Nelson Giants coach defends import Joe Slocum's slow start to NBL season
Nelson Giants coach Alan McAughtry has backed under fire point guard Joe Slocum to find his groove in the National Basketball League despite making a lacklustre start to the 2017 season.
The 24-year-old American has scored just seven points off 2-16 shooting to go along with his seven assists and two steals from their two losses against the Southland Sharks and the Taranaki Mountain Airs as the Giants sunk to 0-2 for the first time in six years.
It is hardly the contribution McAughtry would have expected from the team's sole import even at this early stage of the season, particularly when you compare his production value against previous Giants' import guards such as Raymond Cowels III and Mckenzie Moore.
Cowels III led the league in scoring last year with 25.4 points per game, while Moore finished the 2015 season with an impressive record of 21.7 per game.
When asked if he was expecting more out of Slocum due to his import status, McAughtry said "yes and no".
"We're going to stay with him because we think he's valuable. He'll work his way, he's trying hard and he's a good kid. It's my job to get him looks," McAughtry said.
"Right now he's finding his way where he's got some guys who can score and he's doing a great job of getting them the ball, so he's working hard to find his way into this when we play an offensive game that anybody can bring the ball."
But the reality is the Giants are not getting enough scoring contributions from across their roster and it's showed in the first two games, losing 96-58 to the Sharks and 93-76 to the Mountain Airs.
Last year their two lowest scores were 68 and 74.
Finn Delany is averaging 22.5 points per game and is shouldering so much of the load himself that he was not benched at any stage during Saturday night's loss at the Trafalgar Centre. But McAughtry said those 40 minute efforts can't continue.
"It's hard because he gets frustrated and doesn't want to come out, I get it, but he can't play 40 minutes. He just can't."
Though Delany continues to dominate the scoring, McAughtry believes the young star is at his best when he doesn't feel like he has to do everything himself.
"He did a better job of that [on Saturday], got the ball through hands, got second shots and gets on the glass. But you can't fault the kid at all. Everyone would love a Finn Delany because he works his backside off.
"It's up to me to use him but then it's up to the others to make plays, and Bronson [Beri] made plays, but as these guys get to know each other, I think you'll find his rest patches increase."
McAughtry refused to use their awful travel schedule during the double-header as an excuse despite being forced to drive from Invercargill to Christchurch in rental cars when morning fog cancelled their flight home on Friday morning. They only touched back down in Nelson on the day of their second game.
"They were amazing because they just took it on the chin and got on with business," he said.
"I know there's other teams, especially where I'm from, that would have been complaining and carrying on, so I really take my hat off to them."
The Giants host Mark Dickel's Canterbury Rams, who split their double-header, on Saturday night.