Alex Pledger suffers setback ahead of Kings
Crocked Breaker Alex Pledger has some big decisions to make around his injured ankle - though the most immediate one may have been taken away from him with another setback at training yesterday.
The towering 2.13m centre is desperate to get back on the court as the 7-11 Breakers tip-toe down the playoff tightrope, but his chances of doing so for Thursday night's must-win home clash against the Sydney Kings now look somewhere between slim and none.
Pledger "jammed" the problem ankle at training yesterday, limping off and taking no further part in the session. He could only throw his arms up in the air in frustration, and afterwards his coach, Dean Vickerman, was reduced to a similar response.
"He's really frustrated," said Vickerman of his centre who's missed the past five games.
"He took a cortisone last Friday, and took the weekend off to rest it. There are some bone spurs in that ankle, and you just don't know how they're going to go, day to day.
"Some days they jam up, some days they can feel all right. [Yesterday] it jammed up on him when it got going, so we're very lucky to continue to have Casey [Frank] around right now."
Vickerman refused to rule Pledger out of Thursday's Vector clash against the red-hot Kings, saying he remained "day by day" as the club ponders the best treatment plan. But given the heavy limp still present in the despondent Pledger gait yesterday, Frank should bank on a fourth straight appearance as standby centre.
Vickerman confirmed Pledger would require surgery at some stage to repair the ankle, and that's where the complications arise.
With up to a three-month recovery period needed, Pledger must ponder how soon to go under the knife, and whether he is prepared to compromise his participation at the world championships in Spain later in the year.
One thing now certain is that the Breakers are entering must-win territory in back-to-back home-away clashes against the Kings..
With the Kings upsetting the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday and Melbourne securing back-to-back road wins over the round, the Breakers' top-four hopes now hang by a thread.
At 12-8, the third placed Tigers are almost out of sight, while even the 9-8 Kings, who have won four straight, are going to take some catching in fourth spot.
That's where Thursday, and a rematch in Sydney the following round, come in. Twin Breakers wins (and twin Kings defeats) would all but erase the deficit. Twin Sydney victories would all but put the threepeat champs out of their misery.
"We still feel like we're in control of what we can control," added Vickerman.
"Right now with 10 games to go we still have a chance to get 17 wins.
"[But] Sydney is huge. They're playing well, they've got four wins in a row right now, they're beating good teams, learning how to play without a true point guard and [AJ] Ogilvy is doing his thing around the ring. They've got a lot of scorers now."
The Breakers shocked the Kings in Sydney on December 29 behind 31 points from Gary Wilkinson. Somehow they've got to back that up on Thursday, with or without Pledger.