Hawks v Pistons
PG Arena, Napier
It's a vicious chain reaction on the court but it's not something a good number of the spectators may pick up during a basketball match.
That is, HBS Bank Hawks finding open spaces but, frustratingly, not much love from the rims during the height of their Bartercard National Basketball League matches this season.
"It's not as black and white as spectators think it is. They must feel he's in an open space so why doesn't he just shoot it?" says Hawks point guard Jarrod Kenny before they tip off in their final NBL match against the First Advice Waikato Pistons tonight in a dead rubber after Otago Nuggets, Wellington Saints, Nelson Giants and Southland Sharks secured the Final Four playoff berths to be hosted here next weekend.
Kenny, who is tipped to be in the Tall Blacks trials with unwanted Perth Wildcats shooting guard Everard Bartlett and guard Dion Prewster soon after the Tuesday after the grand final, says players often face the dilemma of thinking quickly on their toes when oppositions gift them the luxury of time and space.
"A, a player with the ball on the perimeter thinks should I get something better or B, take a tough shot?"
Sometimes, he feels, it pays for the players to keep relaying the ball around the semi-circle until someone believes they have the points within a gimme distance.
"You can often get a good look but it's too early and the shot clock still has time left on it," he explains, lamenting the Tab Baldwin-coached Hawks' loss against the Pistons in Hamilton as they were reduced to bricklayers in the offensive department.
"The Pistons are so soft they will tend to stick around the key and the lanes so that means we aren't able to create enough movement to yield enough opportunities."
Conversely, the Paora Winitana-captained Hawks were outstanding in defence, in the low-scoring affair which the then last-placed Doug Courtney-coached Waikato won 69-64 on June 21.
Kenny reckons the visitors thrive on luring oppositions into a false sense of a look-in.
Frustratingly, as Hawks fans have watched player after player sinking shots off the boards and from outside the arc with consummate ease during warm ups and scrimmages, that fluidity has not rubbed off into game time.
After the loss to the Pistons, an exasperated coach Baldwin bemoaned his troops' lack of conviction and an almost unnerving sense of mistrust in each other to do the job.
Kenny says relaxing tonight to as a team who are often 3 to 4 consecutive shots shy with good, open looks.
"You have to think if the next shot is a good one but at the same time you don't want to be hesitant so it's something that varies from player to player and position to position," says the former Tall Black who emphasises at times common sense kicks in on a desire to attempt to work the ball closer to the back boards even if it means milking a foul to get three look-ins from the charity line.
"It's nothing like becoming individuals who are selfish or anything but it's more about our selection," says Kenny, saluting the Tall Black selectors for recognising his, Bartlett and Prewster's input despite the Hawks' season to forget.
The hosts don't need motivation for a game tonight that promises words such as pride, fans and sponsors.
"We'll be playing for each other, too."
Hawks import "slasher" Brian Greene will catch a flight out to Las Vegas tomorrow as he attends a camp there for his brokers, the Harts Sports Agency.
The small forward, easily the best Hawk this winter in mustering baskets and equally strong on at both ends off the board, is also eyeing a berth in the 2013-14 Australian National Basketball League.
"Hopefully I'll be coming back to close a deal with an Australian team. That's just going to be great. It'll be a dream come true," Greene says.
A player who emphasised the importance of fitting into Baldwin's mould as a contributor to the collective in his rookie season, Greene takes no pleasure in his individual gains as he shoulders the disappointment of missing out on the playoffs on their own turf.
"As I said, it bothers me more than myself of my career," he says, comfortable from day one with what Baldwin wanted him to do and what he needed to do to be part of the system.
"I let myself down and the team down. I feel like I could have done a lot better but, hopefully, I'll get a chance to redeem myself next season."
An explosive Greene agreed he is much wiser to what physicality means in this country's league after serving a suspension following a heated exchange with veteran Dillon Boucher in the away match against Wellington Saints.
"The fans, the community and the owners are great people so I, like the rest of the squad, are sorry we couldn't make the playoffs."
Coach Courtney says Waikato have competed better in the second half of the season and winning again tonight is on the agenda.
"We want to be in a much better position than we started off in the season," he says of a franchise returning to the NBL after a season in the wilderness.
He agrees the hawks are "notoriously tough" at home so the Pistons won't be taking anything for granted.
"We'll be expecting something totally different from them. Even though they may not have too many big men they have enough quality players right up there and Tab's done a great job bringing them through."
Courtney says Waikato were aggressive in defence last time so the Hawks can expect more of the same tonight.
The Philippines national team will play against a Hawks Invitation side at the PG Arena next Friday in a 7pm tip off before the NBL playoff matches at the weekend.
"It'll be for our fans from Hastings who came to every home game," says franchise general manager Paul Trass, adding there'll be a $5 adult and $2 children ticket.
Baldwin is in the process of inviting Pistons import centre Zack Atkinson and two others from the Taranaki Mountain Airs team, including point guard Jack Leasure.
Baldwin says the Philippines, under coach Vincent Reyes, are competing in the Asian Championship from August 1 so they wanted to have practice matches against oppositions outside their competition.
"They were going to go to Australia but I'm a good mate of the manager, Butch Antonio, so I got them here," he says of the visitors who are also going to play the Saints in Wellington, thanks to Nick Mills snr, before a session in Auckland over a five-day trip.
"They are a very strong team."
The Hawks franchise have also advertised for a GM with applications closing on July 12.
"I was always doing the job temporarily because I work fulltime for Basketball Hawke's Bay so there's 750 teams here playing annually and we have eight staff helping out," Trass says, adding there's also pressure to move to their new premises as the BHB relocates to the Wairere Bowling Club rooms.