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The big takeaways from Aus basketball’s huge week – Healy


There’s only one small problem for Adelaide’s huge win… maybe they played TOO well. But what a week for the NBL and hoops down under.

On a weekend where one of the biggest sporting events in Australia went down, basketball captured some incredible attention. The new NBL season tipped off, while the 36ers went where no team had gone before.

Let’s break down some of the key learnings from Australian basketball’s huge week.

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1. Adelaide 36ers, you have everyone’s attention

Ok, so they didn’t compete in Round 1, but they did become the first NBL team in history to defeat an NBA team, not to mention they put on the greatest shooting display in the club’s history.

The 36ers kicked off their pre-season tour of USA with a historic performance, beating the Phoenix Suns 134-124 and sending American basketball twitter feeds into overdrive. 

Yes, it was a pre-season game, and yes, the likes of Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deondre Ayton played limited minutes, but the significance of the occasion should not be understated. It’s a result that solidifies the NBL as not only one of the top leagues in the world, but as a legitimate path for players to make it to the NBA. At one point, of the ten players on the floor at the Footprint Centre, there were seven current and former NBL players; Torrey Craig and Jock Landale are currently with the Suns.

Perhaps the only concern for the 36ers is whether their three imports lit it up to the point they may not be in Adelaide much longer. Craig Randall, Robert Franks and Antonius Cleveland put on a show in a game watched by NBA administrators and scouts across the world. 

Randall led the way with 35points (nine threes), Franks dropped 32 points (six threes) and Cleveland had 22 points, knocking down three of four from deep. Not to mention Adelaide’s local guns; a casual 16 dimes from Mitch McCaron and 15 points in 18 minutes from Daniel Johnson. 

The 36ers wrap up their pre-season tour against Josh Giddey’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. If they perform like they did against the Suns, Adelaide will be lucky to keep their squad together for the NBL 2022/23 season. 

2. And still… This is Bryce Cotton’s league

Missing out on the NBL finals for the first time in 35 years did not sit well with the Perth Wildcats, and it appears that Bryce Cotton has a personal vendetta to get the Wildcats back there. 

Cotton put the league on notice at the preseason tournament in Darwin last month, dropping 36 points and barely breaking a sweat against the Cairns Taipans. When asked if he had a chip on his shoulder for what happened last season, he casually dismissed it. Unfortunately for his opponents, that casual dismissal most certainly conceals Cotton’s fiercely competitive nature; it was the Brisbane Bullets in the firing line first.

The three-time league MVP had 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals to his name, leading the Wildcats to an 87-73 win over the highly fancied Bullets, which featured Aron Baynes for the first time.

Under new coach John Rillie, Perth’s defensive efforts are likely to be a major focus this season, something that fell away slightly in NBL22. The Bullets felt the brunt of that, forced into 24 turnovers for the game, compared to just nine for the Wildcats. 

With the likes of Luke Travers, Corey Webster, and American’s TaShawn Thomas and Brady Manek in support, Bryce Cotton and the Perth Wildcats are not missing the finals in NBL23. 

3. XRM heard the haters

A number of pundits and those in the ‘basketball know’ raised an eyebrow when Melbourne United signed Xavier Rathan-Mayes from the Illawarra Hawks. 

In his first season in the NBL, XRM played a key role for the Hawks, coming off the bench to provide a scoring punch. He averaged 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 24 minutes, helping the Hawks to the semi-final series where they were swept by the eventual champs the Sydney Kings.

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Despite his impact on the floor, there were murmurs that XRM didn’t quite fit the mould in terms of the team-first culture the Hawks were building. So when Dean Vikerman signed the Canadian for NBL 2022/2023, there were question marks over whether XRM would be the right ‘fit’.

Fast forward to United’s first game of the season, XRM dropped 33 points (6/11 from beyond the arc), had five rebounds, nine assists and a couple of steals if you don’t mind. It was a statement performance if ever there was one. He heard the haters, and left them with their jaws on the ground. Now, let’s see if it sticks. 

4. Jaylen who?

Replacing the league MVP was never going to be easy for the Sydney Kings, but it would appear that the Kingdom is in good hands with new import Derrick Walton Jr. 

Last season’s G-League assists leader has big shoes to fill, replacing Jaylen Adams after he secured a major pay day in Serbia off the back of a championship season with the Kings. 

In their opening night clash against rivals the Illawarra Hawks, Walton did not miss a beat. Not only did he lead all scorers with 32 points (five of eight from range), but his ability to find his teammates in offence proved just how valuable he’ll be to the organisation, as they look to defend their championship. 

Sydney came away with a 106-97 win over the Hawks in yet another intense and physical battle between the NSW rivals. Their self proclaimed ‘arrogant’ mindset means they’re the hunted this season, but that suits the Kings just fine. 

5. The snakes are a problem

Cairns may be one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the NBL this season, but they’ve got nothing to lose and that’s dangerous.

The new look Taipans had some fun in their round one match up with the Tasmania JackJumpers, catching fire in the second half to run away with game 106-84. 

Their 39-17 third quarter demolition was the difference for Adam Forde’s troops, in what was the largest points total Tassie have ever conceded in a quarter of basketball. 

Majok Deng had an impressive 26 points (81% from the field, including 4 of 6 from deep), Bul Kuol and Kianu Pinder continued to show their improvement, while new imports DJ Hogg and Shannon Scott added 17 and 16 points and filled out the stats sheet. 

The Taipans aren’t expected to push for the chip this season but when they get hot, teams are going to feel the impact of their ‘trigger happy’ style. 

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