Round 12 will be remembered for sell-out crowds, an open air basketball extravaganza in Melbourne and an assistant coach dusting off his Nikes in Sydney.
Adelaide kicked off Round 12 with an impressive win against Melbourne on Wednesday.
Daniel Johnson went 5/5 from deep in first quarter and change (finishing with 31 & 16), Jerome Randle did Jerome Randle things (29, 9 & 7) and Nathan Sobey almost killed a man (again).
Equally pleasing was the action Adelaide’s front office took in the lead up to the game.
With Adelaide’s A-League and Big Bash teams out of town, the 36ers front office took full advantage of being the only show in town, and reduced all remaining tickets to $10 in order to push for a full house.
Titanium Security Arena was packed to the rafters for the first time since game two of the 2014 Grand Final Series, and the second time since Brett Maher’s final home game in 2009.
— Shell (@ShelleyDrew1) December 23, 2015
Sell out crowds have become far too rare in the city once known as Titletown. Yet on Wednesday night no one would’ve been surprised if the Sixers merchandise store was selling Blink 182 CDs, it felt that much like 1999.
Melbourne United’s open air game against Perth on Sunday was nothing short of spectacular.
Not only did United go a long way to halting a 2-7 slide with a spine-tingling victory over the ladder-leading Wildcats, but club management put on one hell of a show in the open air.
Like in Adelaide, the most pleasing part of the evening – at least in this writer’s humble opinion – was what the club achieved off the court.
Make no mistake, Sunday night was an event.
Like the lead up to your 21st or Shane Warne flicking through Tinder, there was just something in the air that promised a massive night ahead.
Inside and outside the arena, the lead up to tipoff felt more like a festival of basketball than a standard game.
Rarely does such an incredibly high level of hype, public interest and genuine excitement surround a regular season NBL game.
— CTI Melbourne United (@MelbUnitedHQ) December 27, 2015
Inside the arena, everything about United’s game night presentation was refreshingly professional. The PA announcer was amusing but a pro, the dancers – male and female – are genuinely talented, the big screen and graphics are top notch, even the signs around the arena which read “Welcome to Basketball City” and “Go Hard or Go to Sydney” wreak of a club that ‘gets it’.
These might seem like minute details, but they matter, especially for a league that traditionally got them so wrong during the pre Larry era – and looked amateurish as a result.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that both sides rose to the occasion, and that the home team knocked off the ladder leaders.
Chris Goulding scored 27 points on 8-11 shooting and 6-8 from deep. He would’ve blown the roof off on several occasions, had there been one – and if it were physically possible to blow a roof off more than once.
Those who put in work for Melbourne United on and off the floor over the weekend deserve a lot of credit.
The open air spectacular was the latest emphatic sign yet that the NBL is back in a major way, and at risk of harping on about full houses, there’s no sign more empathic than the one that read “SOLD OUT” in front of Hisense on Sunday night.
The Kings were just settling back into their old home on Sunday afternoon when a crazed Corey Webster kicked the door down, put his foot through the TV and drank all the milk.
Webster (who was not particularly happy to be there) finished with 38 points on 12-24 shooting, effortlessly coming off screens and delivering daggers as Kings coach Joe Connelly lamented Sydney’s far-too-casual-for-his-liking defensive approach.
— NBL (@NBL) December 27, 2015
Webster piled on 26 points in the second half, continuing to add to his whopping season tally as Connelly continued to add fresh bite marks to his trademark sweat towel.
You may be aware that in an attempt to alleviate their injury pain, the Kings inserted assistant coach Ben Knight into Sunday’s game.
It was Knight’s first NBL game since calling it a day four years ago; and like a comic villain’s moustache, this story ends with a twist.
In 2011 Knight had retired after his 399th game, and his return to the court on Sunday brought up game number 400.
This wasn’t the first time Sydney attempted to insert Knight into the lineup post retirement, having tried the same thing two years ago before their plan was nixed by the league.
Something tells me that Big Ben has been hanging out for game 400 for some time.
Four years, to be precise.
While Ben Knight chalking up game number 400 was great for the man himself, it wasn’t a good look for the league.
Like Adelaide’s eternally malfunctioning scoreboard reading “Team A and Team B”, assistant coaches checking into games is something that simply can’t happen in a professional league vying to be taken seriously.
Incredibly, Knight isn’t the only assistant to find himself on the hardwood in a moment of injury-fuelled desperation.
Keen followers of the game will recall Illawarra assistant Matt Flinn playing a game for the injury ravaged Hawks in 2011, making his first NBL appearance in 16 years.
If Ben Knight gets on court at 39years 7months he will be oldest man to play in current 40-min era. Current record is Matt Flinn at 38y 11m
— NBLfacts (@nblfacts) December 24, 2015
With all due respect to Flinn – a man who could play in his day – it brought back memories of primary school basketball when one team would show up with three players, leading to someone’s overly keen dad filling in.
Did the Kings/Hawks really not have any development players they could play? Perhaps someone from the NSW State League? Knight’s belated 400th game was admittedly a fun talking point, but that doesn’t change the fact it was somewhat embarrassing for a league that has taken enormous strides towards relevance and legitimacy.