Basketball: Bruton getting twitchy as playoffs approach

By Michael Brown

CJ Bruton is vocal at the best of times, constantly chirping away in the ear of both opponents and teammates, but he's been particularly strident in recent days. Photo / Getty Images.
CJ Bruton is vocal at the best of times, constantly chirping away in the ear of both opponents and teammates, but he's been particularly strident in recent days. Photo / Getty Images.

CJ Bruton is vocal at the best of times, constantly chirping away in the ear of both opponents and teammates, but he's been particularly strident in recent days.

It's all to do with the time of year. The Breakers guard knows playoffs time is approaching and it's when he tends to go to work.

He illustrated that last year when he proved he wasn't a spent force - many had wondered earlier in the season if he was on the verge of retirement because of issues with his knees and form - and was named finals MVP on the back of two vital three-pointers in the deciding match against Perth. It saw Bruton claim his fifth ANBL title and second with the Breakers and the North Shore club are overwhelming favourites to claim a third-straight banner.

The 37-year-old has had another reasonably quiet regular season. He averages just 7.6 points a game (his career average is 15.5) and is playing about 10 minutes less a game than he has over his 479-game career but his contribution goes much deeper than what he produces on the court.

"I can't say enough about his willingness to sacrifice for the good of the group," coach Andrej Lemanis said. "He knows how teams work and that's why he wins. He's won a lot and been on a lot of winning teams and understands when to take a back seat to let others shine.

"But there's no doubt he can play. Particularly at his age, he does a good job of managing himself through the year. He understands when it's money time and when he needs to be peaking."

Bruton has shown glimpses of the sort of form he built a career around, including the 14 points he scored in the 98-81 defeat of Perth a fortnight ago, but has largely played a supporting role as others around him flourish. It's easy to do when the club are on an 11-game winning streak and they hope to extend that to 12 against Wollongong at the North Shore Events Centre tomorrow night.

"It's not about CJ Bruton," he said. "I understand that. I also know I have a big role to play and if I show frustration then the next guy feels he can do that.

"I know my role is not as much as it as has been and it is just as vital off the court as it is on the floor. I also know that, come playoff time, it's the time when teams want to win and when you are remembered [as players]. I'm more focused and dedicated at that time.

"There's a lot more at stake. I try to take pressure away from other players and over a number of years I have been able to do that. If I can do that again, we can play at such a high level I don't think any team in the competition can beat us. The only ones who can beat us are ourselves."

Bruton still has another season left on his contract when he is expected to retire. Lemanis had tried to persuade the club to offer Bruton a five-year deal last season that tied him to the Breakers in some capacity once he hung up his sneakers.

The wily veteran said he will remain in the "Breakers family" when that times come but will return to Australia to be closer to family. He might stop playing, but he won't stop talking.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 29 Aug 2014 02:09:27 Processing Time: 256ms