Sydney players and coaches know it, the fans see it and the rest of the league are aware too. There is no avoiding the fact that Sydney’s defence has been atrocious for the majority of their 9 games this season.
The signs were not great coming into the season. When the Kings went 0-3 at the NBL Blitz many defended their efforts simply because it was preseason. But now, languishing at the bottom of the ladder and with only 2 wins, the alarm bells are ringing louder after each loss.
Whilst the defence has been dreadful, the effort and desire to compete has been just as troubling. For a team with so much potential, the effort on the defensive end is puzzling.
Coach Damian Cotter was furious after his team was unable to keep Melbourne United below 100 points on their home court last week. “You should never lose on your home court and shoot 94 points. We can talk schemes and all that but there’s got to be a point where people are accountable.”
There’s no real excuse and until guys switch on and start being responsible over a collective amount of possessions as a group we’re going to have these results.”
During the game against Melbourne, the offence looked engaged but that good work was very quickly undone as players simply looked disinterested on the defensive end. Providing help defence for your teammate isn’t so much about skill, but about putting in consistent efforts to get across and make a difference. This doesn’t happen enough for the Kings.
Obviously when guarding Chris Goulding you can try to stay with him and he will often still beat you with simply better offence. A coach can live with that. But Sydney didn’t make it difficult enough for Goulding or Stephen Holt, both of whom dismantled the Kings defence.
There is a whole lot of standing around and waiting for someone else to do the hard work.
Holt will knock those down all night long. Not a single Sydney defender within cooee of the already on fire Holt.
Whilst the loss to Melbourne was bad, the loss to Adelaide just two days later was a nightmare. Being up by 18 points with one quarter remaining and not coming away with the win requires not just a string of defensive lapses, it comes down to a lack of desire and heart.
In that last quarter Adelaide turned it on and produced some of the most exciting NBL basketball we’ve seen in years. Jerome Randle was the match-winner on the night, finishing with 33 points and 6 assists. Randle, standing at just 5’10”, was able to get to the basket far too easily and he showed more guts than the entire Sydney Kings roster.
A whole lot of credit needs to be given to Adelaide for the way they played in that last 10 minutes, but Sydney only have themselves to blame for the loss. Up by 18 points, the Kings went conservative on offence and lacked the defensive mentality needed to close out the game.
To say the defence was lackadaisical would be an understatement. It appeared as if they were coasting and just waiting for the final buzzer. Before they knew it and could switch back on, the 36ers were within striking distance and the rest is history.
Defensive effort is clearly holding back the Kings as they fight to keep their season alive, but if they can turn it around quickly and play team defence, the offence is more than capable of getting hot and winning games of basketball.
Marcus Thornton has shown some encouraging signs in the last few games and was able to score heavily against the league benchmark that is Melbourne. Over the past four games Thornton has averaged 20 points.
He desperately needed to step up his game after a pretty ordinary start to his NBL career, and to his credit this appears to have happened. He has found some rhythm and figured out what works best for him the NBL.
The return of Josh Childress, which should occur later this month, will provide a welcome boost on both ends of the court. He can not only anchor the defence and score in bunches, he also provides veteran leadership on the court – which wasn’t there against Adelaide. Al Harrington and Tom Garlepp didn’t stand up when needed and weren’t able to stem the flow.
If Sydney focus too much on the return of Childress and think that he alone will turn around their fortunes they will not make up much ground on the rest of the league. Every single player needs to improve and lift their effort.
It is time for the likes of Angus Brandt, Tom Garlepp, Steve Markovic and Al Harrington to stand up and show some urgency, because saving this season requires immediate attention.