Childress signing makes Sixers NBL team to beat

Chris Pike Columnist

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    Josh Childress has made the move to the 36ers. (Photo: NBA)

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    The Adelaide 36ers entered the NBL season with the best Australian contingent and now they likely have surpassed Melbourne United as having the best squad with the signing of Josh Childress.

    Adelaide had a horror run to start the season in their third import spot with Ronald Roberts firstly leaving under bizarre circumstances when he wasn’t training much leading to him being released due to a knee injury. He claimed that he was 100 per cent healthy.

    His replacement Alan Wiggins hardly looked impressive in the eight minutes he did play in his one appearance in a loss to Melbourne. He subsequently broke his arm ending his stint in the NBL before it ever really began.

    While the 36ers were on the hunt for a third import to fill that spot in a month, I don’t think anyone expected them to pull off the coup that they have with the signing of Childress.

    He is no stranger to the NBL, having previously spent two seasons with the Sydney Kings. Injury did curtail his overall impact in both campaigns but when on the floor he was superb.

    In 2014-15, he averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 18 games. Then the next season, he managed 21.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 13 appearances. In his last game against the Townsville Crocodiles, he had 31 points, 12 boards and five assists.

    He was a player a cut above the NBL in those 31 appearances and there’s no reason that has changed two years on for the 34-year-old.

    Childress was only just cut by the Denver Nuggets on the eve of the NBA season so the fact he was still seen at that level shows he can be a real difference maker for the 36ers.

    And that is a team that already didn’t need a lot of help. Even without Childress and the problems with Roberts and Wiggins, Adelaide showed enough in its first five games winning three and only suffering two home losses to the stacked Melbourne.

    At the same time as the 36ers were hammering the embattled Kings on Saturday night by 30 points, it was announced that Childress was signed.

    Josh Childress playing for the Atlanta Hawks

    (Photo: AP)

    That sent an immediate message to the rest of the NBL that this Sixers team is desperate to win the club’s first championship since 2002.

    They went awfully close last season. They were the standout team in the regular season and swept the NBL awards with Jerome Randle named MVP, Anthony Drmic Rookie of the Year, Nathan Sobey Most Improved Player and Joey Wright Coach of the Year.

    However, they didn’t deliver in the semi-finals, losing to the Illawarra Hawks.

    That left a sour taste in their mouth and the Sixers decided to stick with same contingent of locals but changing up their imports.

    It might have surprised some that Randle didn’t return, but his replacement Shannon Shorter in a lot of ways might be a better fit in the team. He won’t dominate the ball handling to the degree that Randle did where it rarely left his hands unless a shot was getting jacked up or he was driving.

    It was a good move in a lot of ways for Adelaide to give Terrance Ferguson a pro season before his NBA career began. But he didn’t contribute much on the court. That leaves his replacement Ramone Moore as a significant upgrade.

    Adelaide decided it didn’t need an import centre for this season to replace Eric Jacobsen instead backing Matt Hodgson and Daniel Johnson to carry that load.

    Already coming into the season the Sixers likely had the best local contingent of players in the league. Sobey and captain Mitch Creek were in the NBA mix over the off-season and are genuine NBL stars.

    Johnson and Hodgson are terrific bigs, Drmic and Majok Deng are on the rise in their second seasons out of college, Brendan Teys is a solid leader and role player, and even Adam Doyle is a handy back up point guard.

    As far as the imports go, Shorter has looked a great fit for the team early in the season. With his added size and ability to make plays, but also run things for his teammates it’s an improvement on Randle despite how good he was in so many other ways.

    Moore as an upgrade on Ferguson speaks for itself but it was in that forward spot Adelaide needed help. We’ll never know if Roberts or Wiggins could have been helped, but there’s no question they aren’t the calibre of Childress.

    With 398 games of NBA experience behind him and at 34 still being in tremendous shape and with the motivation levels high of wanting to win wherever he goes, Adelaide deserve to be championship favourites.

    Image: Chris Pike

    Melbourne did hold that tag purely on the talent in its squad, but that is yet to be proven to work. For three years, United has had huge talent but it has resulted in one playoff appearance and an embarrassing semi-final sweep by the Breakers after being minor premiers.

    Having a team including Casper Ware, Chris Goulding, Josh Boone, David Andersen, Casey Prather, Tai Wesley, Majok Majok, David Barlow, and even Craig Moller and Kyle Adnam should have Melbourne in the title mix. But they still need to prove they are capable.

    Adelaide proved last season it could string a run of great form together. Now with virtually the same group of locals led by Sobey, Creek, Johnson and Hodgson, and a significantly better import trio with Childress, Moore and Shorter, and they are going to take some stopping.

    The first chance to see the full group is this Friday night in Cairns against the Taipans.

    The battle Childress will have with Snakes import Michael Carrera, who escaped suspension after originally being offered two games, will be well worth checking out as two of the best all-round athletes and players in the league lock horns.

    Round 4 NBL fixtures
    Thursday
    Brisbane Bullets v New Zealand Breakers – Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre 7.30pm
    Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks – Perth Arena 9.30pm

    Friday
    Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers – Cairns Convention Centre 7.30pm

    Saturday
    Brisbane Bullets v Melbourne United – Carrara Stadium 5.30pm

    Sunday
    Illawarra Hawks v Sydney Kings – WIN Entertainment Centre 3pm

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