Breakers facing do or die game without Corletto
The Breakers will almost certainly play for their post-season lives tomorrow night without starting shooting guard Daryl Corletto whose injured right ankle is still badly swollen.
Corletto will be checked again closer to tomorrow night's tipoff but coach Dean Vickerman is not planning on having him in the lineup when his 9-14 sixth-placed strugglers launch what they hope will be a five-game win streak to finish their season.
That sort of run - with four of those five remaining games at home - would get the Breakers back to .500, and given the tough schedules that the 12-11 Melbourne Tigers (third), 11-11 Sydney Kings (fourth) and 10-13 Wollongong Hawks (fifth) have ahead, they believe it would get them into the top four.
But first things first. Coming off back to back road defeats last weekend, they have to take care of business against the 8-14 Townsville Crocodiles at the NSEC, with just three members of their usual four-man backcourt rotation.
"We plan to not have him (Corletto) for this game and try really get him right for Cairns [on Saturday]," Vickerman said after a rather heated training session today. "If for some reason he comes up tomorrow, most probably he'll come off the bench anyway. We've got a couple of other guys there that want that job."
Corey Webster or CJ Bruton will slot in alongside Kerron Johnson to start in the backcourt - probably Webster - and between the three of them they're likely to hoover up the lion's share of the minutes. Development player Alonzo Burton will be the fourth wheel, while Reuben Te Rangi could also log some time stepping in from small forward.
But Vickerman said regardless of who was on the floor, one key thing was required against a Crocs side still without suspended import Josh Pace but fresh off a great weekend win over the Sydney Kings.
"It starts with the effort," he said. "We didn't feel like we had it in Wollongong. We had it for a good part in the Adelaide game. But there's always execution [needed], that's always important too.
"You can't just bring effort and not understand where your help is coming from. That's defensive execution and knowing your scouts. Pauli [Henare] is doing a great job putting our scouts together and we've just got to make sure we put them on the floor. If our defence is great we'll find our buckets."
There was certainly a real edge at Breakers training today - as there should be coming off back-to-back defeats with the season on the brink.
Veteran CJ Bruton unleashed several F-bomb laden tirades on his team-mates regarding their poor communication on defence, while Mika Vukona sounded off at the finish about the need to bring intensity tomorrow.
Asked about the angry words at the end of the session, Vickerman said: "We haven't got a choice. People talk about five games [left] but right now it's this game. We've got to win this one to keep our season alive.
"I'm really pleased our leaders came to practice today and talked about the things we need to do. It's been a constant all year that we need to continue to talk to each other and help each other in terms of defensive effort."
Vickerman also indicated there was now a good chance injured centre Alex Pledger (ankle) would not return this season.
"He had al light workout yesterday, fairly low intensity, and the ankle didn't respond that well. When we get back from Cairns we'll see where he's at, but it's starting to look a little bit more like he's an injury replacement for the rest of the season."
The Breakers coach was also asked about the imminent return of Kirk penney next season, a likelihood first reported by Fairfax Media.
"That's next year -- we're just working on this one right now," he said.
Asked if the club was having conversations with Penney, Vickerman said: "I guess so, but I haven't had a conversation with him."
The clash against the Townsville Crocs tips off at the NSEC tomorrow night at 7.40pm.