MILWAUKEE - Ryan Broekhoff has just reached the halfway point in his rookie season as an NBA player, and the Melbourne-born Boomer is finding himself in unfamiliar territory.
Appearing in just 18 of the Dallas Mavericks' 46 contests, Broekhoff, 28, is adjusting to watching from the sidelines, a role that has not been customary over the course of his five-year professional career.
“It’s obviously a bit different, it’s a more limited role. I try and come on and hit a couple of threes straight off the bat to try and have an impact,” Broekhoff admitted.
“In previous years I’ve had longer minutes to work my way into the game and find more of a rhythm and sort of play more natural."
Added to the Mavericks roster in July, the 6-foot-7 guard understands that opportunities aren’t just handed to you in the NBA.
“It’s part of the game. The NBA is the top league in the world, these are the best players and you have to earn every minute you get. I just need to build confidence and trust from the coaching staff.”
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has been more than impressed with what he’s seen from the sharpshooting Australian, praising the impact he’s been able to have without hesitation.
“He hasn’t got a ton of minutes but he’s a positive factor for our team,” Carlisle said.
“He keeps himself ready and there has been occasions where we’ve called on him to play quality minutes. He’s a better defender than a lot of people think, he shoots the ball very well, he’s got a great feel for the game and he can make plays. We really like him a lot.”
Quiet by nature, Broekhoff admits he isn’t always the most vocal in the locker room, though he’s learned to speak up when the time calls for it.
“We’ve got some pretty good leaders and veteran guys, obviously look at Dirk over there,” Broekhoff says with a laugh. His childhood hero, 21-year NBA veteran, Dirk Nowitzki, is the lone Dallas player left on the floor who continues to get up shots after practice.
“I try and do things by example. I’m a quiet guy usually, but if I do see something I’ll speak up. I think the guys listen when I do speak up, because maybe it’s something to listen to.”
Off the court, Broekhoff is settling into his new home in Dallas, admitting the warm Texas climate is a welcome, saying so as he slips his winter jacket on in preparation for the -12 degree Milwaukee weather about to greet him as he leaves the practice gym.
“The longer I’ve spent there the more I’ve adjusted and liked it, there’s plenty to do and the weather is generally pretty nice which is a nice change,” he says with a chuckle.
“[My wife Katie and I] are very comfortable there now, obviously we’d like to make it a home base for us and hopefully things work out where we can make it home for a little while.”
Broekhoff has formed a particularly close bond with teammates Maxi Kleber and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Luka Dončić, broadly smiling as he reveals being an NBA star hardly excuses him from usual relationship duties.
“My wife and their girlfriends are pretty close so we get roped into double dates and game nights and things like that which is fine, it kind of takes us away from basketball and lets us relax and unwind.”
As our chat continues, loud laughter can be heard from a group of Dallas players down the far end of the court, and you certainly get the impression this is the norm for this interesting mix of veteran and young talents.
“We are a pretty close bunch all the way through, there’s a lot of laughs and jokes and stuff like that. We rip on each other quite often,” Broekhoff said with a smile.
An obvious comparison for the path Broekhoff is attempting to travel down is his Olympic teammate and Utah Jazz star, Joe Ingles. Ingles battled his way onto the Jazz roster, and is an integral piece on a squad that's in contention for the playoffs.
Ingles, 31, has passed on some invaluable knowledge to his countryman, knowledge that Broekhoff holds in the forefront of his mind as his rookie season rolls on.
“He basically said you’ve got to be first one in and last one out of the gym every day, you’ve got to put in all the extra work and just take the opportunities when you get them and be confident. He says, ‘They picked you up for a reason, so go and show them why.’”
“He’s been great, he’s definitely someone that helped me out a lot.”
Broekhoff is in unfamiliar territory, biding his time until his opportunity comes, but one thing is for sure, there’s no place he’d rather be than chasing his NBA dream after years of toiling away overseas.
“The bodies been holding up. Mentally, it’s a long season, there’s going to be ups and downs, I’ve just tried to stay positive through it all and prepare by doing all the work I can to make sure physically and mentally I’m ready to go when I get an opportunity.”