A Dillon Boucher toe injury on the eve of a crucial re-match against the Wollongong Hawks is testing the depth of the New Zealand Breakers' power forwards.
Boucher's injury in training yesterday was the last thing coach Andrej Lemanis needed, given fellow big man BJ Anthony is about to miss the second of two matches due to a 10-day suspension for turning up to training hungover.
An MRI scan today provided good news for Boucher - no tear has been found - but there is still discomfort and swelling and he will leave a decision on whether he will take the North Shore Events Centre court until as late as possible.
"The scan is good in the sense that there is no obvious tear or damage showing up but we won't really know until the initial swelling and pain has settled down," he said. "I have spoken with the medical team and the coaches and will leave the decision until tomorrow. I'll get out there and see how it feels but in the meantime will stay off it and do all the right things to aid the recovery."
Lemanis said Gary Wilkinson and Tom Abercrombie could step into the breach for the Breakers but it puts the spotlight back on Anthony's absence.
"It shows how important it is for everybody to be contributing to the group," Lemanis said. "Obviously with his [Anthony's] situation right now, it's affecting him but it's also affecting his teammates.
"He's at a stage now where he's got to come in and do the right things," Lemanis said of 23-year-old Anthony's pending return from suspension. "If he does the right things and proves that he wants to be a professional basketball player and professional athlete and he's prepared to commit to the off-court stuff as well as the on-court stuff - I think he's been doing great on-court, he's actually been helping us and he's been progressing in that area - but as we all know it's more than just what's on court.
"Of course it's disappointing, but ... young people sometimes make mistakes and I'm hoping that this is the wake-up call for him now that makes the change."
Last weekend against the Hawks the defending NBL champion Breakers had a chance to stretch their lead over Perth after seeing the Wildcats surprisingly lose to Adelaide at home. However, their bogey team struck again, beating the New Zealand franchise 80-64 and maintaining their extraordinary 19-10 record.
The Hawks had won just two games at home this season prior to the clash and are the only team to have beaten the Breakers in Auckland this term.
Former Breaker Oscar Forman put on a shooting clinic and left Lemanis with plenty to think about before tomorrow night.
"He certainly shot it well the other night didn't he," Lemanis said. "We all know what he can do. We didn't have the intensity at the defensive end. There was just a general lack of mental application on Saturday night which translated into a poor performance."
Guard Cedric Jackson agreed, saying the eighth-placed Hawks were better than their league record this season suggests (6-14) but adding: "We have to take care of those mental errors that we made."
Lemanis said there was nothing in particular which made the Hawks hard for the Breakers to beat, but turnovers were especially costly.
As for thinking about the playoffs, Lemanis said forget it.
"The league's incredibly close. As much as it feels like the season is nearly at an end, there's nearly a quarter of the games to go, we've got seven games left. There's a lot of basketball left and the teams that are in that top five are all playing each other so it's those results that will determine where everyone finishes."
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick