Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game Notes Sydney Spirit vs. Wollongong Hawks

By Hursty

Welcome everyone to the first ever NBL game notes presented on hibachi. This was the first game I've been to in 2009 and it turned out to be a cracker! So, on with the show:

The game is at the State Sport Centre, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush. AKA: Where the majority of the athletics were held in 2000.

This is the 400th game in the NBL for Spirit captain Jason Smith. Thats a huge achievement for a 6'4 white guy. He's been in the L since the 94/5 season and was the Captain of the Australian Boomers at the 2004 Olympics and was on the team for the 2008 season before shoulder surgery de-railed his campaign.

The 'defense' chants start early, and so does the heckling.

Money Bill's Hawks look good, getting a lot of kick n' drive for open 3's. Problem is, they aren't going in. Same goes for the Spirit.

The crowd is extremely vocal and into the game early. I have these kids a few rows behind me, probably around ages 12 or 13 yelling 'Saville sucks!' pretty often. I just laugh and keep taking notes.

Some things I notice straight away: For the Hawks, Kavossy Franklin (an American import, who's been in the NBL for quite a few years now) looks very lethargic and slow. Maybe he's carrying an injury. He used to be a 30pt scorer, now it seems like he's just an above-average 2 guard.
Matt Knight for the Spirit looks like Anderson Varejao. A lot. Same height and everything.Except that he would kill Anderson up in a fight. The Spirit are also very good at closing out to shooters and grabing defensive boards and pushing immediately.
Damian Martin is making his return from a broken wrist tonight, and he looks a bit shakey early on, the dribble is not quite there and he appears a little nervous-as would 99.9% of players in a return game.

Although the crowd is small (I'd say around 1600-2000 people) it is very noisy. I imagine it would be like a small college or a mid-sized H.S game environment.

Neither side can gain any real flow or momentum early and the 1st quarter ends around 20 apiece (sorry, but I had to go the little boys room, so I missed the score).

Checking back into the game (for me at least) and its 18-14 Spirit very early in the second quarter, with David Gruber having 10 off the bench.

Damian Martin does a nice little fake behind-the-back pass to Matty Knight as he runs the floor- a point guard rewarding his big man.

Glen Saville bangs a 3 at the other end. He's money. Glen played almost his entire career for the Hawks except for last season when he joined the now-defunct Sydney Kings for their runs to the Finals, where they were eventually beaten by the Melbourne Tigers.

The NBL has it's very own Dick Bavetta, just 20 years younger. Maybe they're cousins or something.

I'm sitting next to the Spirit swingman Graeme Dann's dad Mike. Mike talks alot and knows a LOT about the game, so it's a welcome relief from the idiot kid hecklers behind me. Now they've got bongo drums or something and, although it's kinda funny, its almost impossible to hear anthing Mike is saying.

Matt Knight is getting it done on both ends of the floor. He rebounds very well and is pretty atheltic for a big guy. He sets hard screens and rolls to the basket. He scraps well, has great hands and gets most of his points off offensive rebounds.

Half-time! Its 38-38 and the Sound Tech guy liks Rihanna apparently. It's her fourth song already. T.I. and Moby get some air-time as well. Knight and Dann decide to play some h.o.r.s.e in the shoot-around, and Knight hits a winner as he shoots the ball off the ring to hit the shot clock, slide off the backboard and then dunny roll into the ring.

American Spirirt 6th man David Gruber is quietly having a nice game as he has a dozen or so and Damian Martin is asserting himself more, grabbing rebounds and getting guys open shots, even though he doesn't shoot particularly well.

Neither team can hit freebies, both are shooting around 50-60% from the line I think (I don't have credentials, so I can't get hold of a boxscore at ALL for the game).

After Knight's lefty spin lay-up, its 48-43 Sydney and the Hawks call time with 6:34 to play in the 3rd.

Anthony Petrie is getting into it with Gruber and Knight, who are happy to oblige, throwing elbows and jawing at each-other on dead ball situations. The kid hecklers are saying 'Petrie sucks! Hit the freeway loser!' I give them credit, but they have a lot to learn about heckling opposition players...

The Hawks bench 'plays' a lot younger than the Spirit. Maybe it's the road game, but they get abused by the Sydney bench, particularly Gruber, who goes to work in the post in the third against the smaller Hawks bench.

The Hawks can't get anything going towards the basket, and it shows. Sydney are closing down the lane in their zone D, and the Hawks shooters, particularly Saville and Matt Campbell are struggling. Kavossy Franklin can't get anything going, although he is trying hard.

Petrie hits a lefty lay-up and, although its only 49-45, the Hawks are in more trouble than it seems.

Another Hawks turn-over leads to an acrobatic lay-up by Dann. Both teams are finally starting to hit their free-throws and its 54-49 SYD with 2:34 to play in the 3rd.

Um, Reed almost airballed a three for the Spirit, but that's ok, because they're up by 6 right now and looking pretty comfortable.

Some easy baskets for Cam Tragardh cut the lead to three, and an an announcement says that it's Smith's 400th game. Everyone applauds, but most of them know it anyways.

Franklin misses two free-throws, but taps in his own miss on the buzzer and its 58-53 heading into the 4th quarter.

Sydney loves Rihanna still! Yay!

Damian Martin goes C2C and dishes to Gruber for a lay-in. The Hawks cut it to 60-57 with 10:53 to go and Franklin looks like he might be ready to take over the game.

Knight pops out and hits an elbow jumper! I told you he could hit shots! Petrie fires back with a 18ft baseline jumper.

40 seconds of intense scraping by both teams, culminating in a Hawks turnover and some crazy fan support, Dann skies for a dunk, getting his elbow above the rim, but has his arm pulled on the attempt. Cash, cash and the Spirit are up 5.

Both teams are getting to the line, and whoever hits more often is probably going to take the game the way it's being played right now.

Although Damian Martin (injured wrist) is coming off the bench, he's played a load of minutes tonight even alongside starter Luke Martin (think Felton and Augustin for the Cats). The combination proving deadly mid-way through the fourth, both hustling for loose balls and creating shots for Gruber and Knight especially.

Knight scores, and he's got 15 and it's 65-59 Spirit. Too much of a lead?

Franklin has had an extremely quiet second half. Time-out Hawks and Saville ices a corner 3 straight away. An excellent seal by Gruber in the low post makes it a 2 possession game and he's got 20.

Hmm, Franklin goes C2C and then Dann hits a huge 3 from a good 2 feet beyond the arc. Mike opens his arms like God and yells in my ear 'He's really developed that shot of late!' It turns out that I share something in common with Graham, Luke Martin and 2 other players on the Spirit- we all train (or have trained) under Coach Smith, who's in the States right now with Ater at Uconn.

The crowd is amped up as the game comes down to the last few minutes and the announcer is doing a good job getting people involved. It's a real family atmosphere here right now. Even the stupid kids are cheering, rather than trying to abuse the Hawks team. The bongo drums are in full beat.

Graeme Dann wears some really nice K1X shoes.

Franklin hits a 3 to make it a 9 point game after Gruber abuses Saville down low.

Knight gets 2 and Saville bangs in a 3 to make it 75-67 Spirit.

Dusty Rychart has decided to show up! He hits a 3 for the Hawks off a nice Franklin feed and its 75-70. Timeout Sydney!

Jason Smith hits one of only 3 field goals for the game out of the timeout.

A Damian to Luke to Smith Alley-oop is the highlight of the night-no dribble and two passes to get to the other end. Nice play.

Matty Knight is limping, he must've been corked or something earlier. 2:25 to play.

The Spirit effectively seal the game with 2 offensive rebounds in a row and 1 minute drained off the clock.

Knight decides to stick the nail in the coffin as the 6-9PF/C steps outside and hits a long-range bomb. He starts jumping up and down and the Spirit players embrace him in celebration. He has 20 and this game is almost through.

Luke Martin gets an And-one (there are only two or three in the whole game). 85-72 with 1:15 to play.

Rychart and Franklin get baskets to make it 85-76, but Smith hits two freebies to end any remote hope of a T-mac 13 in 33 type comeback.

Petrie hits a 2, then its all over.

Apparently not. The refs call a foul on the buzzer (don't you just hate that?) and your final score is 88-78 Sydney Spirit over the Wollongong Hawks.


The Spirit are very welcoming to fans after the game, applauding their support. Coach Rob Beveridge thanks the fans and so does Jason Smith. A fine 400th game present. A pity he only shot 3/15.

I meet Beveridge, Smith, Damian Martin and Graham. All are extremely welcoming and friendly. Graham says he'll be sure to check the blog after I write down the site address.

Rob Beveridge and Jason Smith are definitely classy individuals. They listen and give their attention as we speak.

Smith briefly mentions that the players are forced to write the game reports on the Spirit website, because all unnecessary staff were let go after the Spirit collapsed earlier this season.

Almost all of their salary comes from door sales, so please get out to the games if you can Sydneysiders.

I was not expecting this at all, but..... I've been offered the opportunity to help out with the Spirit by writing articles for them for the website. This means I'll be able to sit in the media area (there was only one journalist there this evening). I'll also get access to practices. I immediately accepted the offer by both Rob and Jason- if they read this, I offer them my thanks and congratulations on the win.

I understand that this was extremely long, and I applaud you for reading the whole game notes.

Smith finished with 13, Knight with 20 and 10 and David Gruber had a very quiet and subtle game high 26 on 13/15 shooting.

Damian Martin, in his first game back had 6 pts, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in the win.

Somehow Rychart had 21 and 12, Franklin added 19 and Petrie finished with 12. You can look through a short gallery of photos from the game here.

Peace, Hursty.


B. Long said...

These notes were B.Long long! And shouldn't you say those guys are like a poor australian version of D.J. and Ray Felton or are they really that good? New stuff on W.B.B.L!

Hursty said...

Damian will most likely be the guy partnering Patty Mills in the backcourt for Australia for the next decade or so B.
So, No. They aren't a poor Australian version.
Damian is a far better defensive player than Felton (although the quality of play is less) and he's around 6'3 or 6'4 and a true point, not a combo guard like Patty.
The notes were extremely long I will say that though :)

Moose said...

Hursty, congratulations on your gig! Are you getting paid? Sounds great. Nice notes, man! Too bad I didn't know any of the players, but you did a good job with that. Sounds like a good game. And that Matt Knight guy . . . my center play is exactly like you described. Call me the American Matt Knight :). Great job, dude.

Hursty said...

Thanks for the props Moose.
Matty Knight doesn't flop. I feel that should be written to help differentiate him from Varejao. If you're going to play like Matty Knight then best of luck to you. He's a good, solid individual with his head attached to his shoulders (he's grounded. Doesn't act like a big shot).

In the NBA game notes, you don't have to say PF Zach Randolph- everyone already knows his position and who he plays for, with the NBL, because Americans (and Australians) don't know who anyone is, I have to show that and help delve into the characters more. Thats why the notes were much longer than Russ Bengtsons or Langs etc.

No, I'm not getting paid for it- if it ends up happening. Of course I'll give a shout-out to hibachi when it does, hopefully that'll draw some more readers. Um, Moosey, just wondering... if the players are forced to live off of door sales do you think they can pay a kid like me ;) Im just playin. The league as a whole is in dire straits financially....

Moose said...

You know Hursty, I was just wondering, you know . . . if a team asks you to be the beat writer, I assumed that you had a chance at getting paid. Anyways, great job to you.

Great that you'll give the shout-out to Hibachi . . . you can do your advertising part :).

Anonymous said...

Congrats on scoring media-area premium seats! Paid or not, what a way to get your basketball fix.

I've never seen any NBL games, but do you think there are any NBL teams who could give an NBA team a run for their money?

Just another reason why pro basketball HAS to someday, somehow organize a Champions' League globally. The best players might be in the US, but on any given day, a better team can prevail.

Eboy said...

These notes seemed longer than an actual game. And when you say "this ought to be a cracker" are you referencing white people in some veiled way? :)

Hursty said...

Hey Joel! Haven't seen you in a minute. How'd the Uni stuff go/is going?

I reckon that the South Dragons, Tigers and NZ Breakers would all be able to beat OKC comfortably though.

They tried a world club championship thing before, but it fell apart after a couple of years...

Well spotted Eboy, but no. Its just an expression in Australia :)

Moose- I'll link up the Spirit with hibachi. I'm doing the media accreditation as I write this haha.

mookie said...

Nice detailed game notes -- great for someone like me who is on the other side of the world and not able to get to the game. The Spirit have definitely been inspirational in their play this season to say the least.

Congrats on getting the "media accreditation" and I look forward to reading more match reports as the season goes on!!

-- mookie @ A Stern Warning

Hursty said...

Thankyou Mookie. I checked your site, but theres no place for comments!

mookie said...

No worries Hursty. There is actually a place to leave comments if you click on each individual article -- though that's not very clear from the front page I realise!

Anyway, the site has crashed at the moment... the popularity of Eddy Curry has killed it I think. Keep up the great work.

-- mookie

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the notes! Those of us in the US need all the help we can get as there's absolutely no way to get a game on the radio or TV... Those who think they are too long can skim through, or read a paragraph or two in the newspaper... :)

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