Dane Pineau reflects on breakout NBL season with Phoenix

Fresh off a breakout season with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 6'9 power forward Dane Pineau was rewarded with a Boomers jersey in February's FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers. Speaking from Brisbane's Nissan Arena ahead of Australia's February 20 clash with New Zealand, Pineau was on hand to answer a few questions for The Pick and Roll.

A change of scenery

A former AIS scholarship holder, Pineau enjoyed a productive four-year collegiate career with Saint Mary's, a school renowned for its Australian pipeline. He turned professional with the Sydney Kings in 2017, but playing time was hard to come by. The big man averaged just 8.7 minutes per game in two years with the Kings.

He joined the newly created South East Melbourne Phoenix ahead of the 2019-20 NBL season, in a move that would pay dividends. Pineau increased his playing time to 26.3 minutes per game, while averaging 8.1 points and 8.6 rebounds each night. Of those 8.6 rebounds per game, 3.6 were offensive rebounds - an area where Pineau ranked 2nd in the NBL.

“It is a lot, [that] I feel like changed for me. Obviously I got more time and I guess people could say maybe I would have been as good last year. But, I think that just starting from the NBL1, I got a lot more confidence [by] just kind of trying to find more ways to score,” Pineau said.

Despite enjoying a productive season individually, Pineau's team ended their debut season on a sour note, finishing eighth. The Phoenix were initially in the top four for the first nine weeks, before tailing off as the season progressed. Pineau attributed the dream start to a strong pre-season, as well as an unsustainable hot streak.

“I think to be honest with you, the way we started was really cool, [with] how we got going early. There was a little bit of fool’s gold in it, you know. I feel like we were overperforming a little bit at the start. We were really ready to go, we started our preseason very early and we were pumped,” he shared.

However, Pineau also acknowledged that South East Melbourne's final record didn't define their season either. The 25 year old reflected that the team's actual level of performance was somewhere in between their early hot streak and the eventual decline.

“I think [with] the way that it turned out, I feel like our record didn’t quite indicate exactly how well we played this year. We had a lot of close losses. That’s something we have to learn to do better in close games. I think we’d steal maybe three or four more wins [if those closes losses went the other way]. But yeah, I think a little bit at the start, things were just really clicking for us. Our record was probably better than we were at the very beginning. But, unfortunately, I feel like the drop off didn’t quite reflect how well we played either. There is a middle ground between the two that is better reflective of where we were,” Pineau elaborated.

Future goals

When questioned about his future beyond the 2019/20 NBL season, Pineau indicated that overseas basketball was not on the agenda. Given the recent coronavirus outbreak that happened since this interview, it will not be an option for a while. The big man showed excitement for the upcoming NBL1 season, where he was set to represent the Melbourne Tigers once again.

Unfortunately, on March 24 the upcoming NBL1 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. It's a real shame, as Dane was set to be coached by his father, Brad Pineau, who formerly played in the NBL. Nevertheless, the interview provides an insight into his future goals and what could have been.

“I want to stay home and play for the Tigers, and keep trying to work on some parts of my game, that I know the Tigers will give me the freedom to do. My dad will be coaching, and that’s awesome because he always gives me a lot of confidence. It’s good for me to be in Melbourne, in the NBL1, where I am playing in a quality competition but I can also use that time to try and work on areas that I’m not that good at,” Pineau explained.

When asked about which specific areas he intends to work on, Pineau firstly cited shooting. Given the rise of spacing in modern basketball, this comes as little surprise. The NBL1 would have been the perfect environment for the Melbourne native to extend his range with some confidence.

“It’s kind of being able to put myself in positions that I’m a little bit uncomfortable [in]. Maybe I will shoot a few jump shots – but I’m in an environment where they want me to do that and they want me to keep getting better. So, that’s why I want to stay in Melbourne,” Pineau said.

The 6'9 power forward also showed interest in gaining mass, something that's giving Pineau yet another reason to stay in Melbourne.

“And also, hopefully [I’d like to] gain a little bit of weight too. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re overseas, because you don’t know the food, the situation and everything. Hopefully I can stay home, gain a little bit of weight and work on my game,” Pineau added.

Pineau's Boomers call-up in February was a fitting end to a breakout season. He logged a total of 26 minutes in the two-game series against New Zealand and Hong Kong, providing an interior presence off the bench. Hopefully this is just the beginning for the South East Melbourne power forward, as the basketball community waits the coronavirus out.