BENDIGO basketball fans can look forward to seeing plenty of former NBA number one draft pick and boom Sydney Kings recruit Andrew Bogut on Thursday night.
Sydney coach Andrew Gaze has indicated the 7-foot centre will play quality minutes in the Kings’ NBL pre-season clash against Melbourne United at Bendigo Stadium.
Bogut, who signed with the Kings earlier this year following 13 seasons in the NBA and a championship with Golden State Warriors in 2015, has played limited minutes so far in pre-season hit-outs against the Japanese national team and US college team St Mary’s.
But Australian basketball legend Gaze expects the 33-year-old former Utah University standout to take on a more prominent role against United.
“Against Japan we played him for about 16 minutes and against St Mary’s we picked that up to about the 23-24 minute level,” he said.
“I suspect he will be around that 25-minute mark. We don’t want to overload any of our guys at this point of the season, so we will share it around, even for Jerome (Randle) and Kevin (Lisch).
“We don’t want to put too much stress on physically right now, especially with a few games over the course of the week, and also because we need to figure out roles for some of our other guys.
“We take these games very seriously as far as our preparation, but we also use them to see how we can use some of our guys and test some of the strategies we have been putting in place in the practice arena.”
The clash at Bendigo Stadium will be the first of two between the teams this week.
They will meet a night later at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna.
The Kings, who have not only added Bogut, but Australian Boomers forward Daniel Kickert (from Brisbane Bullets) and new imports David Wear and Brian Bowen to the likes of Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley, are expected to be the NBL’s big improvers after an 11-17 season yielded them eighth place last season.
Gaze, who is in his third season as coach, complimented the Kings’ management on assembling a talent-laden roster that some NBL experts have already branded one of the best ever.
Those are high expectations, but the seven-time NBL most valuable player and two-time champion with Melbourne Tigers said it was up to him as coach and his players to prove the critics correct.
“Most of the basketball community are suggesting that we are arguably one of the best (NBL) teams to be assembled,” he said.
“My take on that is they are very high expectations and I am grateful for the opportunity to aspire to that.
“But that’s something you talk about in hindsight, not beforehand.
“In order to be spoken about in terms of the greatest rosters ever, you have to win. There has been many a talented roster that for whatever reason hasn’t been able to put it together.
“Having the talent is a good starting point, but getting the chemistry right, getting everyone on the same page and developing their roles to where they can fulfil their individual potential is the challenge we face.”
A busy pre-season for the Kings and United will include involvement in the 2018 NBL v NBA challenge in the US.
United will play Philadelphia 76ers on September 28 followed by Toronto Raptors on October 5, while Sydney will clash with Los Angeles Clippers in Hawaii on September 30.
Most of the basketball community are suggesting that we are arguably one of the best (NBL) teams to be assembled. My take on that is they are very high expectations and I am grateful for the opportunity to aspire to that.Andrew Gaze
From a personal viewpoint, Gaze was looking forward to getting his first look at Bendigo’s $23-million stadium redevelopment.
The Kings coach got a close-up look at the renovated facility during the construction while coaching the Melbourne Tigers SEABL team against Bendigo Braves during 2017, but was eager to see the ‘finished product’.
“It’s great the region has a facility like this – it’s a world-class stadium and one we are really looking forward to playing in,” he said.
“Hopefully we get plenty of people come out to the game and we can put on a good show.
“This stadium will allow this region to host some pretty special events.”