Basketball 2022: Sydney Kings take on Aron Baynes’ Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United in doubleheader, NBL Round 2, Xavier Cooks

The NBL season is underway and defending champions the Sydney Kings have a jam-packed Round 2 schedule this weekend.

The Kings will unfurl their first championship banner since 2005 in front of their home fans at Qudos Bank Arena when they take on the Brisbane Bullets on Friday night.

“Everyone’s excited. Obviously we’re bringing the banner out, all that kind of stuff,” Kings star Xavier Cooks said.

Watch every game live of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

“It’s going to be good for us to put that whole last season to rest and focus on this season.

“It’s going to be a good game. Brisbane’s a talented team that’s obviously got Baynsey (Aron Baynes) and Sobes (Nathan Sobey) and those kind of guys.

It will be Aron Baynes’ first game in Sydney and the comeback hero will be out to atone for Brisbane’s opening loss to the Perth Wildcats.

This weekend the Bullets take on both of last year’s grand finalists, the Kings and the Tasmania JackJumpers, in a crucial double header.

“I’m excited to go against Baynsey,” Cooks said.

“I will not be guarding him. I’m giving up about 45kg to that man. I will not be going anywhere near him.”

Baynes has been setting high standards for his Bullets teammates but is making no apologies for pushing them hard.

“I’m going to push our guys and I’m pretty demanding of all of them, but I’m even more demanding of myself,” he said.

“I keep telling them I’m their biggest cheerleader and I want more from them, and I want to give more myself. Now we’ve got a fun week coming up.

“We’re going into the defending champs’ house and then we’re going to the other grand final team on the same weekend.

“I’m excited for that and I know that it’s going to make us better, and get us to where we want to be.

“We have all these goals that we want to attain when we are out there in every single game, and we aren’t so far off. We were pretty far off in turnovers, but not so far in the way we are going about it so it’s exciting for me.”

The Kings also take on arch rivals Melbourne United on Sunday afternoon in their second game of the round and will be out to make a statement after United dominated them at stages last season.

Expectations of back-to-back NBL titles have been tempered somewhat after the Kings lost MVP Jaylen Adams, Jarrell Martin and Ian Clark.

“Whenever you win a championship you’ve always got a target on your back the next season and especially being Sydney, people just love to beat Sydney,” Cooks said.

“That’s a mindset we’re trying to embrace, we enjoy being the hated team.”

But it looks like Derrick Walton Jr could fill the very large shoes left by the departure of those gun imports.

The 27-year-old American finished with 32 points, eight assists and four rebounds in Sydney’s first-up win over the Illawarra Hawks last weekend.

Walton Jr had an excellent all-round shooting performance, including 5/8 three-point attempts, but Kings coach Chase Burford thought be left some points out on the court.

“It’s funny, I thought Derrick hesitated or stopped on a number of drives when he had his man beat and I felt like he could have gone for 40 had he just kept attacking the rim,” Buford said.

“We hope he’ll go 5/8 every night and it probably won’t be the case, but for him to get that first game under his belt and make some shots, it has to feel good for him.”

NBL Round 2 (all times AEDT)

Illawarra Hawks 85 def South East Melbourne Phoenix 72

New Zealand Breakers vs Tasmania JackJumpers — Friday 5.30pm

Sydney Kings vs Brisbane Bullets — Friday 7.30pm

S.E. Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans — Saturday 5.30pm

Perth Wildcats vs Illawarra Hawks — Saturday 8pm

Tasmania JackJumpers vs Brisbane Bullets — Sunday 2pm

Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings — Sunday 4pm

Cairns Taipans vs Perth Wildcats — Monday 7.30pm

Watch every game live of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

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