If a road team is to win in this NBL grand final series it appears Sunday’s Game 4 is the chance for the Perth Wildcats, but Melbourne United is confident of bouncing back without some of the obstacles they feel come in Perth.
Having stacked rosters like the Sydney Kings and Melbourne United do in the NBL means sometimes injuries even to megastars like Kevin Lisch and Casey Prather can end up having positives.
For the second straight season, the Kings and United undoubtedly have the most talent-stacked rosters in the league. While that didn’t lead to success last season and neither made finals, one would imagine it will eventually pay dividends.
One great bonus of having such talent depth is the ability to cover injuries even if to such star players like Kings leader Lisch and Melbourne’s new gun signing Prather.
Both went down with injuries across Round 2 of the NBL which initially looked serious.
They now look less severe with Lisch expected to miss a month with a torn calf while Prather is still a chance to face his old Perth Wildcats team this Friday night despite injuring his knee.
The unintended bonus for the Kings is that they can now use their third import spot to cover Lisch’s absence and they will be well-advised to sign a genuine point guard which is the glaring absence on their roster even though an experienced centre wouldn’t go astray.
As for Melbourne, Prather’s knee injury has ended up just being some minor ligament damage.
Given how his team responded to beat Adelaide by 20 points in his absence on Saturday night, if he did miss Friday’s clash with the Wildcats it won’t be the end of the world.
The biggest question mark over Melbourne this season was always going to be how coach Dean Vickerman can keep all of Prather, Chris Goulding, Casper Ware, Josh Boone, David Andersen, David Barlow, Craig Moller and even Kyle Adnan happy and playing a big enough role on offence.
That’s why having any of those guys out isn’t always the worst thing because it allows others to step up.
Goulding is yet to play this season with Moller and Adnan enjoying that, while Prather’s absence in the second half on Saturday night was good for Barlow too.
Obviously, any team wants to be at full strength but one of the unintended benefits of being as stacked as this United team is can be that the group could even function better with one star out.
Given injuries are a reality, that’s a great position for Vickerman to be in as he hopes for good news on Prather and is confident of Goulding’s return from an appendectomy Friday night at Perth Arena against the defending champions.
“Our physio thought there was some mild ligament damage on the same knee that he’s had some problems with. I have no idea if he will be available for next week or not but the first indications are that it’s a mild injury and normally that’s within one or two weeks anyway,” Vickerman said.
“Chris is doing really well. He is doing more and more every day and he’s certainly putting his hand up to say that he wants to be considered for selection in Perth. There hasn’t been any setbacks so far and right now he’s a chance to be back for that game on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Sydney might have a stacked roster with Lisch, Jason Cadee, Brad Newley, Perry Ellis, Travis Leslie, Todd Blanchfield and even former club MVP Tom Garlepp who is not getting court time.
They have kept an import spot free and while that was likely to be used on a big man, Lisch’s calf tear during Sunday’s first win of the season against the Illawarra Hawks mean that the Kings will likely look for a guard.
Gaze did initially fear the worst with Lisch’s injury but a tear to sideline him for a month as it appears is the best-case scenario.
“Kevin has got an injury to his calf and he didn’t feel it beforehand, and hasn’t felt it throughout the pre-season but it was one of those things where he pushed off and it sounds like a nasty one. I was a metre away and literally it sounded like a nasty one,” Gaze said.
“The initial diagnosis is that until they get it scanned they don’t know but I was told it looks like a Grade 2 tear. They are saying the best-case scenario is three or four weeks, and the worst-case scenario you don’t even want to contemplate.
“Until we know we hope he’s OK and clearly it dampens our celebrations when our leader and a legend of our competition and club is going to be out for a little while.”
The two glaring areas lacking with the Kings roster is the lack of a genuine point guard with combo guards Lisch, Cadee and Leslie filling the role and no experienced genuine centre with rookie Isaac Humphries filling the void.
The smart money would see them sign a genuine point guard because both Lisch and Cadee, as capable as they are, have proven most effective in their careers when they don’t have to be the primary ball handler.
Gaze and the Kings management will do everything in their power to get a new man in for their Round 3 road double against the New Zealand Breakers and Adelaide 36ers.
“We have an import spot so the judgement will be made once we get the medical diagnosis. That’s 100 per cent the situation and it’s not the only reason why we decided to go down this track of only having two imports,” Gaze said.
“There were a lot of other factors too but in our rationale we did say that if something does happen you’ve also got something up your sleeve.
“It wasn’t the primary reason why we went initially with two and contrary to others in the media who speculate about our position and decision-making, there were a variety of reasons why we only went with two and that’s a bonus that we have.”
NBL Round 2 results
Cairns Taipans 70 lost to Adelaide 36ers 96
New Zealand Breakers 87 defeated Sydney Kings 85
Perth Wildcats 74 defeated Illawarra Hawks 64
Adelaide 36ers 79 lost to Melbourne United 99
Sydney Kings 103 defeated Illawarra Hawks 87