Rusty Breakers go on offensive in Melbourne
The NZ Breakers are hoping to add a little offensive polish at the Australian NBL's official pre-season tournament in Melbourne over the next three days.
The back-to-back league champions have not had the smoothest of buildups thus far, after losing two games out of three in a home stand against the Wollongong Hawks. Star swingman Thomas Abercrombie is sidelined as he continues to be bothered by the ankle he injured in last season's playoffs run.
Veteran backcourt marksman CJ Bruton also missed a game-and-a-half after picking up a bruised sternum against the Hawks, and combo guard Corey Webster only came off his year-long suspension in time to appear in the final game of the series.
The threepeat-chasing Breakers now head to Melbourne for the annual pre-season shakedown where they'll meet the Cairns Taipans tonight (9.30pm NZ time), Townsville Crocodiles tomorrow (8pm, NZ time) and have a final outing on Saturday in the matchups for final positions.
Not only will they be the last serious hitouts ahead of the October 5 regular season tipoff against the Perth Wildcats, it will be the best chance to work on a few shortcomings that were evident from the Wollongong series.
“There's got to be much greater detail in the execution of our offence,” said assistant coach Dean Vickerman. “We harped on that one through the Hawks series, and we still made some fundamental mistakes.
“It's about really doing basic things well offensively in the way we screen and cut hard. We were pretty good rebounding the basketball, but we also didn't finish the break well. We tried to make highlight passes rather than doing the basic things. We've got to get back to the simple things and making sure we free people up.”
The Breakers understand too well that the pre-season means nothing and that they, more than anyone in this league, tend to cram a lot more into fewer games.
To that end, Vickerman said they got plenty out of the series against a well- organised Hawks offensive unit.
“They challenged our defensive rules, which is something we really wanted pre-season,” said Vickerman. “They run a lot of on-balls, and they're an excellent spread-the-floor team and really test your on-ball defence and still being able to cover three-point shots.”
The Hawks series also served up another couple of positives in the form of Webster's belated return to the squad and the efforts of new import Will Hudson.
“Having Corey back, he's going to add an extra spark off the bench for us, whether it's at the point guard or two-guard spot,” added Vickerman. “He's going to come in and be a real scoring threat.
“Will did everything we hoped he'd do and even exceeded our expectations in some defensive areas as well.
“We're pretty happy with the group we've got. We just had some dry spells scoring the ball and that's through lack of games more than anything.”
Vickerman also shrugged off American point guard Cedric Jackson's apparent rustiness as an adjustment period back from his recent stint in the NBA summer league.
The Breakers will take their 10-strong squad of fully contracted players, but will not play Abercrombie as he continues to rehabilitate his ankle following off-season surgery. Bruton is over his bruised sternum, and Alex Pledger and Leon Henry both missed the final practice with illness.