Basketball: Attack best defence for Breakers

By Kris Shannon

American Gary Wilkinson is valued for his skill on offence. Photo / Greg Bowker
American Gary Wilkinson is valued for his skill on offence. Photo / Greg Bowker

If their usual brand of defence continues to prove ineffective, the Breakers hope the return of Gary Wilkinson will help them beat teams in a different way.

The Breakers will be trying to snap their three-game losing streak against Adelaide tonight, with Wilkinson aiming to ignite both the North Shore crowd and the champs' offence.

The former is a certainty - Wilkinson is part-showman, part-power forward - and the latter is likely to be almost as assured if the American's past record is anything to go by.

While their offence has hardly been the problem during a 1-3 start to the season, it will need to improve further if the Breakers' tenacious defence struggles to shut teams down, hindered by rules changes restricting their physicality.

It could be described as a cavalier approach but Mika Vukona thinks Wilkinson may be just the man for the job.

"Gary brings a different skillset to [the departed Darnell] Lazare," Vukona said. "With Gary being back and being able to stretch the floor, it's great. And if you can't beat them on defence, you might as well beat them on offence."

The Breakers have in recent seasons been blessed with a high-powered offence, with Wilkinson a key part of that for their first two championships. When it failed to fire though, it was a hard-nosed defence which won tight contests.

They hope to keep that formula but Wilkinson provides a pretty good plan B if the referees' whistles continue to chirp every time a Breaker bangs bodies with an opponent.

His 16.2 points per game during his first stint in New Zealand wouldn't go amiss, and he provides another deep threat to take advantage of Kerron Johnson's penetration and passing.

Coach Dean Vickerman said Wilkinson, after three days' practise, would be ready to split minutes evenly with the Breakers' big men, a strategy welcomed by Vukona.

"There's one thing that's probably going to be there all through the season - just his constant energy. A lot of people have already felt that in practice. He just brings it and it's intense. I think that's maybe the X-factor we've needed to get us over the hump."

There could be worse opponents than Adelaide for helping the Breakers over that hump, with the defending champions having triumphed in the last 15 meetings between the two teams.

Then again, the Breakers did drop a 16-game home winning streak last week, in another game plagued by foul calls. It must be especially frustrating for Vukona, a man who relishes defence more than most, but the Tall Blacks captain preferred to see the rule changes as a chance to enhance his game.

"It's been frustrating but it's been a great challenge," said Vukona, who fouled out of the Breakers' first two games. "[Assistant coach] Paulie [Henare] brought up some Scottie Pippen YouTube clips and I'm trying to mimic him because the way he played is the way they're calling fouls here."

But perhaps even more of a challenge for Vukona has been biting his tongue when calls are constantly going against him.

"It's a good thing I've got a mouth guard in," he said.APNZ

- NZ Herald

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