CJ Bruton let some of his Breakers' teammates know he was back and ready to play in an aggressive training session today and he's hoping to let the league know in a different way on Saturday night.
The 36-year-old guard has missed the last five games with a knee injury but will make his return in Cairns on Saturday night. It's been a frustrating time for Bruton, who hates missing out, and Tom Abercrombie bore the brunt of most of that when he was bowled in an American football-style shoulder charge at training.
"I have a lot of fire," Bruton said after apologising to Abercrombie. "I have a lot of stuff I need to get out. Obviously that wasn't the right way to go about it but hopefully you will see over the next couple of months ... it might have been a good thing being out for a while."
It didn't do the team any harm. The league leaders won four of the five games without their talisman to take their record to 10 wins and four defeats, although they were thrashed 86-62 in their last outing in Perth.
A fit and firing CJ Bruton, however, is an asset to any side. It's rarely been seen in 2011 and his numbers have taken a hit.
He's averaged 8.3 points a game and shot just 28.8 per cent from the floor - down from a career average of 16.1 points and 43 per cent respectively - and was kept scoreless in three of his last four outings. The knee was clearly troubling him and affecting his shooting rhythm and it raised questions of how long the four-time championship winner would go on and whether his impact on the court was doing the team more harm than good.
Scans revealed that, on top of tendonitis, he had also torn part of his patella and a period of rest was prescribed for the veteran of 438 ANBL games.
"To find out it was torn, I was relieved to know something was wrong," he said. "Then I could do something about it.
"It's not 100 [per cent] but I can move. I'm not sugar coating what I can and can't do. I can move with everyone on the floor.
"A couple of days it feels really good and then it is a little sore, but I am able to play on it now. It is a case of managing it better than I did first time around and hopefully get through and allow my body to fully recover. I have to be more conservative and be smart about it."
The level of aggression in training was welcomed by coach Andrej Lemanis, especially with Saturday's game falling on New Year's Eve when most people are in holiday mode.
"So far this week we have lacked a little bit of an edge and we spoke about that before practice," Lemanis said. "I thought the guys came out and practiced well. That's the sort of intensity you need to be successful in this league.
"Whether it's New Year's or not shouldn't make that much of a difference. We have spoken about it. During the holiday period, when it feels like everyone else is on holiday, it's important we continue to focus on the fact we are in season and need to play well."