Hungry Jack's NBL
NBL New Year’s Resolutions
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, losing weight, learning something new and quitting smoking are the most common New Year’s Resolutions that are made – and generally broken – down under each year. But how about our NBL teams? What are they hoping to achieve in 2016? As we prepare to bring in the New Year with two cracking games in North Queensland, let’s take a peek into the New Year’s Resolutions of the NBL’s eight competing clubs. ADELAIDE 36ERS New Year’s Resolution: Sign Jerome Randle to a three-year deal Jerome Randle has taken the NBL by storm since arriving in Adelaide two weeks into the 2015/16 season. Immediately assuming the role of 36ers alpha dog, Randle has played himself into genuine MVP consideration and has led Adelaide to within striking distance of the top four. The diminutive point guard loves the big moments and is currently second in the NBL in both points (22.8) and assists (5.1) while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the charity stripe. Head coach Joey Wright just signed on with the Sixers for another three years, let’s see the same happen with the #HandleByRandle. CAIRNS TAIPANS New Year’s Resolution: Make it rain November to April is supposed to be the wet season in North Queensland but the Cairns Taipans have been as dry as the Simpson Desert these past few months. The Taipans are the only NBL team shooting less than 30 percent from long range, having made only 111 of their 384 three-point attempts (.289) this season. Point guard Markel Starks and forward Mark Worthington have been the main culprits – each connecting on 24 percent of 3.4 attempts per game – but they’ve not been alone as Aaron Fearne’s entire regular rotation has struggled from downtown. It’s no coincidence that the top four teams for three-point percentage – Illawarra (.395), Melbourne (.373), Perth (.363) and New Zealand (.343) – are also the top four teams on the NBL standings. The long range shot has never been more highly-valued and the Taipans would love to start raining some threes to get their offense – and their season – moving in the right direction. ILLAWARRA HAWKS New Year’s Resolution: Bulk-buy Windex When the Hawks gave up 22 offensive rebounds to Perth in Round 6, head coach Rob Beveridge lamented their inability to clean the defensive glass and labelled his players “mentally soft”. Since then the Hawks have reeled off six wins from eight games and have limited opponents to less than 10 offensive boards on almost every occasion. It’s been a big improvement, one that Beveridge believes has been vital to their success. “As soon as you start to take care of that, you start winning and that’s what we’re doing now,” Beveridge said recently. The Hawks can score, we know that. They’re ranked second in field goal percentage (.453) and first in both three point percentage (.395) and free throw percentage (.797). They’re also the only team averaging over 90 points per game on the season (93.5). Yet with all that offensive firepower, it may well be their ability to clean the defensive glass that determines how far they go this season. Got Windex? MELBOURNE UNITED New Year’s Resolution: Consistently bring “the juice” Melbourne’s much publicised form slump was arrested on Sunday night with an impressive home win over the league-leading Perth Wildcats. Afterwards, head coach Dean Demopoulos spoke about the improved energy, intensity and focus he saw from his players under the open roof at Hisense Arena. “Overall, we brought the juice tonight,” Demopoulos said. Point guard Stephen Holt elaborated on “the juice” during this week’s #HardBall Podcast. “It’s just the effort on each play, offensively and defensively,” Holt explained. “The ‘juice’ Coach is talking about is just making the smart play on offense and ultimately closing out each possession and getting the rebound and trying to get into our offensive set as efficiently as we can.” Whatever it is, Melbourne will be looking to bottle up ‘the juice’ and bring it time and time again during 2016 as they attempt to make a run at the title. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS New Year’s Resolution: Employ Eddie Palubinskas New Zealand’s inconsistent free throw shooting has been truly remarkable this season. The Breakers have four players – Cedric Jackson (.482), Charles Jackson (.594), Mika Vukona (.577) and Alex Pledger (.583) – who average 2+ free throw attempts per game but connect on less than 60 percent of their shots from the stripe. As a team they shoot just 63 percent. It’s an issue, one which boiled over a few weeks ago when the reigning champs shot a dismal 13/31 during a win over Townsville. Since then, though, there has been improvement, including an impressive 19/21 display against Sydney last Sunday. The Breakers may not have hired Ed Palubinskas just yet, but Dean Vickerman likely has the Free Throw Master’s number saved in his phone just in case. PERTH WILDCATS New Year’s Resolution: Fortify the Jungle The Perth Wildcats sit atop the NBL ladder and have already played twelve of their fourteen regular season road games. Uh oh… that means six of Perth’s final eight games will be in the Jungle, setting them up nicely to establish a new world record of 30 consecutive trips to the postseason. The Wildcats possess arguably the strongest home-court advantage in the NBL and in front of their rabid home fans, they’ve lost only once this season. Could home-court advantage through the playoffs propel the ‘Cats to a record seventh NBL title? That’s the idea. SYDNEY KINGS New Year’s Resolution: Unite against the non-believers Sydney head coach Joe Connelly says the Kings New Year’s Resolution is to “get better every day and build a winning culture.” Makes sense. Perhaps a healthy first step would be to follow Townsville’s ‘nobody believes in us’ blueprint of proving the naysayers wrong. Sydney’s season has been filled with turmoil and adversity but now, with Josh Childress back on the floor, it’s time to bind together and take some big scalps. One thing that may help is the move to their new home at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre. Childress is already on the record saying the atmosphere is better in the new venue so with some extra buzz in the building and their star back on the floor, it’s time to get some wins! TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES New Year’s Resolution: Fill the Swamp! The Crocs have lost more games than they’ve won this season but you cannot for a second fault their endeavour. The giant killers of the NBL have become everybody’s second team, impressing with their gritty never-say-die approach and the time has come for the people of Townsville to come to the party. Attendances have been up since Larry Kestelman’s foreboding call-to-action but that’s only the beginning. The Crocs have five home games scheduled for 2016 including a Reptile Rumble on February 11. Fill the Swamp, Townsville, your team has earned your support.