Breakers confident of salvaging ANBL season
Blind denial or unshakeable belief? Whatever the foundation, the Breakers remain adamant their season is still salvageable after making their worst start to an Australian NBL campaign in eight years.
Not since the woeful 2005-06 campaign, when they won just three of their first 20 games, have the Breakers made a worse opening than the current 4-8 effort that has them backed into a tight spot just a game out from the Christmas/All Star break.
Despite the bleak numbers, there's still plenty of optimism around the champions of the last three years. That was evident even after coming up empty from the gruelling weekend double in Perth (91-95) and Melbourne (82-84).
Two things give the North Shore-based club reason for hope. Firstly, there's the close-but-no-cigar factor. Five of their eight defeats have been by four points or less and seven have been by 10 or under.
"We've been so close so many times," reflected assistant coach Paul Henare. "I don't want to sound defeatist and accept losing, but we know we're there or thereabouts. At the same time we acknowledge that we need to start getting across the line when it matters."
The table also offers hope. The Breakers, for all their stumbles, are only three defeats off the third-placed Sydney Kings. With 16 games remaining, that's an achievable deficit.
"If the rest of the league were really separating we'd probably be a little more worried than what we are," agreed Henare. "Even Adelaide, they go on the Sunshine Swing and lose two games, and now they're on four losses.
"It's a real logjam, and there is plenty of time to turn it round. We've got 16 games left, and that's a lot of games to get ourselves back in the mix. It only takes a two or three-win streak." The Breakers' offensive game is in solid shape. Especially now Gary Wilkinson is back firing on something like all of his cylinders. It's on defence where this team is a shadow of its former self. In seven of the 12 games they've conceded more than 90 points and only three times have they kept opponents in the 70s.
Even with the new interpretations favouring the offensive player, that's simply not good enough.
Against Perth the Wildcats' two imports combined for 61 points; on Sunday the Breakers left Tigers American guard Mustapha Farrakhan so free he drilled nine of his 10 field goal attempts. Basic assignments are being missed.
There are other concerns: Kerron Johnson appears to have lost his confidence; CJ Bruton is a non-factor so far; Alex Pledger is struggling with his low-post game; and they're skinny a power forward, for all the good work by youngster Reuben Te Rangi playing out of position.
Which brings us to Friday's Vector visit by the 11-1 Perth Wildcats. Henare was asked if Friday's agonising defeat, essentially to a banked late three from James Ennis, provided extra motivation.
"I don't know if you'd say extra motivation because right now we're desperate. Maybe extra desperation. We need to come home and finish off strong going into the two-week break.
"There shouldn't be any need for extra motivation for the rest of the season. We've got to come out in every game and be willing to put everything on the line." All indications were the late leg injury suffered by Mika Vukona on Sunday wasn't too serious. He's expected to front Friday.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
Five of the Breakers 8 losses this season have been under 5 points
At Cairns 85-86 v Adelaide 93-96 v Adelaide 94-95 At Perth 91-95 At Melbourne 82-84