grey might be sexy when it comes in 50 shades, but there’s nothing visually appealing about Townsville’s road jerseys. Here’s a great rule of thumb: avoid grey jerseys. Celtics fans are currently learning this the hard way. If grey isn’t one of your team’s colours, why commit yourself to wearing nothing but nature’s least exciting non-colour?
Yes, it’s all subjective, but if there are fans of grey jerseys out there, they’re certainly a quiet bunch. And yes, they’re just jerseys, and aren’t worth sprouting too many grey hairs over.
Shirts, on the other hand…