A big week looms in Andrew Gaze’s NBL coaching career as his slumping Sydney Kings welcome the arrival of reigning league MVP Jerome Randle.
All eyes will be on the last-placed Kings to see whether last week’s expensive roster shake up shows signs of putting them back in the finals hunt.
The first of their two new signings, former NBA centre Jeremy Tyler, made his debut on Saturday but he’d barely met his teammates before playing 10 minutes in a 108-90 away loss to Melbourne United and he’s sure to have increasing influence in coming weeks.
Randle’s arrival will take expectation to a different level as the free-scoring guard lobs in time to face the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong on Thursday night before an emotion-charged clash with his former team Adelaide 36ers on Saturday.
With only two wins from nine games, the pressure is on second-year coach Gaze to quickly incorporate his new stars into an improved style of play in time to make a late charge at the finals.
Randle appears set to form a potent starting backcourt with Kevin Lisch when the injured skipper returns.
“He (Randle) won’t have a lot of time (to prepare),” Gaze said.
“He’s been playing in Turkey so he’s relatively fit and in shape.”
“He’ll come in and we’ve got to figure out a way to put some system in place where we can exploit his skills.”
Adelaide also face a challenging lead-in to Saturday night’s stoush after slumping to a third-straight loss, this time at the hands of the in-form Hawks.
The Hawks, who upset the top-ranked 36ers in last season’s semi-finals, delivered some more pain by coming from 15 points down on Saturday night, Demitrius Conger (26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Rotnei Clarke (25 points, eight boards) fuelling the comeback 96-87 road win.
The New Zealand Breakers (7-1) ensured they sat atop the NBL ladder after extending their winning run to seven matches with victory over reigning champions Perth 88-84 on Thursday night, DJ Newbill (17 points) and Kirk Penney (14 points off the bench) leading the way in Auckland.
Melbourne United moved into third spot on the ladder behind Perth after recovering from a heavy loss in Cairns and smashing the Kings on Saturday night.
United shared the scoring load with six players finishing with double-digit points and now have a week to prepare for their home clash with Perth.
Cairns Taipans extracted some revenge for last week’s heavy loss in Melbourne, beating United by 23 points at home on Thursday night.
But they missed the opportunity to climb into the top four as former Taipan Travis Trice (17 points and eight assists) led the seventh-placed Brisbane Bullets to an 82-74 win in the all-Queensland clash on Sunday afternoon.