Tall Blacks forward Tom Vodanovich has joined the Sydney Kings as a replacement for Xavier Cooks, who will miss a large chunk of the NBL season with an ankle injury.
Cooks is out for up to four months in a huge blow to the Kings, who had already lost Andrew Bogut to retirement and Jae'Sean Tate, who got picked up by NBA club Houston Rockets on a three-year deal.
The injury suffered in a pre-season match against the Hawks is a shattering blow for Cooks, who missed the 2019 FIBA World Cup after injuring his knee at Boomers training.
Vodanovich spent the 2019-20 season with the New Zealand Breakers and was due to play in Luxembourg, but instead joined the Kings at their temporary Albury training base earlier this week because of COVID-related protocols.
The 26-year-old has been in good form in New Zealand's NBL, winning the league's Most Valuable Player Award last year.
Making six appearances for the Tall Blacks, Vodanovich was part of the line-up which upset Australia in Brisbane last February.
"Luxembourg cancelled their season because of COVID so he was a free agent and available so we jumped on that knowing that he could come in and make an immediate impact," Kings coach Adam Forde told AAP.
Forde, who got the top job last month when Will Weaver also moved to the Rockets as an assistant, felt his team had benefited from their move to Albury.
He felt it had tightened their bond and fast-tracked his plans since taking over from Weaver last month.
"This allows for additional time for film review, for guys looking after their body in recovery and time on court," Forde said.
"It's been great to really hone in and fast-track our style of play and to the boys' credit we haven't skipped a beat and I actually feel like we've been doing better on court here.
"The locals tell us about Melbourne Storm spending time here in Albury (before going on to win the NRL) and how it might have been the secret sauce so we're hoping to definitely get that as well."
Despite the turnover in personnel Forde was upbeat about the Kings' chances in the 2021 season.
Sydney made the grand final against Perth but withdrew mid-series due to to COVID-19.
"Even with the roster changes we've still got all the structure and system in place," he said.
"We've got a lot of guys returning like ... and the new additions like Jarell Martin, he's definitely going to provide more of an offensive threat especially being a scoring target for us in the post.
"It changes our dynamics a bit in how we play, because obviously Bogues (Bogut) was one of the best passing big men in the league and we wanted to capitalise on that and now we're changing it up to suit the line-up we have.
"Guys are competitive and I don't think anyone thinks we aren't a chance to win the championship."
Australian Associated Press