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A Knight's Tale

The Perth Wildcats will be banking on Matt Knight staying healthy for the rest of the season after he played a significant part in wins this weekend over the Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United. The two-time championship winning power forward made his return from a shoulder injury on Friday night helping the Wildcats to an 80-73 win over the Hawks at Perth Arena. He had 12 points and eight rebounds in almost 26 minutes in his first game of the season. Then on Sunday at Hisense Arena, he had a fascinating battle for much of the afternoon with David Andersen. His presence and output of 14 points and nine boards in over 30 minutes of court time helped the 'Cats to the 72-69 victory. The wins put the Wildcats back on top of the NBL ladder having won four of their five matches this season and the weekend's wins were impressive against two of the four teams that took part in the finals in 2015/16. Knight made his return on Friday in what was the 206th game of his NBL career but his 150th with the Wildcats. He celebrated his milestone in style having an immediate impact with the first basket and rebound of the game on the way to seven points and three boards in the opening period. His presence in the line-up immediately made the Wildcats look a more imposing force. He was a powerful presence defensively in the paint in both games of the weekend, while offensively 26 points across two games was a major reason why Perth was able to come away with the two wins. It has only been injuries that has hindered Knight throughout his career, largely shoulder and calf complaints, but the fact is when healthy he remains one of the most important players in the league. He is a major reason why the 'Cats have played in four Grand Finals and two other semi-final series' in his six previous seasons for two championship victories. And with him in the line-up the Wildcats look capable of being a real threat once more particularly in tandem with Jameel McKay and Angus Brandt as the bigs on the team. The 31-year-old was just happy to hit the floor again after sitting out the opening three rounds of the season and taking his place back on the roster from injury replacement Lucas Walker. He felt good out there in almost an hour of court time across the two games and has no doubt the Wildcats will only continue to improve as the chemistry improves with newly arrived import Andre Ingram. "It's good to be back on court. It was pretty frustrating starting the season watching the boys but I'm just happy to be back on the court now and trying to help the boys win," Knight said. "We are starting to gel and the more practice time we get together we will get better and better. Andre has only had one practice with us and two games already, so he is still learning his role and how he fits into our system. But the signs are good." Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson can't underestimate the difference that Knight makes to the Wildcats. That's both as a defensive presence at one end where he makes life difficult in the paint for the opposition but then to also provide a go-to player inside when things aren’t working on the perimeter offensively. "He is a rock in there for us. To firstly come back on Friday night I thought he was sensational and he probably gets underrated as a defensive player," Gleeson said. "But he's pretty strong in there, he's our leading rebounder and we can throw the ball at him and he can score. There's a reason why he has been a premier player in this league for a number of years."
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