Beating league leaders the Cairns Taipans on their home court this Saturday was going to be hard enough for a Sydney Kings side struggling to find form.
Then the Kings’ marquee player, Josh Childress, received a one-game ban from the NBL disciplinary tribunal for his gruesome forearm strike on Perth Wildcats player Jesse Wagstaff last week. “Josh had a brain snap,” Kings coach Damian Cotter said. “He behaved very well after it. He didn’t run from the issue or make excuses for it.”
Cotter said the Kings would make no excuses for their performance without Childress, a US import who has scored in the double digits each round. “We want to respond positively to last week’s game and deal with the adversity we’ve had throughout the week,” he said. “We have treated it like a player that has been injured. We know we are getting him back in a week’s time.”
The Kings are yet to find their rhythm this season, having won against the Wollongong Hawks before narrowly losing to the Townsville Crocs and receiving a thrashing from the Wildcats. Cotter said the Kings were far from out of the running.
“If you look at us compared with other teams, there’s a lot of them in the same boat,” he said.
But the Taipans are not one of those sides. Cairns have won all five games this season to become clear front-runners. “They are a really well balanced team,” Cotter said, praising their rapid gameplay and patient handling of offensive strategies. They’ve got good veteran players and they are playing a real nice brand of basketball at the moment.”
Cotter said the main challenge against the Taipans was to control the tempo. “I think we need to do a better job of being more consistent at both ends of the floor,” he said. “The guys performed well against good teams pre-season and we need to get back to doing that again.”
Childress, a former NBA player who represented Phoenix, Brooklyn, New Orleans and Atlanta, proved his worth in the NBL’s first three games, opening with a 26-point haul. Cotter defended him as an outstanding team player and an exemplar of the “good bloke” culture he sought to create as coach.
“That one was out of the box,” Cotter said of the outburst against Perth. “These experiences are going to help us grow. There’s been a lot of soul searching this week.”