Abercrombie laments Breakers' off-pace outing
The Breakers looked nothing like champions in their NBL opener – and they know it. Marc Hinton reports.
Thomas Abercrombie is hurting. And his dodgy left ankle right now is the least of his problems.
The New Zealand Breakers swingman has become one of the Australian NBL's premier performers, with his spring-heeled athleticism, deft touch, long wing-span and sure shot serving the Kiwi club brilliantly over their back-to-back championships.
But Abercrombie is the first to admit he didn't front up in Friday's Australian NBL season-opener against the Perth Wildcats - and not for him the ready-made excuse that his off-season ankle surgery left him horribly underdone for the grand final rematch.
Though centre Alex Pledger has borne the brunt of the criticism following a zero-rebound night in a passive Breakers effort, Abercrombie reckons there's plenty of blame to go round.
Coach Andrej Lemanis labelled Pledger's rebounding no-show and the fact that American Will Hudson also failed to secure a defensive board as “unacceptable” amid a performance that was soft and tentative.
“We were all a step off the pace,” said Abercrombie yesterday as he worked towards tomorrow's Vector opener against the resurgent Adelaide 36ers. “It's pretty hard to get rebounds when the ball is going in the net all the time. We didn't play good enough defence to generate enough missed shots. I'm sure those big guys, along with everyone else, will be a lot better this week.”
It was Abercrombie's first game back since he limped through the memorable grand final decider last April where he made that unbelievable late block to seal victory.
And after viewing the video of last Friday's 93-72 defeat, the Tall Blacks star was ready to put his hand up.
“I was a spectator for too much of that game,” said the 1.98m forward who many believe has the potential to play in the NBA. “I need to be involved offensively or defensively the whole time. I'm someone who can contribute at both ends of the court and I need to find ways to do that.
“It's about finding my points where I can attack. It had been five months between games, and in that respect I'm happy to get through. But there's a lot of things I can work on and hopefully they will get better and better as I get more game time under my belt.”
The thing is Abercrombie is clearly still hampered by the ankle damaged so badly by Peter Crawford's ill-timed late hit in last season's semifinal decider.
For a guy whose forte is his ease of movement on the court, Abercrombie is a comparative carthorse as he works his way slowly back to full mobility.
All he'll say is it's “improving” but the evidence suggests he remains a long way from playing anywhere near freely.
In the meantime, he knows he has to find a way to be effective, just as the Breakers need to bring the intensity this week as a team. The Perth stumble, he reckoned, was an object lesson in that.
Not that it gets any easier. Adelaide hit Auckland on the back of a 23-point mauling of the Melbourne Tigers and with a tooled up squad that look to have a spring in their step.
“They've made some big changes, and brought in some big-time players in Adam Gibson, Luke Schenscher and Anthony Petrie,” noted Abercrombie.
“They're very deep, have got a core who have been around a while, and have good balance. They're one of the teams to beat this year, and if we don't play with the intensity needed it could be another tough night.”
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