Breakers to target ex-team-mate Braswell
The Breakers know all about the strengths of their old mate Kevin Braswell. But they are also well aware of his weaknesses.
And it's those flaws that will be targeted on Friday night in Melbourne when the 2-1 Breakers take their Australian NBL show on the road for the first time this season to battle Braswell's 0-3 Tigers.
Braswell played a season and a bit for the Breakers, taking a prominent role in the first of their back-to-back championships over the past two years.
The left-handed former Georgetown Hoya came off the bench and was dubbed 'The Closer' for his ability to finish out games in style.
But a combination of an Achilles tendon injury and lukewarm interest from the Breakers since has seen the 33-year-old Baltimore native end up at the Tigers, following dual stints with the Southland Sharks in the Kiwi NBL.
He's made a solid enough start for his new team, averaging 13.7ppg and 5.0apg through their first three outings, and had a game-high 18 points in last Sunday's 65-74 home defeat to the Perth Wildcats.
But the Tigers have lost their first three games, and the pressure will be mounting for this once-proud franchise to get their show on the road.
As much as they respect the abilities of their former point guard, you get the feeling the Breakers fancy their chances of exposing a few of Braswell's deficiencies, as well as limiting him in the areas where he's strong.
He's at his best coming off those middle on-balls where he's able to either create with his one-handed push-passes, or pull up for the jumper.
At 33 the chunky southpaw doesn't have the speed he once had, he can go missing a little on defence and is turnover prone. Plus his shooting is notoriously streaky.
In the younger, quicker, bigger Cedric Jackson the Breakers will like the advantage they have at point guard. And if they're smart, they'll look to exploit it.
"He'll be up for it," said Breakers assistant coach Dean Vickerman of Braswell's mindset for his first game against his old club.
"I thought he was one of their best players the other night. But we want to make his night extremely difficult.
"When he can get the body on you and back you down or use his middle on-ball without too much pressure on he can be extremely effective. So I think the guys will be up for putting some pressure on him and have him make some tough decisions."
Vickerman also liked the quickness and rebounding advantage Jackson had, and he said it was up to the Breakers to exploit that.
Veteran Breakers guard CJ Bruton knows Braswell as well as anyone. They've remained close friends and Bruton respects the competitiveness and smarts of a guy who's played professional hoops all over the world.
"I know he's excited. Not having the opportunity to come back irked him for a while there ... but he's bigger than that. He's not worried about his numbers and he wants to make sure his team runs well and they win this ball game.
"For me it's about making sure my friend doesn't get this win."
And the big contingent of Breakers who won that first championship with Braswell will have a fair idea what they have to do.
"When you've battled all year round with someone you know what guys like to do," added Bruton.
"Taking away his strengths will be key and we've got make him work for what he gets. His knee has been playing up, and we've got to move him around the floor, set picks, and see how much he wants to fight.
"We've also got to attack them. They've only got two major ball-handlers and they could be susceptible to pressure."
It will be a big night for Braswell who will be looking to make a major statement to his old club, as well as to lead his new one to their first win of the season.
But it could also be a long one if the notoriously competitive Breakers find a way to take their old mate KB out of his comfort zone.
- © Fairfax NZ News