While his teammates attempt to breathe new life into their season tonight, Alex Pledger would be content to merely breathe without discomfort during the showdown against Perth.
The Breakers' big man has suffered respiratory problems for the past few weeks, a residual effect of the fall he took late in the last-second loss against Adelaide in November.
But, after regular treatment, Pledger has been improving and thinks he's close to his old self, a prospect which cannot come soon enough for the stuttering champs.
"I've had a bit of a rough time since that fall against Adelaide," the centre said yesterday. "It caused a little wrench to the cartilage between the sternum and ribs, so there was quite a bit of discomfort.
"After a little while going, it just gets a little tight and [my breathing] gets a little restricted. But it's loosening up pretty well and I've felt a lot better in practice this week than I have the last couple of weeks. So hopefully that's a good sign for tomorrow night."
The Breakers will certainly hope so, needing all the help they can get against a side almost out of sight on the Australian NBL ladder. After stringing together a couple of victories towards the end of November, the Kiwi club endured a luckless two-game road trip to slip to 4-8 on the season.
Not helping their cause has been the form of Pledger, whose numbers have been down in reduced minutes since his fall. Pledger was reluctant to blame the injury for his decreased output, but there's no doubting the impact that his type of ailment can make.
"I don't want to go on about it too much but it's been a little bit restricting. But I think it's just a case of some shots not dropping. I've been getting some good looks in the post and they've just been bouncing out or spinning around the circle a million times and not falling.
"So it's just a combination of not feeling 100 per cent and just the shots not falling at the moment."
Tonight at Vector Arena would be a good time to buck that trend. With a two-week break before the next game, Christmas dinner will have something of a sour taste should another defeat be added to an already worrying tally.
On face value, Perth are unwelcome guests on the verge of the holiday season, with a league-leading 11-1 record and two victories - including last week's four-point win - against the Breakers this season. But only a miracle shot from James Ennis separated the sides a week ago in Perth, while the Breakers also ran the frontrunners close earlier in the campaign.
There's no denying the champs are better than their record but it is equally clear that moral victories count for nothing in the standings.
"I know it sounds like we keep saying this game after game, but one or two wins can move you from sixth spot right back into the top four," Pledger said. "We're not too far away, but it's getting to that time in the season when you've got to start converting those close ones into wins.