PHILADELPHIA – Speaking before Saturday night’s contest against the Philadelphia 76ers, Ryan Broekhoff stressed the importance of staying ready.
Broekhoff had been inactive in the Mavericks' previous two games, and only played 13 minutes combined since December 12th. While living out a lifelong dream to play in the NBA, the Frankston native has lacked tangible opportunities through the first half of his rookie season.
“It’s difficult, but it’s part of being in the NBA and being a professional,” Broekhoff said of his role. “You have to be ready at all times. Things change in the course of a season, a game, or anything like that. So, just trying to stay best prepared as I can and be ready when I get the opportunities.”
Broekhoff entered the night with career totals of 28 points and 10 made field goals in the NBA. His first season couldn’t even be described as up-and-down; it had yet to be given the oxygen his game needed to breathe. The 28 year old Australian nonetheless remained upbeat and committed to the Mavericks quest. On this frosty Pennsylvanian evening, Broekhoff was rewarded for his optimism.
Dallas Mavericks head coach, Rick Carlisle, hinted pregame that Broekhoff would see playing time. True to his word, Broekhoff got the biggest opportunity of his burgeoning NBA career, and a breakout performance followed.
Broekhoff played 22 minutes against the Sixers, scoring 15 points on 6-8 shooting from the field and 3-5 from three-point range. While his Mavericks were defeated 106-100 by the Sixers, --which featured fellow Australians Ben Simmons and Jonah Bolden, who combined for 31 points, 14 assists and 23 rebounds (box score) -- Broekhoff was the biggest personal victor on this night.
“Obviously I came into this league wanting to play and wanting to compete,” Broekhoff said postgame. “Having the opportunity with a few guys sitting out tonight. It was good. The coaching staff and the players continue to show a confidence in me to shoot the ball. Tonight, some of them went in which was a good feeling. Hopefully it builds momentum.”
He was inserted into the game with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter, and that was the moment his NBA career changed forever. For the first time, he was given the runway to show all his talents in the Association. That starts with shooting the basketball. Broekhoff hit his first shot, a 28-foot three-point jumper, 63 seconds after entering the game. It was just a sign of things to come, and it provided the impetus for Broekhoff to leverage.
“As shooters, you are always told to forget about the last shot, but if the first one goes in and it feels good, you are like ‘tonight might be a good night for me’.”
Known best for his long-range shooting – Broekhoff shot 50% from three-point range during his final season in Europe with Lokomotiv Kuban – an outside touch was one of the major reasons he earned a maiden NBA contract. But there is more than meets the eye with Broekhoff’s game. His more subtle talents, those that NBA fans had seldom seen, were shown off at the Wells Fargo Center tonight.
A two-man game with DeAndre Jordan generated multiple clean looks at the basket, both for Broekhoff and his rim-running five man. The Australian provided a career-high three assists; a figure that doesn’t jump off the page, but a worthy representation of Broekhoff’s amalgamation of selflessness and passing touch.
“After hitting the first couple, they started guarding me a little tighter,” Broekhoff said. “Coming off screens wasn’t open for looks. So I tried getting into the lane and getting others involved.
“They are always going to see me as a shooter first and try take that away. I was trying to, not just score for me, up open things up for driving lanes and for other guys.”
It wasn’t all offence either. Just moments after hitting the scoreboard for the first time, Broekhoff drew a charge from Joel Embiid. As the Philadelphia All-Star meandered through the paint, the Mavericks rookie threw his body in front of one of the most imposing players in basketball. He was rewarded with the charge call. Sitting in his locker postgame, a battered and bruised Broekhoff found humour in his defensive triumph.
“Nah, that didn’t feel good at all. It hurt,” Broekhoff explained though a chuckle. “Embiid is a big man. Just trying to read the offence and what they are trying to do. I thought it was going to be a handoff. Saw him keep it. A big fella like that with momentum. It’s hard for them to move side to side. I just planted, prayed a little bit and survived.”
Broekhoff has indeed survived, not just on this night, but the early stages of his NBA career. One good performance in January won’t define his time as a Maverick, but it is just reward for all the hard work done away from the limelight.
“Rhythm is the biggest thing in basketball and trying to establish that over the last couple of months - and even the last couple of weeks, it’s tough. That’s why I’m trying to do the extra stuff to stay in game-shape, like when I do shooting and stuff, try it keep it at game speed, just to try and keep myself in the best possible shape mentally and physically for when those [opportunities] pop up during a game situation.”
Tonight, Broekhoff found his rhythm and, showed to the world that he truly belongs in the NBA.