MELBOURNE United coach Dean Vickerman says a decision on whether import centre Josh Boone plays in Thursday’s night’s NBL practice match in Bendigo will be made on game day.
Boone, who led the league in rebounds in United’s 2017-18 championship-winning season, is one of two imports to be re-signed by the club.
He will be rejoined by fellow superstar Casper Ware Jr after both players received NBL All-First Team honours last season.
An announcement on a third import for the coming season is expected shortly.
Boone, who played with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets – the team which drafted him with pick 23 in the 2006 draft – from 2006-10, only arrived back in Australia on Monday.
Vickerman said there would be no rush to get Boone into the line-up, but also did not rule out him taking the court at Bendigo Stadium where he will be matched against the King’s marquee signing Andrew Bogut.
“We feel like our local content is fitness-wise at the level they need to be and the markers we have hit so far probably indicate we are a bit ahead of schedule from where we were last year.
“I feel like the basketball side, I’m nor re-teaching some of the learnings from last year, so we have been able to move ahead fairly quickly.
“Josh has come in in good shape and took parts in practice (on Tuesday) – we’ll assess him. There is no absolute rush to get him to play a game, so he’ll be a game day decision.”
Vickerman said Thursday’s game, which will be followed by a second practice match between the clubs at the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne on Friday, would give him a good early chance to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a talent-laden Sydney Kings, which is expected to contend strongly for championship honours.
“We’ve seen Sydney so far dedicate themselves in the pre-season to improving their defensive aspects and have really held some of the college teams to low totals,” he said.
“Bogut is a big influence on how they protect the rim and rebound.
“We’ll look to add some structures that will allow us to move the basketball and get some effective shots against their defence.”
Boone, who initially signed with United as an injury replacement player in late 2016, described Bogut’s signing with the Kings as exciting for both the league and himself.
“The fact that we can have two legitimate NBL guys, who have played multiple years in the NBA, going at it a couple of times each year is good for the league,” he said.
“We played against each other in college and in the NBA, so we know each other fairly well at this point.
“Obviously both of our games have changed a lot since then, but we’ve had our fair share of games against each other.”
While his re-signing took some time to work through, the 33-year-old revealed getting the chance to defend United’s 2017-18 championship had always been a priority.
“The way we finished last year was very impressive, but now we have a lot of competition,” Boone said.
“Basically every team in this league has reloaded and gotten better from last year.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, it may even be a bigger challenge than it was last year just to win it.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne United have spent this week busy drumming up support for Thursday night’s clash and helping teach the fundamentals of basketball with a series of clinics at primary and secondary schools in Bendigo.
The sessions have been run by former Melbourne Tigers legend Warrick Giddey, who is now United’s community and schools program facilitator.
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