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Returning Melbourne Tigers championship import Dave Thomas believes team unity is the key to reigniting their NBL title defence.
The Tigers announced on Monday that Thomas, part of last season’s championship team, would rejoin them after he was released by Cairns when the Taipans went into voluntary administration last month.
Melbourne cut import Rod Grizzard to make way for Thomas, with coach Al Westover admitting Grizzard was an unfortunate “scapegoat” for their inconsistent season.
They also signed Boomers guard Luke Kendall, released by the Perth Wildcats, as a replacement for Sam Mackinnon, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season because of blood clots.
Westover has criticised his team, coming off a belting from Adelaide, for frequently showing up for games without the necessary hunger or desperation.
Thomas, who played in three grand final series over five seasons with Melbourne before joining the Taipans, said he was hoping to help the team rediscover their spirit.
“In the years past whenever we faced a crisis we were always there for each other,” Thomas said.
“I just got here today so I don’t know exactly the feel of the team, but I know the guys from the past and I know that we always had each other’s back.
“I’m hoping and praying that we’ll have that again this year and that’s all it takes.”
Westover said Thomas brought an ethic of working for the team that was sorely needed.
“He’s a real effort player and he makes those big plays for you, whether it’s a big rebound or big steal or whatever, he’s done that over the years,” he said.
“We see him coming in and giving us a spark that we haven’t had in the last few weeks.”
Meanwhile, Westover said reigning league MVP Chris Anstey had been kept below his best by bouts of lethargy, with blood tests having failed to uncover the cause.
The club was hoping an extended break, with the Tigers having a fortnight between games, would solve the problem affecting the star centre for about a month.
“I don’t know (the cause) and he doesn’t know, but hopefully we get that right and he’s able to finish the season,” Westover said.
“When we come back next week there’s only five weeks to go in the season so we’ve got to get everyone full strength for those five weeks and look to get on a run going into the finals.”