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NBL 2014/15 Round 1 Preview: United brand set to debut against Taipans
Photo Credit: NBL
Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday 12th October, 2014 - 2pm (local time)
Tickets: click here
After a rocky changeover from the old Tigers moniker that saw past players such as Lanard Copeland request their jersey be “taken down from the rafters”, Melbourne United have made a determined effort to ensure Hisense Arena is packed for their opening match of the season. Big name signings have helped to alleviate concerns for the club’s latest chapter and hopefully they can now let their performance on the court do the talking. Jordan McRae and Stephen Dennis are two import additions that should convert United into one of the quickest sides in the league while adding a high level of intensity to their offensive sets. In the front court, David Barlow and Daniel Kickert are seasoned professionals that will hold down the fort at the defensive end while stalwarts of the club like Mark Worthington and Lucas Walker will provide consistency.
Cairns have reached the finals just once since 2008 and with one of the youngest sides in the competition, many do not anticipate that trend to change in 2014/15. However, the Taipans have responded fiercely to those expectations with an impressive outing during the NBL Blitz before defeating Adelaide on Friday night in their season debut. In his sixth year at the helm, Aaron Fearne sits in a comfortable position as Head Coach and should be able to meld Scottie Wilbeken into a star, replacing Jamar Wilson, while Cam Gliddon is set to emerge after earning Rookie of the Year in 2013. With eight players scoring and 31 points coming from the bench in their first game, Cairns are not a side to be taken lightly this year.
Jordan McRae #481221067 / gettyimages.com Jordan McRae is currently a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after being selected in the 2014 NBA Draft and will be using his time with Melbourne to heighten his stocks in the US. At 6’6”, he has a wiry frame but his ability to get to the rim is his strongest asset and he scored 28 points in both pre-season Blitz matches. He can relieve Nate Tomlinson of the ball handling duties and oppositions also need to be wary of his rebounding capabilities. In their victory over Sydney in the pre-season, McRae demonstrated some promising two-man action with Mark Worthington, proving he is already gelling in a side that is positively loaded offensively.
What To Watch For
Cam Tragardh’s Leadership
With such a young list, the burden will fall on captain Cam Tragardh this season as he must maintain the energy on the bench while recording solid numbers on the court. He has shone so far this year, averaging 23 points and 7 rebounds during the pre-season Blitz while collecting 10 and 7 on Friday night in just 22 minutes. Usually trading court time with Matt Burston, Tragardh’s minutes will likely increase against Melbourne with the tough rigours of the NBL schedule hitting Cairns early. His experience at this level is invaluable but sustaining the work ethic throughout the season will be the toughest challenge for Tragardh.
United have arguably the most stacked line-up in the league and could destroy oppositions solely with their offence. However, the great unknown heading into the season lies at the other end of the floor. Wilbeken can match McRae for points, Matt Burston and Tragardh have the NBL experience to take on Kickert in the post while an injury cloud hangs over the head of Dennis. Cairns put in a consistent performance against Adelaide that resulted in a 10 point victory and that will give them confidence but playing their second game in three days is a difficult start to the year. Added to that, United have a point to prove and will be desperate to begin their season on the right note.
Melbourne by 6