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Sweating the small stuff

They are called the one-percenters in football - the small plays that help achieve big goals. And as far as newly-signed Sydney Kings import Josh Powell is concerned, the contributions that don’t always show up in the box score are often the difference between winning and losing. The two-time NBA champion shared a few quiet words of wisdom on the eve of Thursday night’s round two duel with the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong. “First I bring leadership and experience, and getting guys to understand the importance of little details and how those little details make a huge hell of a difference,” Powell said moments after his first training session with the Kings. “Things like communicating on both ends of the floor, which raises everybody’s awareness and confidence, especially on the defensive end when you know guys have got your back. “Offensively if a player sees something and they’re talking you through it, that’s one of the biggest things right now that can take us up two or three levels as a team.” Powell hit the practice court with his new teammates 24 hours after arriving in Australia. He lined up for six NBA teams, including a stint with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2008-10 when he won two titles alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The 33-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina has also played for clubs all over the world - before and after his NBA experiences - including Italy, Russia, Greece, China and Puerto Rico. Playing in Australia wasn’t on his bucket list, but after a 14-year professional career, Powell has learned that life is full of pleasant surprises. “Where I grew up, I would’ve never expected to be a professional - period,” the 2.06m, 109kg forward said. “Honestly, I’ve been blessed to be able to be part of this game for 14 years - eight in the NBA and four or five internationally - and I was also able to coach for a year and gain good experience from that. “It’s amazing to see what basketball has done for me as a person, as a man, and what is does for those around me and those that I love, and how I’m able to share my experiences with them. “Hopefully I can by a type of inspiration or motivation for others who are in similar situations, or maybe they’re going through something, and in some way I can help through my journey by showing them that at the end of the day everything will be all right. “I’m 33 years old and I’m just trying to finish my career on a high note, and I’m figuring out what I’m going to do in life after basketball. “I don’t take any of this for granted. It’s just a huge blessing and I love and appreciate the game for the good and bad times. I’ve learned from that a whole lot, so the way I look at it is that hopefully my story can be one to motivate and inspire others.” Powell will make his NBL debut against the Hawks and is scheduled to make his first home appearance in Kings colours when Sydney host the Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. The Kings lost a nailbiter to Brisbane in last week’s season-opener. Powell has had to undergo a crash course in Sydney’s offensive system and plans on doing the things he’s always done. “Defending and rebounding and energy is something I’ve obviously hung my hat on through my whole career,” he said. “I can score and do a lot of things on the offensive end, but my focus is to come in and try and control what I can control, which is on the defensive end. “I’m still learning the coverages and things like that and learning on the offensive end as well. I’m making sure that I’ve got my ears open and I’m listening. “I’m asking questions if there’s a problem, and just being open to that. If they see that and see me working hard to do everything I can to come in and make an impact, that gains trust and the respect of the guys. “It’s not always going to be perfect. I’m coming in an adjusting with guys that have been playing together the last couple of months, so I know that and I understand that. I have the patience and awareness to be conscious of that. “Obviously there’s a lot to learn on both ends and we went over a lot of stuff today. The guys have been talking to me and helping so that we’re all on the same page as quick as possible.” The Kings are sweating on American guard Michael Bryson, who missed Wednesday’s training with the flu. Fellow import Greg Whittington is primed for a big weekend after tallying six points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 24 minutes before fouling out in last week’s loss to the Bullets. “From what I saw in the first game, it’s a physical league and I’m pretty sure every night is going to be a dogfight,” Whittington said. “We know we have to pick up our rebounding and transition ‘D’. We’re definitely going to have to grind throughout the whole game and take no possessions off, take no games off and no days off. “You can never skip ahead. We’re only looking at the game against Illawarra, and after that we’ll start getting ourselves mentally prepared for Saturday. “Josh will really help us. He’s got two NBA titles so he definitely has the experience, and he’s going to be able to talk to us and show us some things we don’t know that we can use and help us as a team. “It’s going to mesh when he gets the offence down and it’ll be smooth running.” Whittington was a star forward at famous Georgetown University and hopes to break into the NBA. “I never thought I’d be going overseas to play basketball,” the 23-year-old said. “For me to get to the NBA, I just have to keep working hard and keep a level head, and if I stay hungry and humble I’ll get there. “I don’t think I have too many weaknesses. I just need to be a dog every night, even though I am already. I just have to get more aggressive with it and make sure I communicate with my teammates. “I can see the backline playing the four-spot, so I see everything before it really happens and as long as I talk and communicate with my teammates, I think I can get there.”
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