The Breakers will go back in time when they take the court against the Wollongong Hawks tonight wearing singlets based on their original strip of 10 years ago. But they will hope the form of Tom Abercrombie is a little more up to date.
Abercrombie appeared to reach a turning point in his last match for the Auckland-based team against the Crocodiles in Townsville. The ankle he sprained badly last season has been hindering him, and though it still isn't 100 per cent right, he's not thinking about it any more and that can only be good news for his form and his side.
His two late three-pointers hauled his side past the Crocs last Friday in yet another come-from-behind victory, this time an 82-78 thriller.
Abercrombie, one of the most skilful players around but one who has been frustrated with his game this season, was prepared to control things in the critical final minutes, and a sold-out North Shore Events Centre will be hoping for more of the same attitude tonight.
Asked if it was a turning point, Abercrombie said: "I hope so. Time will tell. The important thing for me to remember was it was just one game. It was great to be able to contribute in a big way but I want to make sure I maintain that level of play and it's up to me to go out there and put in more consistent performances.
"I've put in a lot of hard work to try to get myself up to a level I'm happy with and I'll keep putting in that work."
The Breakers' retro look tonight has been prompted by the NBL's "heritage round" promotion, and Abercrombie welcomed the chance to reflect on the club's 10 years of existence.
He was in the North Shore Events Centre stands as a skinny 15-year-old for the team's first match against the Adelaide 36ers, an exciting 111-110 victory for the home side which foundation players such as Pero Cameron, who appeared at the current team's training yesterday, Phill Jones, and Paul Henare couldn't quite maintain.
"I remember it was sold out, it was an awesome atmosphere," said Abercrombie, who at the time was beginning to think he could become a professional basketballer. "The guys won and I remember talking to Dillon [Boucher] a couple of months ago about it and saying how those guys had so much confidence after that first win they thought they were going to win it all the first season. But they got a rude awakening. They learned just how tough the NBL is."
The Breakers lost 10 of their next 11 games before a late-season rally. These days the Breakers, who have won the past two championships and this season top the table with a 13-3 record, are far more consistent thanks to their quality roster, work ethic, and the coaching skills of Andrej Lemanis. Two successive titles are testament to that.
"It's my fifth year with the team now and it's been a big part of my life," Abercrombie said.
As for being dissatisfied with some of his performances this season, Lemanis reckons the shooting guard is being a bit tough on himself.
"He continues to contribute in different ways ... if he can continue to knock down those shots like he did [last Friday], that's just another bow he's got in his bag of tricks," Lemanis said.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick