It's Monday, the NBL is back and the post-FIBA break round is in the rear vision mirror so it's time to react with fire or cool the jets on some NBL takes.
Kane Pitman, Olgun Uluc and Peter Hooley are here to decide... is this just a headline, or is it a genuine storyline?
Melbourne and Sydney losing is simply a blip on the radar post-FIBA break
Peter Hooley: Storyline
Everyone responds from the break differently and while I don't put both these losses down as a sole consequence of the time off, it definitely plays its part. What is crucial for both of these teams is how they juggle deep rosters and playing time. Having rotations and lineups work in practice is one thing, but figuring out all of that against real opposition is another. Sydney had two weeks of practice with players back and trying to juggle what lineup will look best and Melbourne welcomed back Dellevadova and also had similar issues in their loss to Cairns. While I'm not concerned that both Sydney and Melbourne will figure it all out, I am very interested to see that process play out once everyone is healthy for a prolonged period of time. Depth is usually a good problem to have for coaches, but both these teams have 10 or 11 players who could play 20 minutes or more a game.
Kane Pitman: Headline......for Sydney at least
Melbourne, I have no concerns. Their defence has been watertight all season so this falls in the aberration pile. As for the Kings, they now slip to 7-5 on the season, giving up 114 points as their defence continues to sit middle of the pack (currently 7th for defensive efficiency). Now fourth in the standings, the Kings are 1-4 against the three teams above them (Melbourne, Tasmania, Perth). The back-to-back champions are afforded more luxury than most given recent history, but we are entering the period where they need to tighten things up and take care of business against quality teams.
Olgun Uluc: I'm on the same page as Kane
What's going on in Melbourne still feels solid. We know they're an elite defensive team, have made big strides offensively, and just need to go and get fully healthy. The loss to the Taipans was a shock, but there are no indicators that it's anything to be concerned about long term. They're a known quantity so it's reasonable to trust their processes. The Kings, on the other hand, have really dropped off defensively over the past few weeks, and look far from invincible. Their inability to hold onto leads has become concerning, and the early season fear of their limits in the halfcourt seem to be rearing its head again. Prior to the FIBA break, it felt like Sydney was closer to Melbourne than they were to the rest of the pack; it doesn't feel that way anymore.
The Adelaide 36ers have a right to be angry about the NBL schedule
Peter Hooley: Headline
As someone who has endured tough road trips in the NBL, including traveling to regional New Zealand multiple times, I can definitely sympathise with what the 36ers went through. It can be near impossible to come out at your best with limited sleep or movement opportunities during the trip. I'm calling this a headline for now though because Adelaide aren't the only team who has had to go through tough travel arrangements and they certainly won't be the last. It comes down to making the best out of a bad situation, whether that's substituting a gamely shootaround for a team walk so that players can get some more sleep or arriving earlier at the venue to get the body moving. In fact, way back in Round 1 as I was waiting in the lounge to board the red-eye flight back from Perth, I was shocked to see the JackJumpers waiting there as well. Scott Roth enlightened me that there was no direct flight back to Hobart so the team jumped on the plane back to Melbourne (which ended up leaving at 2:30am EST), landed at 7am and waited two hours to then fly back home. Not ideal.
Kane Pitman: Storyline
Two games in three days isn't too far out of the ordinary under usual circumstances, though it would be fair to ask why it was necessary coming off a FIBA break for both Adelaide and New Zealand to get whacked with the short straw. It's not the first time New Zealand have got the rough end of the stick, in fact, they copped the exact same schedule earlier this season, with three games in eight days right after touching down from the U.S. NBA preseason games, including two separate trips to Melbourne in that span. The league season is far too short to be dishing out "schedule losses" and even if you think it's sour grapes....Adelaide have a point.
Olgun Uluc: Headline
It would be awesome for every team to have a charter plane that takes them around to every city. And sure, giving players an extra day after a stretch of flights before a game would be wonderful. That's just not the economy we exist in, though. Schedules are organised based on an heap of factors: team availability, venue availability, etc. Adelaide has to deal with this once or twice a season. The New Zealand Breakers have to deal with it damn near every week, and barely complain about it. Can some travel situations be better? Obviously. Do you gain any credibility complaining about it? Not at all.
Jonah Bolden is a real chance to make the Paris Olympics final squad
Peter Hooley: Headline
I think this conversation is going to really start heating up over the next few weeks with how good Bolden is playing, but as it stands right now, it's probably a long shot. He's been fantastic in his return season and probably surprised a lot of people, considering he walked away from the game for a number of years. I'm not ready to completely rule it out, however, because one thing the Boomers need is shooters. Duop Reath and Landale can both knock it down from outside, but the more threats, the better for a team who was desperate for those shooting options at the World Cup. As Bolden's game fitness and touch only continues to improve, don't rule this out for the star from Sydney.
Kane Pitman: Headline
I don't see it, though it's largely due to a lack of time between now and Olympic tip off in late July. While it has been an impressive return thus far, Bolden has played just 405 possessions of basketball this season, his first time back on the court since 2020. He's playing just 17.6 minutes per game and is essentially the third big on the Kings roster. Bolden would be battling for a spot with Jock Landale, Duop Reath, Xavier Cooks, and Jack White, among others. Given the continuity piece that Brian Goorjian has discussed, I'm not sure he would be squeezing out those names assuming full health as of today.
Olgun Uluc: Storyline
Just watch. Brian Goorjian loves the way the Sydney Kings operate -- it's the style he envisions the Boomers playing with -- and so those who excel in it are being given strong consideration. That includes Bolden, who brings something the Boomers have been missing: he's a legitimate stretch big who can defend multiple positions. That Xavier Cooks, Nick Kay, Jack White, and Ben Simmons (we'll see) group, with regard to that role on the Boomers' Olympic team, will likely now include Bolden. We'll see how consistently he can make this sort of impact, but he fits what the Boomers are trying to do stylistically, so we shouldn't be surprised if we keep hearing his name in this conversation.