Alex Pledger doubtful for Breakers to face Hawks
Alex Pledger rates himself a "50-50" chance to play tomorrow, but the Breakers are taking a less optimistic view on their injured centre's availability for the must-win home clash against the Wollongong Hawks.
Pledger was unable to complete today's final practice of the week, and coach Dean Vickerman admitted he wasn't banking on having Pledger in his lineup to take on the 6-10 Hawks at the NSEC.
If the Tall Blacks big man can't go, injury cover call-up Casey Frank will play his third straight game since being whistled up from the commentary booth.
Pledger hasn't played since rolling his ankle in training prior to the festive season run of four straight road games, and it's been mixed going since by the Kiwi club without their main defensive presence.
The Breakers did manage to scramble important road wins at Sydney and Melbourne, but were comprehensively thumped at both Adelaide and Perth and lie second from bottom on the standings with a dismal 6-11 record.
They have to start stringing the wins together to have any chance of sneaking into the playoff (top-four) picture and tomorrow's first home game in over a month shapes as a must-win in terms of sparking the turnaround.
But Pledger was not moving comfortably at all today and it would be a surprise to see him suiting up against a perimeter-oriented Hawks side that plays a little under-sized itself.
"We got him through some one-on-one yesterday, and he didn't quite complete the session, and got him into practice today and he didn't complete the session, so he's pretty doubtful for tomorrow," Vickerman said.
"We'll have a look at shootaround, but all indications right now are Casey will play this game and Alex won't."
Pledger was taking a slightly more optimistic view.
"Right now I'm probably 50-50," the seven-footer told Fairfax Media after today's practice.
"We might make a decision at tomorrow's shootaround, or we could leave it till the warmup on the night.
"It felt OK early on today but got pretty sore pretty quickly. It was good to get out on the court and get into some live stuff, but I didn't want to push it too far."
CJ Bruton also sat out the last part of practice today with foot problems, but Vickerman wasn't sure how serious that was. He is expected to play tomorrow.
The Breakers won't want to take any chances with Pledger against a Hawks side that doesn't present significant matchup problems with its size.
"[David] Gruber is a handful down there, but the best thing some of their bigs do with Larry [Davidson] and Oscar [Forman] is step out and shoot the three-ball," Vickerman said.
"Our offensive rebounding was great against them last time and Alex had his best game against them. We'll definitely miss him but Casey can do some of those things that can help us."
The Breakers are likely to take no chances with Pledger this week, muddle through one more week without their big centre and allow him to come back closer to full fitness next Thursday against the Sydney Kings at Vector Arena.
The Hawks' big threats tomorrow are in-form point guard Rotnei Clarke, hard-working small forward Kevin Tiggs and three-point marksman Oscar Forman, with the likes of Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie and the back-courters facing the key assignments.