The Sydney Kings are under immense pressure to salvage another unforgettable year by adding two new imports and releasing another. American centre Jeremy Tyler and point guard Jerome Randle were signed earlier this week after the club released underperforming guard Travis Leslie.
The massive changes came as a swift response to the Kings’ unimpressive season that has seen them sitting pretty at the bottom of the NBL ladder over the last few weeks. A wooden spoon finish is not what Gaze, JVG and co had envisioned.
Kings management finally addressed their most immediate positional need by adding a solid big man who they hope can provide some defensive presence in the middle. Tyler stands at 6’10” with a 7’5″ wingspan and has plenty of NBA experience under his belt. If his recent play in China is a barometer, Tyler could definitely bring in much needed muscle inside.
In hindsight relying on three rookies to man the middle was never going to work. Not a single King is averaging any more than 5.5 rebounds or even one block for the team, which shows the defensive ineptitude of this current roster. Ridiculous as it may sound, Tyler, who averaged 20.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game in the 2016/2017 Chinese league, is expected to cover the club’s shortcomings as soon as he steps on to the hardwood.
In another coup for the club, they also signed reigning NBL MVP Jerome “The Handle” Randle. The 5’9″ pocket rocket averaged 21.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.0 steals over 31 games for Adelaide last season. He will bring plenty of punch, energy, scoring prowess and a badly needed closer until Kevin Lisch returns.
As it stands, Randle will replace Leslie, while Tyler will slot in for import Perry Ellis, who can slide back to his natural power forward position. They will join Brad Newley and Jason Cadee in a revamped starting lineup. Todd Blanchfield can interchange with Cadee and Newley, or shore up a rather lackadaisical bench mob. Under-utilised big man Tom Garlepp is still in the Andrew Gaze’s doghouse, with rookies Isaac Humphries, Dane Pineau and Amritpal Singh getting more burn.
Less than two months into the season, the Kings have struggled mightily without their inspirational captain Kevin Lisch, who went down with a calf injury in Round 2. The unbalanced roster has seen players play out of position, with head coach Gaze continually tinkering with a lineup that lacks defensive intensity.
The same old issues continue to plague this Kings squad that’s built to run but are stuck on second gear. They are sporting a two game losing streak, and have only won once in the last five games.
For a team that’s stacked with good shooters and scorers, the Kings have only scored over 100 just once, good enough for two wins. Sydney are only averaging 86.1 points per game. On the other end, they are giving up a whopping 96 points per game. First to a hundred wins and clearly the team is at a crossroads.
There is strong belief that Randle and Tyler will make an immediate impact for Sydney. This is not a repetition of last year’s debacle, when NBA veterans Steve Blake and semi-retired Josh Powell were brought in to bring plenty of hype for the club but their addition was truly an epic fail.
A run for the playoffs is realistic and a Top 4 finish is certainly not out of the picture. We got four months and 20 games left until the end of February. Plenty of time. The Kings are just two wins away from fourth place.
The dilemma is that Sydney still has to play the top four clubs eleven more times during that stretch. New Zealand, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne occupy the top four spots on the NBL ladder at the moment. Sydney needs to play the Wildcats three more times, Adelaide twice, top-of-the-table New Zealand twice, and Melbourne four more times. Good luck.
Sydney needs to stay competitive on both ends of the floor. They must find some fire, passion and motivation to bounce back and win. Gaze and co could only hope and pray that their new import pairing can help jumpstart their season before the wheels completely fall off.
Can the Kings steal some wins now or continue to be the laughing stock of Aussie hoops? We’ll find out this Saturday against United.
Let’s hope for the best, Sydney. Better late than never.