The Breakers' big 'O'
Basketball makes the Big O's world go round.
It has been that way since Adelaide born-and-raised Breakers forward Oscar Forman was a teenager, honing his skills at the Australian Institute of Sport before his first season in the Australian NBL in 2002, a lightning-bolt year in which the Adelaide 36ers won the title.
Forman thought he was a Sixer for life, but four years later the club was in turmoil and an offer from the fledgling Kiwi franchise lured Forman out of his comfort zone.
Now 26, his first two years with the Breakers were below average, his three-point shooting prowess failing to hide that he was only slightly more useful on defence than hapless movie lawyer Dennis Denuto in Aussie classic The Castle.
Fast forward to last Thursday night and the 205cm (6ft 7in) Forman is a different beast. He's feeling the serenity as his 19 points and seven rebounds helped the Breakers skin the whining Perth Wildcats 108-94 in a grudge match at the North Shore Events Centre.
There is bad blood between the teams, and a push and shove at halftime between former Breaker Shawn Redhage and veteran Tall Black Phill Jones almost led to a brawl.
Cooler heads prevailed and Forman is cooler than most.
He held the rattled Redhage to seven points - the American averages 20 per game - with stifling, scrappy defence and still shot with surgical precision from beyond the arc to keep the Breakers close before star point guard C J Bruton and Jones poured in the clinching baskets late in the fourth quarter.
Put Forman's dogged D down to relentless early-morning sessions endured with head coach Andrej Lemanis over the offseason.
"The first two years with the Breakers I believe I was underperforming and wasn't impressed with that," Forman told Fairfax Media.
"I wasn't helping the team as much as I should have but I'm happier this year. My work's paying off. It meant a lot of tiring mornings, ones that weren't hugely fun but it was all for the good of my game.
"I've got a long way to go, I admit that. But knowing this year that I'm getting beat less and playing better defence is spurring me on to try to turn a weakness into a strength."
Forman, who is in the extended Australian national squad, packed on an extra 10kg to help cope with the physical demands of the game and found it didn't slow him down.
"I became more athletic and quicker. I found I could cut through the key and if I got a bump from someone it didn't knock me off course as much."
He is shooting from the three- point line at a league-leading 54 from 103 attempts, with team- mates Bruton and Tony Ronaldson lurking just behind.
Forman likens the 2008 Breakers to his Adelaide title- winning team of 2002.
"Looking back it shows the importance of guys sacrificing for the team. We had two stars and the rest were solid, good role players.
"The league's getting stronger and stronger but it does show that the role players are critical. If we're down early we don't throw the towel in. We know if we can stop guys on the defensive end our offence is going to find its way eventually.
"If Kirk Penney's not firing everyone else will step up. People are going to make shots - our team's good enough."
And the public's new take on the league-leading Breakers has Forman hungry for more, starting with sealing a home semifinal by finishing first or second in the round-robin.
"Before, nobody [in Auckland] would notice you unless you were 100 metres from the stadium wearing your full gear. Now the crowds are getting more vocal, they understand basketball a bit more. It's great when they get on the refs and on certain players like Redhage. They are really becoming our sixth man, just like in Adelaide."
Sunday Star Times