No prized import – no problem for the Sydney Kings.
In their first game without injured marquee man Jarell Martin, the Kings displayed their impressive depth by overpowering Adelaide 36ers 94-77 in the NBL Cup at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena on Sunday.
The Kings looked set to face a test of character after former Memphis Grizzlies NBA big man Martin suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for up to a month in their last round loss to Illawarra Hawks.
Martin joined Xavier Cooks (foot) and Angus Glover (knee) on the Kings’ injury list that had recently also included swingman Didi Louzada and Daniel Kickert for an extended period.
But the likes of youngster Dejan Vasiljevic, Jordan Hunter and the returning Kickert stood up to help fill the breach as Sydney won their NBL Cup opener to move to a 4-4 overall season record.
Import guard Casper Ware (23 points) led a third quarter fightback while Vasiljevic (22 points) shot the lights out.
Vasiljevic is now the first rookie in Kings history to score at least 10 points in his first eight NBL games.
Hunter (six points, nine rebounds, four steals) helped keep Adelaide’s Boomers big man Isaac Humphries (14 points) quiet while Kickert finished with 11 points (3-5 from three point range) in an impressive return match.
“It’s about being ready to roll. We are not in the business of making excuses. Everyone on the roster thinks they can go out and make a good contribution,” Hunter said.
For Adelaide (5-5 record), import Tony Crocker had 15 points and Sunday Dech 13.
The 36ers have now suffered consecutive double-figure losses after their last round 19 point thrashing from Brisbane Bullets.
At least help is on its way.
Adelaide recently signed former NBA player Brandon Paul for the rest of the season and may be available for the NBL Cup’s latter stages.
“We walked out in the third period with zero energy. We quit doing good things … and defensively we broke down – it snowballed on us,” Adelaide coach Conner Henry said.
Sydney led 30-22 at the first break but trailed 51-48 at halftime before going on a 19-0 run that included three straight Ware three-pointers to enjoy a 71-59 buffer at the final interval.
The inaugural NBL Cup began this weekend, with all nine clubs featuring in a total of 36 games over three weeks in a Melbourne hub.
NBL Cup results also count toward the regular season.