Breakers need to 'reset' before semis series
Tom Abercrombie reckons it's time to hit the reset button which in his case might not be the worst policy ahead of the Australian NBL semifinal series against the Sydney Kings.
The New Zealand Breakers small forward has just completed what he freely admits has been a topsy-turvy regular season for the Kiwi club as they chase a threepeat of championships.
Abercrombie has had some good nights and some bad nights as he's struggled to find a rhythm following off-season surgery on his ankle memorably injured in last year's semifinal decider against the Townsville Crocodiles at Vector Arena.
The lean, leaping Tall Black has still been effective for the Breakers as they've charged to 24 wins from 28 regular season games, and No 1 seed in the four-team finals. His averages of 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists are respectable enough marks.
But anyone who has watched Abercrombie through his transcendent career at the North Shore-based club understands that those numbers do him a grave disservice. He's a far better player than that.
However it's been that sort of a season as he started slowly on his bum wheel and has taken most of the campaign to gain the explosiveness which is a trademark of his game when it's humming. Of late his shooting touch has also burned hot and cold.
Abercrombie's final two games were a microcosm of his season. Against the Melbourne Tigers he soared for three spectacular alley-oop dunks and went nine-of-13 from the floor as he tallied a game-high 24 points.
Then last Friday night in Perth he would have struggled to hit the ocean from the pier as he went just two-for-nine en route to four points in a dispiriting 73-58 defeat.
"It's been a bit of a season of ups and downs," said Abercrombie yesterday as the Breakers started semifinal preparations without newly anointed league MVP Cedric Jackson and retiring veteran Dillon Boucher who were en route back from the swards night in Melbourne.
"But none of that means anything now. I haven't shot it great recently but percentages have a way of evening out, and that hopefully means I'm due for a couple of good games. I'll go in confident and do what I usually do -- try to be aggressive and get to the hoop and hopefully good stuff will follow."
Abercrombie considers Friday's loss in Perth a much-needed "wakeup call" ahead of Thursday's series opener at Vector. Not only did it halt the club's 16-game win streak and give the Wildcats a 3-1 edge in the head-to-head, but it reinforced a few cold- hard facts for the back-to-back champs.
"The regular season means nothing now, so you hit the reset button and go again," adds Abercrombie. "I'm feeling good, I know the rest of the guys are feeling good and we're ready to go.
"That Perth game really means nothing. I look back how we've played over the last month and it's been good, we've continued to improve and that's the main thing we'll take into it.
"In that regard it's not a bad thing we lost, and that streak is broken before the playoffs. It should give us that little boost we need to come in and work hard this week and get ready for Sydney because they're going to come with that same intensity."
Abercrombie has plenty of respect for a Kings outfit - one of only two to defeat the Breakers this season -- that he reckons plays with the same personality as their coach, legendary Aussie gunner Shane Heal.
After losing star import point guard Corin Henry to a season-ending wrist injury, they've battled tooth and nail to sneak into the final playoff spot.
"They've really started to find their identity again. They're a good group, very well structured and they run their stuff well. When they're playing well they're a very good team and will come in really confident."
Plus, they're feisty.
"They take on the persona of their coach in that regard," adds Abercrombie. "He has them playing the way he wants, and they do get up in your face and play quite a physical style."
The Breakers are still not sure whether American backup centre Will Hudson will be fit to play after he was still pretty ginger on his knee at yesterday's short session.
"We'll find out the next couple of days how much he's able to give us," said assistant coach Dean Vickerman.