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Lighting the spark

The shot isn’t dropping and he is averaging 14 minutes in a new role off the bench. Just don’t try telling Illawarra Hawks co-captain Oscar Forman that his playing days are numbered. Turning 35 in January, Adelaide-born Forman is in his 16th NBL season and seventh with the Hawks after previous stints with the 36ers and New Zealand. He has chalked up 455 games and will go down as one of the NBL’s all-time great shooters, topping the three-point percentages a record five times. Forman is also one of the most durable players in NBL history, given he has never suffered a serious injury and rarely misses a game. But after averaging five points and hitting just four of 16 threes in Illawarra’s first four games, the 2.06m forward knows he has to be more productive if he wants to silence questions about retirement plans. “It kind of annoys me a bit that every second question these days is how long can a basketballer play for and what am I going to do next,” Forman said. “I always say I’ll keep playing until I don’t love it and don’t feel like I’m contributing. The last few games I’ve struggled and in the first game I felt like I contributed. “The body feels good and I still love it. It’s still something I look forward to, coming to training every day and the games. I still live and breathe it. “I do have half a mind on making sure that after basketball something will slowly develop, but in terms of playing, it’s still something I want to do. “I’m happy with the role I’m playing now. It’s been so many years since I’ve come off the bench so I have to get used to it. I have to see what’s happening and come in and provide a spark, whereas it’s always been warming up and going straight onto the court for the game. “Now I warm up and sit down, and my role is that I have to be ready to provide a spark when I come in and put points on the board quickly. “It’s all about winning. We’ve never been a team that worries about who’s playing and minutes as long as we’re winning.” Winning was something Illawarra did emphatically with their 34-point rout of Adelaide in round one. In round two the Hawks were brought thudding back to earth, going down 88-84 at home to arch rivals Sydney and copping a double-digit beating on the road at the hands of Melbourne United. On Friday night Illawarra slipped to 1-3 with an 80-73 road loss to titleholders Perth. Forman believes he and his teammates will be more successful if they just stick to Hawks basketball. “We have to go back to what works for us, and what works for us is moving the ball and pushing the ball, and defensively we need to cause a bit of havoc,” he said. “It’s about sticking to the process. We look at other teams and when they go individual that’s when we’re winning the game. “Sometimes our ball movement stops and we’re such an unselfish team that there are times when we need people to take the predictable shots, the shots that we know are going up and are easy to rebound. “Against Melbourne, we talked about putting pressure on Cedric Jackson and making someone else carry the ball and too often he was able to walk the ball up or run it at us and get a head-start. It really put us under the pump and [Todd] Blanchfield hit a couple and got hot. “But it’s cause and effect. Todd got those looks because we didn’t execute our defence and close out hard enough.” Injured Hawks guard Mitch Norton (hamstring) didn’t fly to Perth but is an outside chance of suiting up for Illawarra’s Monday night road clash with the Kings. “The league is so close and the weeks go by so quickly that we need to get back on track,” Forman said. “We need to follow through with the plan and the process in the game, and get our focus back onto what we’ve been doing in preseason and what we did last year, sticking with what makes us successful.” The Kings are one of the NBL’s hottest teams with three straight wins, including the round-two triumph over Illawarra. Sydney cut import Michael Bryson late last week and quickly replaced him with highly credentialled guard Steve Blake - a veteran of 923 NBA games. Forman didn’t deny the Hawks were seeking a payback job on their NSW rivals. “We get to play Sydney on their home court and try to do what they did to us on our court,” he said. “At least that’s still fresh in our minds because that was the first one we let slip. We didn’t have a good night and we lost Norto early. He pushes the ball quickly and defensively he dogs the ball, and we missed a lot of that. “But when one guy goes out we can’t throw it all out. We need everyone else to cover for what he does and maintain our style as a team.”  
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