Sydney Kings open Bogut era with big dreams but are they achievable?
Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Sydney King won’t be either.
The Kings open possibly the most anticipated season in club history on Saturday afternoon when they host last year’s runner’s up Adelaide 36ers at Qudos Bank Arena as the centrepiece of the NBL’s opening round TV offering with new free-to-air partner Nine Go.
High-profile signing: Andrew Bogut addresses the media at the NBL season launch.Credit:AAP
The first game has made a good start at the box office with the Kings telling Fairfax Media they had sold between 9000 to 10,000 tickets but still have seats for fans who made a late call to come to the game.
NBA championship winner Andrew Bogut’s arrival in Sydney has brought with it plenty of spotlight, while the plight of coach Andrew Gaze also adds drama with the national legend stating his side needs to make the finals for his job to be secure after two previous seasons in charge.
But Saturday’s game won’t be a referendum on the Kings, Bogut or Gaze – it will just be a starting point.
The Kings in recent seasons have repeatedly fallen short of finals no matter which star players they signed, so Gaze is nervous about this game.
Adelaide have won 13 of their last 14 games against the Kings including all eight meetings during Gaze's tenure as coach, although the Sixers lost their season-opener in Adelaide on Thursday.
“I am very toey but that is a good thing,” Gaze said.
“I get concerned if my guys aren’t nervous, anxious, toey as you say, 'Hang on, maybe they don’t know what this is about', but it has to be controlled and in that zone where it is good and healthy otherwise it hurts performance.
“It’s the same with coaches, management – everyone is toey as we have a lot at stake.”
In the NBL consistency has long been king with the likes of Perth, New Zealand and Adelaide regularly in the top four while Melbourne United finally found their groove last season winning the title with coach Dean Vickerman and a star-studded roster.
What gets so often forgotten in the NBL is that usually six or seven teams are in the hunt with the top four decided by tiebreakers or last-round results – that is why making the post-season is so tough.
Bogut has pushed to set the bar high, stating his signing was a “pointless exercise” if the Kings didn’t win.
So where are the Kings at as they head into the new season?
The short answer is they are still not among the best few sides.
Talent-wise, they are capable of a title with Bogut, Kevin Lisch, Jerome Randle, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert all international-class players, while young guys Brian Bowen, Kyle Adnam, Deng Deng and Tom Wilson have shown some punch off the bench.
Serious stuff starts soon: Bogut jests with Perth Wildcats point guard Damian Martin.Credit:AAP
Wilson is in doubt for Saturday after taking a knock to his knee when colliding with Bogut at training this week.
Melbourne were in a similar place last season and needed the first 10 games to find their roles and rotations: all their stars accepted fewer shots, fewer minutes and “bought in” to the team – as a group they had to become more physical defensively and that became the hallmark of their championship.
Behind the scenes, Melbourne boosted their support of players in terms of treatment and recovery while Vickerman brought former AFL player-turned-team leadership and culture advisor Trent Hotton in to lead their culture.
Sydney are trying to follow this lead but they are coming from further back.
Gaze has Paul Roos and his company, Performance by Design, working with the coaches and players to make that same cultural leap.
On offence, the Kings looked a much-improved side during their NBA pre-season clash with the LA Clippers in Hawaii a little under two weeks ago as their passing and knowledge of each other’s movements had clearly evolved.
But defensively the Kings still have a lot to improve on and Adelaide will probe every weakness at that end, just as they did in a win at the NBL Blitz last month.
Bogut said that night his side had to lift or they could finish last; Gaze was more circumspect, backing time and work to fix the issues.
Bogut is pushing his side to show urgency as he knows the mathematics of making the finals becomes tougher with each loss although he acknowledged the team has much more growth to come regardless of what happens in game one.
“This is for all the marbles now,” Bogut said.
“There is no excuses, no guys playing limited minutes or the pre-season when we are coasting into things. It’s the best time to learn whether you do well or you don’t.
“The biggest learning curve you can have is from a win or a loss. A lot of times you can learn more from a loss than a win.”
Sydney Kings host Adelaide 36ers at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday at 2.50pm with the game live on Nine Go.
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