“No. 1 team my ass!’’
No, it is not a reference to Andrew Bogut’s Sydney Kings squad for the 2018-19 NBL season.
But the rather forceful words from one-time Brisbane Bullets coach and current Adelaide mentor Joey Wright do highlight the perils of grandiose pre-season predictions.
The best part of 15 years ago, the Bullets roster under the guidance of Wright overwhelmingly won the NBL coaches’ poll as the team to beat.
But midway through the first quarter of their first match, the highly rated Brisbane outfit was misfiring badly and Wright called a timeout.
Former Bullets coach Joey Wright had some choice words for his highly-rated team in 2005.Source:News Limited
With TV cameras and microphones hovering, the impeccably dressed Wright eyeballed each and every one of his players and let them have it with the sobering, “No. 1 team my ass!’’.
Brisbane did not win the competition that year but they would soon win the 2006-07 crown with a squad that is in the conversation for the best team in NBL history (along with the Adelaide 36ers of 1986).
The Bullets won 21-straight games in the 2006-07 season with a squad that included Sam Mackinnon, CJ Bruton, Ebi Ere, Mark Bradtke, Stephen Black, Adam Gibson and Dusty Rychart.
They were all about the run, gun and stun. And they won. A lot.
The Sydney squad for the current NBL campaign were lauded as potentially one of the best rosters ever assembled in the NBL’s 40-year existence.
The Sydney Kings have had a tough start to their NBL campaign. Picture: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
With two NBL MVP winners — Kevin Lisch and Jerome Randle — and former NBA no. 1 draft pick, NBA championship winner and three-time Olympian Bogut in the purple and yellow, there was definitely oodles of star power in Sin City.
Add Boomers duo Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to the starting five and its dripping with big game experience while young American Brian Bowen could be a real X-factor.
The hype was in overdrive. Engravers were being called to scratch Sydney on the NBL trophy before a ball was shot in anger.
Bogut repeatedly talked things down, saying they were not the best team assembled because they were yet to play a game and all the hoopla was disrespectful to the league.
On paper, they looked great. But the only place where paper is unbeatable is when it takes on rock.
Two losses to Adelaide to open their season sparked an avalanche of unwarranted criticism. Predictions of “Purple Reign” had turned into “Purple Pain”.
But the criticism was unwarranted because it’s a 28-game season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Unwarranted because there is far too much talent on Sydney’s roster — even if the bench is a little light on and they would want to avoid long-term injuries to their starters.
Unwarranted because they will make the NBL play-offs given they are on the right side of the arms race gap between the haves and have-nots in the eight-team competition.
Gaze: Bogut ‘off the charts’0:00
NBL: Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze has heaped praise on star recruit Andrew Bogut, saying his form is ‘off the charts’.
The big guns came out firing against New Zealand last Sunday to open Sydney’s account and relieve some of the pressure on Kings coach and Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze.
But the intense gaze on the Kings will not stop. Every team they play will lift a notch or two because they are playing the big boys from the big city. They are the scalp that every team wants to claim.
There are going to be some bumps in the road for Gaze and his men with nothing guaranteed. Every night, somebody will be storming their castle.
The Kings host Cairns this Sunday and the Taipans will not die wondering.
Whether or not the weight of external expectation crushes Sydney this season remains to be seen.
The NBL is ultra-competitive again this season. Brisbane’s win over Perth on Thursday night proved that. Anybody can beat anybody.
And the likes of Melbourne United, Adelaide 36ers and the always powerful Perth Wildcats will have something to say about who is crowned champions.
Originally published as ‘No. 1 team my ass!’
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