It’s the halfway mark of the NBL season and the Sydney Kings are back on top of the ladder as the race for finals slowly ratchets up.
Kings star Xavier Cooks produced another brutal slam dunk, while a surprising social media sledge blew up in the face of the New Zealand Breakers.
Here’s all the talking points after round 9 of the NBL season.
‘Surprising’ sledge comes back to bite Breakers
The New Zealand Breakers are flying high at the top end of the ladder and their resurgence has been one of the stories of the season so far.
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And the clash against the Perth Wildcats was always going to be a special one with Corey Webster playing his first game for the Wildcats against his former team.
Webster is one of the Breakers’ most loyal servants and won three NBL championship with the team.
So it was surprising when the Breakers’ social media put out an eyebrow-raising post in the lead-up to the game that took aim at Webster, featuring a billboard advertisement comparing him to a pussycat.
It’s safe to say the since-deleted post fired up Webster, who was injected into Perth’s starting line-up and scored 26 points including 16 in the third quarter in a matchwinning performance.
The Wildcats won 94-82 and Webster admitted his old team’s sledge gave him an extra spurt of motivation.
“I was pretty surprised by that to be honest after I’ve given my heart and soul to this club for many years,” he said.
“For them to personally go at me was a bit surprising, but I don’t need extra motivation when it comes to basketball. This is a game I love and I’m a pro, and this is something I’ve done for a long time so I didn’t need extra motivation.
“It was still definitely there in the back of my mind and before the game I really wanted to have a great performance, and come in here and get the win. It was a little bit of extra motivation for sure.”
Breakers coach Mody Moar apologised for the post but said the entire Breakers organisation prided itself in learning from its mistakes.
“We are one team. Players, coaching staff, front office, social media, marketing – you choose whatever you want,” Maor said.
“Within this team, everybody has the privilege to go and make mistakes. The way we are judged is how we respond to those mistakes. Players make mistakes, they’ll learn from it and the same with me.
“Social media make mistakes and they’ll learn from it, and they’ll be better.
“This is what growth looks like in every aspect. It’s not him or us or them, it’s all of us taking this mistake in stride, learning from it and moving forward.”
Cooks throws down monster dunk
Sydney Kings star Xavier Cooks has done it again, throwing down another monster dunk in the Kings’ 97-78 win over the struggling Illawarra Hawks on Sunday.
Cooks pulled the ball all the way back and slammed home a brutal one-handed dunk over Adelaide youngster Kai Sotto.
It wasn’t quite as nasty as his brutal poster dunk against Melbourne United in October, but it was very, very good.
Cooks is one of the favourites for MVP and his strong form has put the Kings on top of the table as they strive to win back-to-back championships.
“No doubt they’re the benchmark,” NBL analyst Peter Hooley said of the Kings on NBL Today.
“They’re one of the deepest teams, if not the deepest team, in the league in terms of contributors.
“(Jaylin) Galloway is starting to really shine in the minutes he is playing, Chase Buford has put a lot of trust in him. Everyone off the bench does their thing.
“When you’re led by Xavier Cooks, Derrick Walton Jr looks like he has got his spark back, they’re definitely the benchmark.”
“The losses they’ve had to Cairns are only going to help them down the stretch because when they play against those teams like Cairns and Adelaide that play really fast, they shoot a lot of quick shots, Chase Buford gets to go back and look at that,” Hooley said.
“If he comes up against them in any finals series, he is going to have the perfect game plan against them.”
Australian basketball legend Luc Longley has joined the Kings as a part owner in the franchise, in a serious endorsement of what they’re doing in the Harbour City.
Phoenix star’s house burgled
South East Melbourne Phoenix star Zhou Qi has been sidelined with a calf strain and things only got worse for him last week when his house was burgled.
“Bèi rùshì dàoqièle zěnme bàn”,’ the 216cm Chinese giant wrote on Instagram, which translates to: “What should I do if I was burglarised?”
“Someone broke into my house,” he added, with several angry swearing emojis.
Qi has missed the last six games with a calf tear, while the Phoenix sit fourth on the ladder.
NBL Round 9 results
NZ Breakers 110 def SE Melbourne Phoenix 84
Brisbane Bullets 106 def Perth Wildcats 95
Adelaide 36ers 78 def Cairns Taipans 75
Perth Wildcats 92 def NZ Breakers 84
SE Melbourne Phoenix 78 def Melbourne United 72
Sydney Kings 97 def Adelaide 36ers
Tasmania JackJumpers 99 def Brisbane Bullets 84
Illawarra Hawks 93 def Melbourne United 79