It’s been just over two weeks since the NBL’s off-season began and although not a lot of players have announced where they will play this season, the ones that did have been able to give the league quite a shake up.
The Golden State Warriors making history by winning 73 games and Kobe Bryant’s swan song this week may have distracted you from what happened in basketball closer to home, so let’s recap the week’s events.
Goodbye Townsville, Hello Brisbane
It was with huge disappointment that the NBL announced that the Townsville Crocodiles would not compete in the 2016/17. Is the Crocodiles demise proof that the Larry Kestelman plan isn’t working or were Townsville merely one pawn lost in an effort gain checkmate in the game of expanding our league.
I believe this was bound to happen. It’s not that I didn’t love the passion that last seasons Townsville team brought to the table, it was simply the fact that looking at their roster, fan attendance and stadium that Townsville simply didn’t have the funds to support a basketball team.
It’s with great sadness to see yet another NBL team fade away. but in order for Larry to drag this league to the top of the mountain I don’t think this will be the last rural team we see exit the league.
This is because the long term vision Larry has for the NBL includes Panda’s, Samurai’s and a Great Wall. Asia to be frank, is the destination Larry has planned for the NBL and to expand our league internationally mean’s we can only take the healthiest (financially) teams with us and teams that don’t either have to shape up or shape out.
The largest problem with Townsville leaving, outside of the NBL losing a team, is that it puts both the players and coaching staff in a very vulnerable position.
With every head coaching position filled, it seems unlikely the reigning coach of the year Shawn Dennis will be on the sidelines for an NBL team this season. A huge loss by any standard.
However from tragedy comes opportunity and the remaining 8 teams are surely licking their lips at the thought of now being in the running for notable free agents like Clint Stiendl, Mitch Norton, Mitch Young and Nicholas Kay.
Outside of Townsville reigning MVP Kevin Lisch has joined the Sydney Kings. A deal rumored to to be worth a whopping 300k. The Kings have also been able to pair returning stars Tom Garlepp and Jason Cadee with Lisch to give them perhaps the most impressive off-season report so far.
Sydney have also remodeled their entire coaching staff announcing Andrew Gaze as their new head coach. Wisely the Kings have also paired him with the highly credentialed Dean Vickerman and his long time running partner Lanard Copeland as as assistant coaches. While Gaze and Copeland are extremely unproven at that coaching level, they will certainly help put bums in seats and maybe even make the Sydney Kings relevant again.
While losing Lisch is terrible for the Hawks, the nightmare wasn’t all over for the foundation NBL club. While re-signing big man AJ Ogilvy was a huge coup for the Hawks, the trade off was losing Lisch and former league MVP Kirk Penney. Penney felt returning to New Zealand with his family was the best way forward and his departure leaves a huge hole for the Hawks.
The NBL’s newest team has done well in their first two moves signing two members of the Australian Boomers program in Adam Gibson and former Melbourne United player Daniel Kickert.
While Adam Gibson had a less than adequate season last year, struggling to have the impact he has had in previous years, “Gibbo” is still in the top two homegrown talents at his position. Having started his career in Brisbane a return to where it all started for Gibson could see a return to form for the 29 year old.
Kickert conversely had a phenomenal season last year. Kickert made the All NBL First Team last season and showed the league his worth. (Despite averaging only 3.8 rebounds per game).
The team’s first steps in compiling a roster has been on point and with the team now in talks players like Torrey Craig, Rhys Martin and Anthony Petrie, the Bullet’s won’t be warming up when they play their first game.
Melbourne United have been unusually quiet thus far but don’t be mislead by this soon to erupt volcano. The team has re-signed stars Chris Goulding and Stephen Holt and plan to team them with Nathan Jawai, Cedric Jackson and Australia’s most successful international basketball player ever in David Andersen.
Although this week the big announcements may have been overshadowed by basketball overseas, when Melbourne drop their bombshell there’s no chance that’s happening again.