The Waikato Pistons look unlikely to bolster their side for the remainder of the National Basketball League season.
NZ Breakers small forward Thomas Abercrombie is poised to take a break following his stint in France, while Breakers and Tall Blacks team-mate Alex Pledger is not likely to have recovered in time from an ankle injury to join the Pistons.
The Pistons are fifth on the NBL table, with four teams making the post-season.
The Southland Sharks are fourth but are set to be greatly understrength over the next month after indefinitely suspending Reuben Te Rangi, Leon Henry and Shea Ili after the trio were charged with assault with intent to injure following a fight outside a bar in New Plymouth on Sunday morning.
Not that the Pistons should have required extra motivation to try to make the playoffs but the window has now opened wider.
However, bolstering the troops appears unlikely, with Abercrombie looking to rest and recover following a stint in France.
Abercrombie had signed to play for the Pistons this season but was released after receiving an offer to play in the top French league for Lyon-based club ASVEL Basket.
He returned recently after they were eliminated from the playoffs but hopes of him helping out the Pistons are slim, according to Pistons assistant coach Anthony Corban.
"At this stage it's a no," Corban said.
"He's come back with a couple of niggles that he's played through and he wants to get with Breakers support and strength and conditioning staff ahead of the Tall Blacks campaign."
The New Zealand men's team will contest the world championships in Spain from August 30 to September 14 and will play a string of warmup games, starting in mid-July at home against South Korea.
"His priority is the world champs," Corban said.
With players needing to make five NBL regular season appearances to be available for the playoffs, time will likely run out for Pledger, who is working his way back from surgery on an ankle problem that greatly hindered his ANBL season.
"With Alex, it's going to be touch and go with his rehab," Corban said.
"He's doing some light jogging but he's unlikely to get on to a court until a couple of weeks before the end of the season."
The 6-5 Pistons host the 4-5 Otago Nuggets at Hamilton Boys' High School on Sunday (3pm tipoff) as they look to make ground on the 6-3 Sharks, who also seem unlikely to be able to boost their lineup, with coach Paul Henare having to suit up as a player again.
"I think they're going to have to try and get along with what they have at the moment," Corban said.
"There's not a lot out there at the moment - that's more of a reflection of how well teams have done this year recruiting players."
The Pistons beat the Nuggets in overtime in their away clash earlier this season and Corban expects a tight, low-scoring encounter at home between two strong defensive units.
"We're in a do-or-die situation in every game now.
"We were fortunate down there - missed free throws gave us a sniff, Karl Noyer came in and knocked down a three and Akeem Wright took over in overtime," he said.
Wright, fellow import Corin Henry and veteran centre/power forward Casey Frank helped lead the Pistons to a win over the third-placed Nelson Giants at home last Sunday, and will again be key figures against Otago, while Dyson King-Hawea has revelled in the extra minutes he has got on court since the departure of young centre Jack Salt to the University of Virginia.
- Waikato Times
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