Breakers laugh off Bevo's physicality comments
The war of words has started already and the New Zealand Breakers are not buying the victim line being portrayed by Perth Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge in the media.
Beveridge has just penned a column on a West Australian website that almost beggars belief in its hypocrisy. In it, he has clearly drawn the early battle lines for the looming Australian NBL playoffs, expected to again culminate in a Breakers-Cats grand final.
In a remarkable piece of prose, Beveridge has taken aim at the Australian league for becoming too physical and at rival teams for using unsavoury tactics designed to negate the impact of "star" players.
He specifically seems to be calling for protection for his import sharpshooter Kevin Lisch whom he claims is the victim of overly physical defending.
It has not been lost on basketball people on both sides of the Tasman that there is massive irony in Beveridge complaining about too much physicality.
What next? Lance Armstrong championing fair play, Tiger Woods calling for the mini-skirt to be banned, or Michael Jordan admitting, "I couldn't have done it without Scottie".
Beveridge coaches the most physical team in the competition and a group not averse to using borderline tactics to win basketball games.
The Wildcats are widely respected for their unerring success and uncompromising style, but they do have some of the biggest floppers in the competition, they push and shove off the ball with the best of them and they clearly seek to intimidate with their physicality.
But Beveridge reckons his men are on the receiving end of too much rough stuff, and he's calling for change.
"Basketball in Australia has become so physical that it's taking away from pure basketball, and I don't like that it is heading in that direction," he said in calling for a league-wide review at season's end.
"I know that I coach a physical basketball team, but we go out there and look to play pressure defence, not to push, shove and hold our opposition because we don't like to play that way.
"Unfortunately, as teams get away with it, there is more of it as other teams have to match their opponents in terms of physicality. It's a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped or we could end up losing some of the best players in the league.
"I look at a star import like Kevin Lisch, the MVP of the NBL, and the only way to slow him down is to bump and hold and grind him down, and belt him coming off screens. It's disappointing to think Australia could lose a guy like him because, why would he want to continue putting up with that?
"Something has to be done because right now it is like a wrestling match out there."
Veteran Breakers forward Dillon Boucher could not hide his amusement after reading Beveridge's column.
"I think there's a hidden agenda in the article totally, and whether the referees buy into that I don't know," said Boucher.
"This league is a physical league, there's no doubt about that. When we go and play in world champs and Olympics teams comment about how physical New Zealand and Australia play. That's the way we play, and it's obviously bred from the NBL."
Breakers shooting guard Daryl Corletto reckoned Beveridge was "looking after his star player" and said everyone around the league knew Perth were the "kings" of physical play.
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis did not want to comment on the intent of Beveridge's claims, but did agree on one aspect of the column.
"We need perhaps a games committee to say this is what's good for the league, and this is what's most entertaining or this is what the fans want, and the league needs to pick a direction and say this is how the game's going to be blown, and then we can all adjust to it."
Lemanis, meanwhile, was doing his best to keep his players sharp through their bye week in the competition.
"It's hard to get a lot out of this week as far as the motivation with not having a game. But we've been able to give the guys some time off and get on top of some injuries hopefully," he said.
There was no indication yet how soon Will Hudson will be back from his knee injury, with Lemanis just saying he was "on track".
The Breakers will definitely be without Hudson as they look to extend their NBL win streak to 13 when they host the Adeklaide 36ers at Vector Arena next Thursday.
- © Fairfax NZ News