Tom Abercrombie: NBA not calling just yet

MARC HINTON
Last updated 17:13 07/12/2010
Tom Abercrombie
BEN WATSON/Auckland Suburbans
SPARK: Kirk Penney is backing Tall Blacks sidekick Tom Abercrombie to rediscover his offensive spark for the New Zealand Breakers as the Aussie NBL season heads into the business end.

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NZ Breakers and Tall Blacks star Tom Abercrombie says Australian speculation around NBA interest in his services is news to him.

During Sunday night's televised game between the Breakers and Kings in Sydney, commentator and Aussie hoops legend Andrew Gaze claimed the Houston Rockets were looking closely at the spring-heeled Kiwi small forward.

Abercrombie, 23, first popped up on international scouts' radars after some outstanding performances for the Tall Blacks at the world championships in Turkey earlier this year.

Since then he's continued his rapid development with a string of strong displays as the Breakers have forged a 7-2 record in the new Aussie NBL season. Ironically Sunday night's game when Gaze tipped the NBA interest was probably Abercrombie's worst of the campaign, with the 1.98m leaper going just two-of-10 from the floor and one-of-five from the line as he finished with five points and three rebounds.

Abercrombie said today that if the Rockets were interested in him they were yet to spell that out to his agent whom he admitted was talking to several interested clubs with an eye to the future.

"It was the first I'd heard of it," shrugged Abercrombie after the first day of preparations for Thursday's visit from the red-hot Cairns Taipans. "There are a few teams out there who kinda have me on their radar, but that's just what happens.

Abercrombie said he had spoken to his agent on Monday and the Rockets had not been mentioned. "He  said a couple of teams have been asking and have said they've got their eye on me. I've just got to play some good basketball, then I'll really get noticed."

The Aucklander has signalled his interest in playing in Europe next year, though clearly if a pathway opened up to the NBA that would take priority.

A Rockets media spokesman told stuff.co.nz that he had not heard of any specific interest in any international players at the moment, but that it was possible global scouts are monitoring individuals.

In the meantime Abercrombie said he is putting all his focus on bouncing back this week after a sub-par performance against the Kings left him less than pleased.

"I was pretty disappointed with how I went," he said. "I got good looks, the shots felt good, but a lot were back rim. If you're going to miss that's where you want them to miss.

"I'm confident everything will right itself this Thursday and they'll start going in. Obviously getting the win [on Sunday] was the biggest thing and if we can win that's all that really counts."

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Abercrombie, with his athleticism, long arms and shooting touch, looks on the verge of a major breakthrough at NBL level.

But he admits to disappointment at the amount of times he's getting called for fouls on what seem to be legitimate blocks above the rim.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "I feel like they're pretty clean, and I'm going back and looking at them and they look clean. I don't want say too much but I'm not going to change what I'm doing because I feel like it's legitimate. Hopefully I'll get some calls my way soon."

Abercrombie is smart to weigh his words given the NBL's tendency to dish out fines at the hint of criticism, but it's to be hoped that referees soon start realising that blocks are as spectacular as dunks, and should not be called fouls on suspicion.

The big-leaping forward gave the Breakers a pass mark for their 94-80 win in Sydney on Sunday, their fourth of five on the road this season.

"We had patches where we played really well and put some points on the board and we had patches where we were not so good as well and let them back into it.

"They fought hard and never gave up...  but it was a good win. Any road win is a good win, so we'll take it."

But Abercrombie was adamant, as the Taipans rolled into town with their 6-2 record and five-game winning streak, that the best was still to come from the Breakers.

"I don't think we've had one night this year where everyone has played well, and that's encouraging in a way because when that does happen, when everyone clicks, we'll be pretty hard to beat.

"Hopefully we'll have one of those Thursday... but the good thing is even if just a few guys step up and a couple have an off-night, we're still doing enough to win."

The way the Snakes are playing (they've just beaten the Wildcats in Perth and the Hawks in Cairns) this week might need to be one of those nights when all the Breakers are firing. Abercrombie sounds ready.

- Stuff

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