Lemanis keen to get Breakers up to speed
Talk of a rare "three-peat" Australian basketball league crown for the New Zealand Breakers is being doused before it can catch aflame by coach Andrej Lemanis on the eve of their first pre-season hit-out tonight in Christchurch.
The Breakers make their first appearance since their championship-winning performance earlier this year when they tread the boards against ANBL rivals Wollongong Hawks at the CBS Canterbury Arena. The sellout match starts at 7.30pm.
"It's all about re-establishing ourselves. Last season is in the record books," Lemanis said yesterday on the team's arrival.
"The media might view it differently but we are not defending anything.
"We are a new team in our own right and have to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit again."
Lemanis expected the early-season encounter against the Hawks could be "a little messy" as the side sought to find the formula forward after losing influential American import forward Gary Wilkinson in the off-season. "Every year is different; people said how could you adjust without Kirk [Penney] but we did and we have to do the same again.
"Every year you have to evolve," he said.
The team's latest practice in Auckland yesterday, having come together about 10 days ago, was their best yet, Lemanis said. "But I'd still be expecting it to take a while until we get our rhythm and and fluency again."
One thing would not change, Lemanis pledged, with the Breakers certain to continue their up-tempo, high-octane transition style game.
In that aspect, Lemanis is more than comfortable with his squad, saying that new American 2.05m import forward Will Hudson would only add to their mobility with his athletic ability. "We go 10 deep and you need that to play the sort of game we do shuttling players in and out without losing that intensity."
Lemanis felt his team was of a similar style to the Hawks in many respects, with both sides playing a team-oriented rather than individual style of game.
While some of the players, including 36-year-olds CJ Bruton and Dillon Boucher, may be looking to remove any rust from their games Lemanis is coaching fit.
He has recently returned from the London Olympics where he was assistant coach to Brett Brown for the Australian Boomers who had the misfortune to run into the star-studded United States team in the quarterfinals.
It is his fourth year with that side and he had a period in the buildup as interim head coach when Brown was guiding the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA who went deep into the playoffs.
"It's quite a liberating experience being around different people with new ideas and the international programme," Lemanis said.
With the Breakers, Lemanis is about to start season two of a four-year coaching contract making New Zealand home.
From Christchurch the Breakers have further matches against the Hawks in Dunedin (Thursday) and Hamilton (Saturday).
- © Fairfax NZ News