Basketball: Vukona not worried by slow start to season

By Michael Brown

Breakers' forward Mika Vukona gave his teammates an expletive-laden blast during their match with Townsville and virtually carried the side to victory
Breakers' forward Mika Vukona gave his teammates an expletive-laden blast during their match with Townsville and virtually carried the side to victory

By most measures, the Breakers aren't playing well but on the only one that really matters their season is under control.

The defending ANBL champions take on the Tigers in Melbourne tomorrow night with a two-win, one-loss record which has them third-equal on the table. But their progress to that point has been far from smooth.

A first-up 93-72 hammering by arch rivals Perth was followed by scratchy defeats of both Adelaide (73-59) and Townsville (73-71). They have shot an average of only 39 per cent from the floor in their three games, which were all at home, and have failed to so far impose themselves on sides.

Forward Mika Vukona gave his teammates an expletive-laden blast during their match with Townsville and virtually carried the side to victory. He finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and three steals, a performance that earned the 30-year-old his first ANBL Player of the Week award.

"Everybody has their time and place to do that," Vukona said. "That's the good thing about this team, anyone can do it from one to 12. It just so happens I did it.

"We are learning and improving in every game we are playing, especially after that Perth game. Everyone is starting to figure out what they are actually doing out there now and when the lapses are out there it shows. Momentum swings are pretty major at this time of year. No one is worried about it. Everybody is pretty happy with where we are at right now."

The Breakers talk about being a "new team" this season, even though there is only one major change with Will Hudson coming in for Gary Wilkinson as one of the two imports. But Wilkinson was an influential member of the side and could often be relied on to make the big play when others were struggling and was the side's most prolific scorer at 16.6 points a game.

"When you win a championship, you can't use the same formula again," Vukona said. "Everything has to change. You have to step things up. You try to tweak things. Even though they are small tweaks, they are still tweaks. It's just human nature that when you try something new, you don't like it. I think that's what is happening out there at the moment."

The chemistry should at least improve through being on the road for the first time this season. The Breakers will also take on a Melbourne side struggling for form with three defeats from three games.

It doesn't mean tomorrow night's game will be easy, especially with former Breakers point guard Kevin Braswell, a player once regarded as the best closer in the league, running the Tigers' offence. He has averaged 13.7 points and five assists a game and registered a game-high 18 points in last weekend's 65-74 home defeat to Perth.

Centre Alex Pledger is a doubt for the Breakers after injuring his ankle against Townsville last weekend and they can ill-afford to be without him. He has travelled with the side but coach Andrej Lemanis labelled his involvement a 50-50 proposition.

Pledger was dreadful in the defeat to Perth, when he failed to grab a single rebound despite being the tallest player on the court, but has been much better in the past two games with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Adelaide and seven rebounds and five blocks against Townsville.

- APNZ

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