Casey Frank philosophical on Breakers' future
It's not often in sport that you hear athletes quoting ancient Chinese philosophers.
Then again, it's not often a defending champion sports team calls on a television commentator when their playing roster is thinned with injuries.
Such is the peculiar, up-and-down nature of the Australian NBL season this year for the Breakers; one that sees the side still exude a hint of playoff salvation ahead of tonight's clash against league leaders Perth in Western Australia.
"The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," commentator-turned-power forward Casey Frank said, referencing to one of Lao Tzu's more memorable quotes.
"Right now, it looks like a thousand mile journey - it's a tough one.
"But we took the first step last week. If we take the next step this weekend, it will be great."
That first step was a stirring 93-87 defeat of the Melbourne Tigers - though the second one tonight, for the Breakers, who have 6-10 record this season, will be far more difficult.
The Wildcats are the clear title favourites this season, and have beaten the Breakers in all three of their encounters so far.
Frank will likely be with the Breakers until their home game against Wollongong on January 23, when injured centre Alex Pledger is in line to re-join team.
If Pledger, who travelled to Perth and will do full team training next week, isn't fit, Frank will play one last game for the defending champions on that day.
Frank said the Breakers were looking forward to the Perth clash, and he hailed the positivity of coach Dean Vickerman to get his troops in the right mindset for battle.
"He brings a real positivity," Frank said. "I came in last week after that pretty devastating Adelaide loss, and he wasn't a down coach.
"He was like: 'We've got to move on and these are the things we have to do.' He's focusing on where we needed to improve in a positive manner.
"You couldn't tell the difference in practice from the loss against Adelaide to after the big win against the Tigers. That even keel is something you need from a head coach."
Frank last played in the NBL in 2009 with the Gold Coast Blaze, and said the biggest change in the league since he last donned a singlet was the definite decrease in on-court rough and tumble.
"The physicality has certainly dropped since last time I played," the 36-year-old said. "You could get away with a lot more when I was playing - there was a lot more banging away from the basketball. That's a bit different.
"I thinks it's become a little more perimeter orientated. Some of the bigger guys that were in the league a few years ago ... there's not quite as much size. Now you see fives who are much more likely to be my size - there's not too many seven-footers floating around."
Forward James Ennis, who was picked by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of last year's NBA draft, has been a revelation for the Wildcats this season - and he's the man the Breakers will need to restrict tonight.
The American has averaged 23.1 points a game, been absolutely deadly from outside the paint (with a 45.7 shooting percentage) and taken 115 rebounds since the season began.