The Roar
The Roar


NBL championship or bust for Sydney Kings

Kevin Lisch and Andrew Gaze.
25th October, 2016

The Sydney Kings have amassed the most expensive and stacked team in NBL history, worth as much as three times what some other clubs can afford, leaving nothing but a championship the acceptable outcome this season.

The Kings have spared no expense in putting together a remarkable roster of former NBA veterans, Olympians, and top-level NBL players.

With the league instituting a soft salary cap this season, allowing clubs to spend over the $1.1 million limit provided they are willing to pay the luxury tax that gets distributed through the other seven clubs, the Kings are the great beneficiaries with their owners’ deep pockets.

Now that Sydney have 13-year NBA veteran guard Steve Blake and two-time LA Lakers championship winner Josh Powell to the squad they started with, there is every chance their salaries would get up around the $3 million mark this season.

That means they are spending up to three times as much as teams like the Cairns Taipans, Adelaide 36ers and Illawarra Hawks.

Any team that can spend so much more on talent should be successful and that means anything but a championship this season will be a failure for Sydney.

It’s not just Powell and Blake that make Sydney the unbackable championship favourites.

The Kings secured Olympians Brad Newley and Kevin Lisch, providing both with offers they couldn’t refuse, luring Newley back from Europe and Lisch from the Hawks.


Illawarra Hawks Kevin Lisch shooting

Aleks Maric has also been one of Australia’s strongest performers in Europe and was enticed back by a significant offer by the Kings.

Then there is third import Greg Whittington, who is settling in nicely as a big man in the league. Jason Cadee and Tom Garlepp have been the Kings’ focal points over the past two seasons and now they are icing on the cake.

All of that doesn’t even include star centre Julian Khazzouh, who is yet to return from injury. Yet he may struggle for minutes in the rotation from Powell, Maric and Whittington.

Andrew Gaze has arrived as an untried and unproven coach despite being Australian basketball’s favourite son. The Melbourne Tigers legend brought Lanard Copeland with him to the Kings this season.

Any coaching frailties he might have will surely be covered by his remarkably talented playing roster and if not, the Kings pulled a masterstroke by signing New Zealand championship winning coach Dean Vickerman as his assistant.

The Kings have every area covered. Their playing roster is the richest, deepest and most talented any club in the NBL has ever had. Their coach is one of Australia’s most respected athletes and he has support from perhaps the country’s best coach in Vickerman.


Everything is in place for the Kings to succeed this season and already they look tough to stop even without Blake or Khazzouh hitting the floor. They sit on top of the ladder with four wins from their five matches.

Their only loss was first up against the Brisbane Bullets when Powell had also yet to arrive.

It only serves to highlight just how large the gap is between a club that can spend as much as they like, and those battling just to stay afloat.

More often than not you get what you pay for, and the financially battling clubs will struggle to compete with the Kings.

But that will only make it all the more memorable when, or if, they manage to beat them.

Gaze was quickly made aware once appointed Kings coach, that management was going all out to create a team to win and fill Qudos Bank Arena, no matter the cost. What has impressed him so far is how well his players have accepted their roles in such a stacked group.

“Our management here in the pre-season said we have to overhype this, we need to fill this building and we need to generate hype and excitement,” Gaze said. “As long as that doesn’t impact our training or psyche about respecting the opponent, then go for it.”


Gaze says the veterans on the team have helped keep the focus on players buying into a team-first mentality.

“You can still get those intrinsic rewards from the games without putting 20 on the board by doing all the little things and putting in the defensive effort. Everyone is buying in to being unselfish and at times they are too unselfish, but I’d much rather have that problem than the opposite.”

NBL Round 3 results
New Zealand Breakers 69 defeated by Sydney Kings 78
Melbourne United 78 defeat Brisbane Bullets 70

Adelaide 36ers 83 defeat Cairns Taipans 67
Perth Wildcats 80 defeat Illawarra Hawks 73

Brisbane Bullets 88 defeat New Zealand Breakers 82

Melbourne United 69 defeated by Perth Wildcats 72

Sydney Kings 90 defeat Illawarra Hawks 73