Big, deep Adelaide 36ers in ominous form
They're big, they're deep, they're mobile and now the Adelaide 36ers can add confident to that list of traits as they head to Auckland for week two of the new Aussie NBL season.
An ominous looking Adelaide outfit, fresh off a 23-point thumping of the Melbourne Tigers, is just one more thing for New Zealand Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis to worry about as he looks to avoid consecutive home losses to open the new NBL season.
He's also got to find some urgency and attitude from his own team after they were passive and tentative in an embarrassing 21-point defeat to the Perth Wildcats in last Friday's grand final rematch.
Rebounding, defence, ball-security and offensive execution are also high on the priority list as the back-to-back champions look to get things back on track in their Vector debut on Friday night.
Lemanis admitted today, after a training session minus heavy-hitters CJ Bruton, Mika Vukona and Dillon Boucher who were all rested, that it didn't get any easier this week after their Perth Wakeup call.
"Everyone said during the off-season [Adelaide] were the ones who benefited most out of Gold Coast's demise. They're got a good team, and most people are picking them to be in the top two this year," he said.
"They are top of the ladder right now, they're a good group, very deep, can really shoot the basketball, and they've got scorers all over the floor so that presents its challenges."
Lemanis watched the 36ers' demolition of an upgraded Tigers outfit in Adelaide on Sunday and says the one-time stragglers have upped the ante big time.
"A lot of their offence is different now, they're running different sets and they really push the ball. They've got two point guards starting the game in Gibbo (Adam Gibson) and Jason Cadee and either guy can get out and push it.
"Anthony Petrie runs the floor very well when he's in, and [Mitch] Creek gets out. They're much quicker in transition this year, and running some different things. But in typical Adelaide fashion they can certainly score."
Plus, in starting power forward Daniel Johnson they have a young (24), long (2.12m), talented kid who many are tipping to be a potential league MVP.
"He presents his challenges in that spot," agreed Lemanis. "He's still a very capable scorer, but whether he can defend fours or not the test of time will tell."
Lemanis was adopting a mostly positive approach to his team's Perth stumble, despite delivering a firm "not good enough" message in the aftermath.
"We did a lot wrong in that game but in a strange way it's actually the good news because if we'd played unbelievably well and lost by 20 then we're in some trouble.
"We didn't play well, Perth played well, they played with much more energy and with desperation and desire.
That's one of those things that's your choice and we understand that.
"There are plenty of things we can improve on, the guys accepted that and have responded. Today we had a really good practice session."
After Lemanis branded starting centre Alex Pledger's zero rebound effort "unacceptable" last Friday, we asked him what would be "acceptable" this week.
"For him to come out and play well," said the coach. "It's not a number, which is always a function of how the team is playing... There's never a set number but zero isn't very good."
Lemanis also explained the inactivity of Bruton, Vukona and Boucher as part of "management" of bodies that needed some care.
They may need to be ready come Friday night with Lemanis indicating that the tussle between Adelaide's Petrie and Melbourne's Chris Goulding that saw both players sent off on Sunday had been just fine from where he sat.
"That's where the competition is at and that's certainly the edge we were missing on Friday night -- that desperation and willingness to put yourself on the line."
Being back at Vector in front of a big crowd (around 6000 tickets had been sold midweek) may help, but Lemanis reckoned it shouldn't matter.
"You need to come out and play hard. It's a choice. It's a state of mind."