Hungry Jack's NBL
In the heat of Melbourne United’s Tuesday scrimmage, David Barlow drove towards the left side baseline and whipped in a low bounce pass to an open Tohi Smith-Milner.
The developing big man fumbled the difficult pass off his knee missing out on a certain basket but the 33 year old veteran just patted him on the shoulder and jogged up the court.
To Barlow, being back on court tiny errors into perspective.
After two Olympics, almost a decade in Europe and a good return season in the NBL, Barlow was forced to miss all of last season when his ongoing achilles problems left him needing a long term recovery.
There were many who doubted he would return to the court despite being one of the most stringent professionals in Australian basketball.
But they shouldn’t have doubted him because the man himself knew from early on he could return and at Hisense Arena on Saturday night he will make his long awaited comeback to Melbourne’s lineup.
“I’m going to enjoy it. At practice on Tuesday I didn’t think I played that well but I was just stoked to be out there, hanging out with my teammates, talking trash and whatever,” Barlow said this week.
“That’s what it’s going to be like on Saturday too - I’ll be stoked to be out there no matter how many minutes I play or how I do.
“Whatever happens I just hope to get better and get better quickly.”
Barlow has more than earned his NBL return but it didn’t come without one more setback, one including the dreaded “old man’s injury” - a calf tear.
During the offseason he regained his match fitness to be selected in the NBL All-Australian team to tour China then also impressed against UCLA and Cairns Taipans in United’s preseason campaign.
Then two weeks before the Australian Basketball Challenge preseason tournament, his calf injury appeared.
“Everything felt good then it was just basketball, sports - you have a little calf tear on the other leg,” Barlow said.
“I don’t know if it was over-compensation or whatever - it just sucks, I was devastated, really upset.”
Barlow’s calf injury at first appeared minor and he expected to play in the ABC but subsequent diagnosis’ showed it would take longer to repair costing him the first five weeks of the season.
“I hurt it and we had a scan done and they said I would be out longer than expected, that rocked my world,” Barlow said.
“Then I spoke to more people and they said it would be longer again so I was stressing out due to missing all these games.
“It was bad, I was really struggling with it but it’s all over now, I’m happy with it and I just have to work to find a groove because that will be difficult.”
Saturday’s game is proving to be the perfect storm in terms of basketball drama with the Kings’ on top of the league, Andrew Gaze returning home as Kings coach and Melbourne hit by injuries and on a four-game losing streak.
As a former Melbourne Tigers player, Barlow looked up to Gaze like many thousands of others but he isn’t buying into the pregame love fest too much.
“I grew up around here [Sandringham] so the Magic and then the Titans trained out here so I became a Magic supporter and I didn’t like the Tigers,” Barlow said.
“Then I ended up playing for the Tigers so I have a range of emotions for Andrew Gaze but all in all he’s a brilliant bloke, a great face for the game and hopefully we can beat them.
“When he signed the deal there was a bit of surprise for half a second then it was like “that’s them, this is us” if we are going against them it doesn’t matter - I don’t think about him that much.
“I love the old Melbourne Tigers system, the shuffle, that’s what they are doing but to be honest I’m not into it, I don’t care, I just want to beat them.”