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Tasmania Stand Up
Plus NBL refereeing, an apology to a contender, Kevin Porter Jr and Dante Exum.
How about those pesky JackJumpers? Jackjumpers? Jack Jumpers?
Admittedly, I’m still not 100% sure what the correct iteration of the newest NBL franchise’s name is, which, as a Hobart local, is a source of great shame to me.
But it doesn’t matter if you’ve never lost a game in history baby!
There was a not insignificant level of local hype for the debut of Tasmania’s newest professional sporting franchise, so much so that I couldn’t even secure a ticket to MyState Bank Arena to watch the team run around live for the first time in anger (I can’t commit to a season ticket at this point in time otherwise I absolutely would).
The JJs (that’s what I will be referring to them as henceforth, at least until I can utter the full name with confidence) have actually done a really good job so far of connecting with the local community.
The upgrade to MyState Bank Arena (formerly the Derwent Entertainment Centre, or “The DEC” to locals) is, in my opinion, modest from the previous version, but the arena itself is quite packed in and intimate, and from the NBL Blitz action I saw there, really does well to generate atmosphere.
Further to that local connection, the JJs have partnered with several well-known iconic Tasmanian brands, including The Spirit of Tasmania, Willie Smith’s, TasGas and Metro, to create a strong sense of belonging to a community that has been crying out for professional sport for years now.
The JJs are off to a good start both on and off the court. I was admittedly surprised to see them hold off a frantic Brisbane Bullets side in the end, but a win in your first game in front of a sellout crowd is the perfect entree to get Tasmanian locals excited about their team.
“YOU’RE F’N TERRIBLE”
It would be remiss of me to not mention a key incident from that same game, the opener to the NBL season, with the eyes of the national basketball community glued to JJs vs. Bullets.
In overtime, with the score close, Nathan Sobey was called for an unsportsmanlike foul for grabbing JJs center Will Magnay on a fastbreak. Sobey, who was already on a technical foul from an earlier incident, was automatically ejected from the game.
Knowing his fate, he unloaded on the official with a free blast of all the frustration he could muster, with some mayo on top.
Obviously this went unfiltered into lounge rooms across the country, which isn’t ideal and something that will obviously draw further reprimands from the league office, but the call itself?
To my observing eye, it seemed a classic case of what Andrew Gaze referred to on the broadcast as “incidental contact”. Sobey was stride for stride with Magnay, with the JJs big man raising his arms into Sobey, initiating the contact. No Magnay lift, no contact, no imaginary hold, no unsportsmanlike foul, no ejection, no rant.
The NBL came out after the fact and backed up Vaughan Mayberry’s call of the unsportsmanlike foul, which is completely unsurprising to me. There was absolutely zero chance the league was going to openly undermine one of its senior officials on literally the first day of the season.
But it does underline a problem I’ve had with the NBL for several years now around the standard of officiating.
It’s no secret that every fan thinks referees in any sport are morons, that’s society, we live with that.
But it does seem like the NBL has been adjudicated with a heightened degree of finnicky perfectionism, but only in certain cases.
Stop me if you’ve seen this before.
Player drives into the lane to attempt a tough finish in traffic, drawing a ton of contact. Defender jumps more or less vertically, as is their right, and no foul is called.
Player dribbles on the perimeter. Defender brushes arm. Foul.
The NBL has made great strides in terms of on court product and commercial appeal, and it does feel unfair to constantly hone in on refereeing, but there’s a certain degree of common sense that does need to be exercised.
We’ve seen imports come to our shores and struggle mightily as they adjust to the call style, and while the NBL is still one of the more attractive leagues in the world it could stand from a more breathable style of officiating.
Chicago, I was wrong
So, hands up if you saw how good the Bulls would be this season?
That’s a lot of hands, and there’s no way you’re all Bulls fans, so let’s be realistic here.
A lot of people thought the Bulls had a confusing offseason, that fact is hard to deny. I wouldn’t say I thought they had a bad offseason, acquiring Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso, in a vacuum, are all very judicious moves.
But I’ll explain it like this.
Before the season I was on SportsBet doing a futures multi on a few NBA team lines, and the two that caught my eye were the Bulls, and the New York Knicks.
The Knicks, returning the core of their 4th seed last year (and no I wasn’t overrating Kemba Walker, I thought he was more or less finished) - 41.5 wins line.
The Bulls, with a bunch of new pieces surrounding All-Star Zach LaVine - 43.5 wins line.
To me, logically, there was no way the Bulls were two wins better than the Knicks based on the results of last season and this past offseason combined, so I included both lines in the multi, with NY going over and Chicago under.
The Bulls have meshed so seamlessly around their beacon LaVine, and while losing Patrick Williams for the year so early on could have derailed them, all it’s done is pushed another guy into the limelight.
DeMar DeRozan started out the season playing like a legitimate MVP candidate, acting as the de-facto ball handler and chief playmaker, completely ignoring the spreadsheet boffins and murdering teams from the elbow.
Lonzo Ball has played the roll of off-ball point guard perfectly, his three point shooting which was once a joke now his best weapon in an expanding arsenal.
Alex Caruso has been thrust into the starting lineup with Williams’ injury and has displayed all the characteristics of elite defence and off ball offense that has Lakers fans pining for his return.
Javonte Green, Tony Bradley, Troy Brown Jr, Ayo Dosunmu, the list goes on. A hodgepodge collection of undrafted role players and a second round rookie, all finding their role.
It’s a very “Spursian” system right now, where every player knows their role, and there’s a good mix of starters and bench so the all-bench units aren’t prevalent and getting over-exposed.
That 43.5 looks like a cakewalk right now.
Houston, we have a…problem?
Houston are openly tanking and yet have won 6 games in a row to sit 13th in the Western Conference with a 7-16 record, in front of both the OKC Thunder (7-16) and New Orleans Pelicans (7-19).
What the hell?
Allow me to present my hot take to you right now, but I will preface this by saying I’m a Detroit Pistons fan.
The Rockets look better without Jalen Green right now.
Ok before you hurl rocks at me and call me a Cade Cunningham homer let me elaborate my point.
This isn’t necessarily a slight on Green, although I did deliberately frame it in an incendiary manner to raise eyebrows, no. It’s a slight on the Rockets main core as currently constructed.
Basically, I think if Jalen Green wasn’t injured, but Kevin Porter Jr was, you’d be seeing very similar results.
To me, the long term fit of Green and KPJ is dicey at best and “Washington Wizards bringing guns into the locker room” at worst. Neither is what you would term a point guard, and while KPJ has done a great job of manufacturing point guard stats (5.8 assists per game), the advanced numbers tell a different story.
For a start, raw turnovers per game. KPJ is at 4.0 per game, tied for 5th worst in the league with Darius Garland and Trae Young. The only players that average more per game are Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Luka Doncic and James Harden.
Outside of Paul George, all those other guys average at least 7 assists per game, and all of them besides Garland are above 8. Even Paul George is a high usage small forward rather than a starting point guard. A starting point guard in the NBA can’t have an assist to turnover ratio less than 1.5, it’s not a long term plan.
Some more advanced numbers aren’t kind either. Porter Jr’s usage rate (percentage of possessions that end with a shot attempt or turnover) is 24.9%. His assist percentage is 29.8%, and turnover percentage is 22.4%.
KPJ isn’t a point guard in the NBA, not now anyway. It doesn’t really matter right now because Houston aren’t planning on being good, but KPJ came into the league as a score first slasher. Those guys rarely develop into functional long term NBA point guards.
I like KPJ as a player but that fit with Jalen Green long term would concern me.
Exum in Spain?
After a successful blacklisting by the NBA, Boomers rose gold medallist Dante Exum has found himself a short term home, and it’s one of the best fallback options you could possibly have.
Barcelona is one of the glamour clubs in the Euroleague and Exum joins as a short term reinforcement looking for playing time ahead of a potential return to the NBA once his contract runs out.
Admittedly, I was surprised Exum couldn’t land a gig in the NBA right now. I get NBA teams would be scared off by his injury history, but that should’ve been somewhat allayed by the quality of his Olympic campaign, where his full array of burst athleticism, defence and playmaking was on show.
Exum joins a deep guard/wing rotation at Barcelona that includes Nico Laprovittola, Rokas Jokubaitis, Kyle Kuric and Nigel Hayes. Exum will come in as reinforcement after injuries to Alex Abrines, Nick Calathes and Cory Higgins, so there is definitely minutes for the bouncy swingman to stake a claim, either to Barcelona for the future, or potential NBA clubs on return.