The Bullets’ miserable season continued on Wednesday night as the reigning champion Kings romped to a 116-67 demolition.
Vasiljevic took to Twitter after the impressive victory to point out that Duncan has unfairly received criticism for Brisbane’s substandard season.
The Bullets have won just two games since parting ways with Duncan in November while they’ve had two interim coaches during that period in Sam Mackinnon and now Greg Vanderjagt.
“Was never JD’s fault. I hope ownership (who were courtside) realised common denominator,” Vasiljevic said about Duncan, who was an assistant coach at the Kings between 2019 and 2021.
It’s understood Vasiljevic is referring to a host of factors that have contributed to Brisbane’s lack of success, including a remote ownership group and power struggles in the front office.
The off-court upheaval has played a significant role in the Bullets’ disappointing campaign, which has the proud franchise sitting in second last on the ladder.
It’s why Vasiljevic wanted to point out that he believes Duncan has unjustly shouldered blame for Brisbane’s demise.
The ex-Kings assistant was sacked after the Bullets won just three of the club’s opening nine games.
Duncan was accused of losing the playing group, with his coaching style and game plan creating frustration and confusion.
However, it’s understood other front office factors also made it extremely difficult for Duncan to succeed as coach.
Coaching dramas aside, it’s clear that change is needed for Brisbane to climb up the ladder.
Veteran Bullets guard Jason Cadee says his side needs to find its identity, and quick.
“We’re trying to find who we are and what we are, and right now we have no idea,” Cadee said.
“Sometimes I ask myself ‘how did we get here?’ There’s a lot that’s gone on and you’re trying to find positives … I’m trying to seek answers, I’m trying to help fix things, I’m talking to ‘Vandy’ (Greg Vanderjagt) and we’re trying to work through stuff.
“It just goes from one point in the game where it goes from being a two or three point game and we’re right in amongst it, and it goes to 15 in the space of two minutes and now you’re trying to claw your way back. We’re not good enough at the moment to be able to give up leads like that and find our way back in it.
“We owe the people that show up. We owe them a better performance than tonight. How do we do that? We have to keep working hard.”
The instability of Brisbane’s NBL23 campaign has been well-documented over the course of the season.
Vanderjagt is the third head coach the team has had in this season alone after the departure of Duncan and the stepping aside of Mackinnon.
Cadee concedes the uncertainty around the franchise has contributed to the team’s forgettable season.
“We just haven’t had the stability to find ways to just know who we are. We haven’t had it and we’re trying to find it, and as we try to find it it’s not coming off in the right way,” Cadee said.
“I don’t think we have selfish people; we have great guys around the group, but we’re trying to find our way at the back end of a season when people know who they are, and I think it’s coming off in the worst possible way right now.
“It’s not through a lack of effort or a lack of care … I care about this place and the singlet I play in so it’s deflating and disappointing.”
The Bullets host a desperate Melbourne United on Saturday night, with the eighth-placed United needing to win to stay alive this season.
Merciless Sydney stun Brisbane with second quarter siege
A SIZZLING second quarter set-up Sydney’s merciless 116-67 shellacking of basket case Brisbane as the Kings continued to extend their reign at the top of the NBL ladder at Nissan Arena on Thursday night.
Sydney outscored the home side by 35-19 in the second term to put the contest on ice by halftime and move to a league-best 16-5 record with their fifth-straight win.
The Kings have won all five of those games by double figures and have averaged over 100 points with the Bullets the latest team to succumb to Sydney’s run, gun and stun offence that helped five of the visitors reach double figures with Xavier Cooks and Tim Soares topscoring with 20 points each.
After being on the end of a 26-point flogging from Cairns in the Queensland derby last week, Brisbane fired blanks again with a dysfunctional offence, disinterested defence and poor discipline. It was embarrassing for the home side with fans leaving the stadium in the fourth quarter.
The Bullets slumped to fourth-straight loss and a 5-16 record as the gaping chasm between the NBL’s best and one of the worst teams in the competition was brutally showcased as the Kings enjoyed a 29-15 third quarter romp to open up a 33-point lead at the last change.
With NBL owner Larry Kestelman, Australian basketball great and Kings part-owner Andrew Bogut, Brisbane Broncos stars Adam Reynolds and Corey Oates and beloved former Bullets entertainer “Dancin’ Duncan” sitting courtside, Sydney blew the game wide open in the second term, scoring the first eight points in a 14-2 run.
They showed no signs of slowing down as they extended their lead to 21 points just before halftime before Brisbane hit a shot on the buzzer to leave the lopsided score at 59-40 at the main break.
The Kings should have had more than a three-point cushion at quarter-time after they shot poorly in the first term (nine of 21 from the field) with Brisbane’s poor defence giving them far too many wide-open looks.
SOBEY BACK TO AGGRESSIVE BEST
Brisbane star Nathan Sobey was uncharacteristically quiet in last week’s ‘Sunshine Stoush’ with just the two points after being a game day decision to play due to injuries. He showed more of his trademark aggression and intent and had six points to his name after just four minutes as the Bullets went with the Kings early. He finished with 14 points as the Kings wept all before them after quarter-time.
HUNTER THUNDERS THROUGH HOT TEMPERED BULLETS
Kings bigman Jordan Hunter did not shirk the tough stuff. He produced a thunderous alley-oop from a DJ Vasiljevic pass late in the first quarter when he had to leap, catch and dunk in heavy traffic. He then had some argy-bargy with Bullets centre Aron Baynes throughout the second term when the big units traded fouls in the paint as tempers began to flare.
150 FOR FROLING
Bullets forward Harry Froling brought up his 150th NBL game on Thursday night but he is clearly out of favour at Brisbane. He has been out of the rotation for a number of weeks and saw no court time in the first half of his milestone match. Froling was considered – by some – as a potential NBA prospect when he was at the Adelaide 36ers. He is barely an NBL prospect at the moment with another disappointing stint in blue and gold.
The Sydney bench did not have the same points explosion that it produced against Perth but the Kings juggernaut maintains its ominous momentum when they hit the court. Behind Tasmania, Sydney has the second most used bench in the league and the trust that head coach Chase Buford shows in his second unit is consistently rewarded. Jordan Hunter was the pick of the bench players for Sydney whose depth is unmatched across the NBL.
Originally published as ‘Was never JD’s fault’ – Kings sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic calls out criticism of sacked Brisbane coach James Duncan