Monday, 31 August 2015

Injury Update

Today was our first day with this seasons entire team being in the same room so thought id update everyone on how things are going.

As has been the case throughout my entire rehab period things are going very well. After we all met each other this morning and all the support staff introduced themselves and explained what they will be doing this season we all went on court for workouts...I finally got to actually run up and down on a basketball court!! That may not seem like a huge deal to most since thats what we do, but when it has been close to six months of stationary bike, rower and stepper (the absolute bane of my existence) it felt great to lace up the boots and jog up and down the floor a little bit, even if only for 10 mins (baby steps).

In the gym I've had full clearance for about 6 weeks and our strength and conditioning coach, Steve Buckley, has been working with me to get my body back up to speed while Mark our team physio sorts the foot out...Its a slow process but thats just the nature of this particular injury! But for the first time in over a year I'm starting to feel like my old self again.

Its hard to say exactly when ill be able to resume full on basketball activity/training but my next visit with the surgeon in a few weeks will be bang on the six month mark and hopefully after that will be able to start some more higher intensity on court training and not long after that hopefully will be able to join the boys on the court...Cant wait!!

Its at that point where its feeling pretty good and it feels like I could push it a little bit but just a little bit more time is required to get it to 100%...I can see the light at the end of the tunnel :)


Friday, 14 August 2015

Oceania series - A few keys to the series

Corey Webster 
I’ve known Corey since I was about 17 and he’s always been a guy that never had trouble putting the ball in the basket. He’s an exceptional one-on-one player but the area that he has really improved in the last couple of years is his ability to score within the flow of an offence rather than being a 1 on 1 guy. 
He has much greater understanding of moving without the ball, using screens and reading defence to get to his spots. All this combined with his improved playmaking and passing ability he is definitely a world class offensive player. 
Over the last couple of years Corey’s confidence has grown and while he perhaps isn’t quite at the level Kirk Penney was at during his prime, he is definitely getting close to it. 
Andrej Lemanis obviously knows his game pretty well from his days with the Breakers and I’m assuming one of Matthew Dellavedova, Adam Gibson or Damien Martin (all excellent defensive players) will be assigned to him at all times. 
Corey’s ability to put up points while under constant defensive pressure while also getting his teammates involved because of the attention he will attract will be key if the Tall Blacks are to walk away with the series win 
Matching up with Andrew Bogut 
Bogut is suiting for the Boomers for the first time in quite a long time and for pretty much the entire team outside of Mika Vukona and maybe Lindsay Tait, it will be the first time they have played an Aussie team with him in it. 
Bogut is multi-faceted on the offensive end, he may not have a huge role within the Golden State Warriors offence in terms of shot attempts and scoring, but he does have a very good back to the basket game and the Tall Blacks being pretty small his size alone will make it difficult.

What sets him apart from a lot of big men though is his excellent passing ability. He will be the biggest guy on court when he is out there and will be able to see over double teams (should the Tall Blacks do that) and hit the open man. 
While he doesn’t look to shoot the outside shot very much, his ability to facilitate and make plays from the high post and in dribble hand off action will also be tough to contend with. 
It’s the defensive end is where he will make the biggest impact! He is one of the best post defenders and rim protectors in the NBA. Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu, who are both playing centre for the Tall Blacks, are both good offensive players but I don’t think Andrej Lemanis will have many concerns with Bogut guarding them in 1 on 1 situations down low. 
However they both shoot the three pretty well and Isaac Fotu in particular has good face up ability off the dribble. Both of them have the ability to drag him out of his comfort zone and open up the floor a little bit. How productive they can be against him will be a big factor in the outcome of the series. 
Patty Mills 
Obviously the circumstances surrounding the late addition of Mills aren’t the greatest. You never want to see players go down with an injury as serious as a torn ACL, especially a 19 year old like Dante Exum. But adding a player of Mills’ ability is obviously going to make the Boomers a lot more dangerous.
He has been their most consistent performer over the last 5-7 years and in fact has been one of the best performers on the international stage across all nations. Mills is a player who commands touches and shots and integrating a player like that so late in the piece won’t be easy. 
The players that were on the team during their recent tour of Europe will have to adjust the roles they have gotten used to without Mills and that isn’t easy to do with so little time. 
Those are just a few of the keys that will have a massive impact on the outcome of the series! New Zealand vs Australia in any sport is always extremely competitive and this will be no different. It should prove to be a very fiery and entertaining series and I can’t wait to see it. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Oceania series preview - Feels like 2009

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Tall Blacks throughout their games so far. First up against Great Britain, who are a bit of an unknown to me since I’ve never played against them, they had a close victory in a closed game before a 20 point blowout win in front of a big crowd in London. A great result for such a young team and a pretty good way to start the Paul Henare era. 
They followed that up with two solid performances against Croatia, which ended in a heart breaking last second three to Croatian guard Rok Stipčević, and then Slovenia. The game against Slovenia wasn’t pretty shooting wise but the team would have been disappointed with the result after leading at half and three quarter time. 
While both European powerhouses were missing players, we were as well, so taking them to the last minute of each game was promising with a team that hadn’t spent much time together. Despite not getting the results they all wanted. 
The good form continued in the Stankovic Cup in China, going undefeated against Venezuela, Mexico (who we played twice) and China. Corey Webster continued his great form being the teams’ most consistent scoring threat. But the entire team played solid basketball during the tournament. 
Tom Abercrombie, Isaac Fotu and Reuben Te Rangi all had games where they lead the team offensively or provided a secondary scoring threat for Webster, helping him with the scoring load he has to carry. The team also played well down the stretch of all the games, showing they had learnt a lot after letting the games against Croatia and Slovenia slip through their fingers.

Having Paul Henare around the team has been great. He’s got a nice resume already in his short coaching career, and he is turning into one of those coaches that players really want to play for. I went to the first couple of days of Tall Blacks training camp and it was quite different to how Nenad Vucinic previously ran things. 
Typically the first few days under Nenad would involve a lot of break downs and a lot of running certain actions within a 2-on-2 / 3-on-3  offence, gradually moving into running a complete 5 on 5 set after we worked on the timing and speed of each part of it. Pauli’s style is almost the opposite. He draws a play on the white board and plays live 5-on-5 right away with any adjustments and tweaks needed learnt on the fly. I think the players really enjoyed it. 
Being part of the last team (2009) to win the Oceania Series was special. My favourite memory was of the third quarter in the second game in Wellington. We won the quarter 36-15, hitting 14-of-18 shots. Everybody was making everything! Mika Vukona banked in a three as the shot clock was about to expire, Tom Abercrombie followed up a trademark alley-oop with a very tough fade away jumper at the foul line off a spin move, and to top it off Mike Fitchett hit a three on the three quarter buzzer from about 10 feet behind the arch. We ended up winning the game by 22 points. 
We had to win by eight to qualify (after losing Game 1 in Sydney 84-77) and I’m going to remember that quarter for a long time. It was one of the very few times in my international career, at junior or senior level, where a New Zealand team has blown away an Australian team like that
The Oceania Series is really just one big 80 minute game rather than two separate games and every possession is extremely important. In 2009, Corey Webster hit a deep three with just a few seconds left in the Game 1 loss that at the time didn’t seem like a big deal but ultimately made winning the series in the second game seem far more reachable. 
This year’s team has a lot of similarities to the 2009 squad. The team is pretty young with a few first year players and players that have been in the team for a few years but are just now getting increased responsibility with the unavailability or retirement of players they have played behind in the past.  
Prediction wise, I’m not going to do a Rasheed Wallace and guarantee anything, but I think is this team is definitely capable of pulling off an upset! As usual, they will be underdogs but they will be fearless and if everyone plays their part I think they can definitely do it….A few 36-15 quarters like back in 2009 wouldn’t hurt either. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Red nose day - Red beard challenge

Ive been pretty slack with this since I've been getting back into training and preparing for the upcoming Breakers season but its almost Red Nose Day :)

The team has raised over 40K for Cure Kids and is less than 10K away from reaching our goal of 50K!!

There is still plenty of time to donate! Its for an excellent cause and Cure Kids is a fantastic organisation...Every little bit helps!

If you want to donate click here ...Any donation, no matter how big or small, will be greatly appreciated by me, the team and everyone at Cure Kids.


Stankovic Cup

Last night the Tall Blacks won the Stankovic cup for the second time. Beating Mexico in the final 70-66. They went undefeated over the tournament beating Venezuela, Mexico, China and Mexico again in the championship game.

Corey Webster once again led the charge with a game high 30 points after having the night off against China a few nights earlier. Isaac Fotu also continued his stellar form with 16 points and mammoth 18 rebounds playing robin the Webster's batman on the night...Backing up his massive 34 point 8 rebound effort against China. Both Players with named in the all-star 5 for the tournament with Corey being named MVP.

FIBA world rankings aren't always a true indicator of how good a nation is but China (14th) and Mexico (19th) are both ranked higher than the Tall Blacks which is a good sign heading into the Oceania series. 

Instead of looking at each game I thought id share a few positive signs I saw during the Stankovic cup!

- Don't want to sound like captain obvious here but they went undefeated during the tournament after two tough loses in Europe! Winning breeds confidence and they will need plenty of that heading into the matches against Australia.

- Offensively Corey Webster is this teams go to guy and main scoring weapon! But several players showed the ability to lessen his scoring load over the tournament...Thomas Abercrombie, Isaac Fotu and Reuben TeRangi all had games where they either lead the team in scoring or provided a secondary offensive presence to Cweb which will be key when up against the Boomers. Im going to assume Corey will have one of Matthew Dellavedova, Adam Gibson or Damien Martin on him at all times (all excellent defensive players) and having other players take a bit of that scoring pressure off him will help open things up a bit for him.

- From where I sit it seems like the squad is settled, everyone knows what their role is and everybody is playing their part very well. 

As usual the Tall Blacks will go into the series against the Boomers as underdogs but with the form they have showed and improvements they have made over the tour and the confidence they are playing with at the moment they definitely have the ability to pull off an upset. I love playing in the black singlet but have to admit I'm pretty pumped to be heading down to Wellington to watch the second game...Hope to see a few of you there :)




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