Injured Abercrombie eyes return for resurgent Breakers

By Grant Chapman

Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers scores on a layup Brisbane Bullets. Photo/Getty Images
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers scores on a layup Brisbane Bullets. Photo/Getty Images

Injured NZ Breakers star Tom Abercrombie looms as a game-time decision for Thursday's crucial Australian NBL encounter with Cairns Taipans at the North Shore Events Centre.

The uber-athletic small forward has missed more than a month and seven games with a right-hand fracture, but has been back on court at Breakers training this week, champing at the bit to rejoin the line-up.

"I want to play, so let's see how we go on Thursday," confirms Abercrombie, the 2011 NBL Grand Final MVP.

"The last couple of rounds have been great, having a lot of success and getting some good wins. It's been frustrating, as always, not being out there and helping, but hopefully that will change soon."

Abercrombie accompanied the team on their road trip to Illawarra last weekend, re-building rapport with his old team-mates and, in some cases, getting to know new team-mates that have arrived during his absence.

"I warmed up last week with my left hand, if anyone was watching," he grins. "I've never been known for my left-hand skills, so it's been good to work on that a little bit - it's been a blessing in disguise, I guess.

"It was good to be amongst everyone, to have those conversations with the guys again and feel a bit more a part of it again.

"Certainly, in the weeks before that, I felt a little isolated on my own and doing my own rehab."

Americans Paul Carter and Kevin Dillard have been a huge part of the Breakers' resurgence over the past two weeks, a period in which four straight wins have them back in the playoff race, after they were seemingly dead in the water.

"Obviously, with Kevin coming in, he's given us a huge boost and given a different dynamic to our team," says Abercrombie.

"When you have a guy like that to give the ball to, he can create something out of nothing and gets other guys involved, he has found a place within our system, making everyone else better and he's been fun to watch."

By Abercrombie's own admission, the Breakers have found some useful continuity over the past month, having lost himself, fellow Tall Black Corey Webster, and Americans Ben Woodside and Dave Stockton to injury since the start of the season.

Bringing such an integral piece of the puzzle back into a relatively sweetly humming machine presents some teething problems, in terms of adjusting roles and player rotation.

In fact, coach Paul Henare credits that very factor for contributing to the recent turnaround in fortunes.

"Guys are consistently getting regular minutes, and knowing their roles and where they fit in the group.

"But Tom is a massive part of our group and we've missed him. He is one of our higher basketball IQ guys, so he will have been watching and observing, and will be able to slip in straight away.

"There will be a little bit of a change of roles, especially at the guard position, but one that I think will be pretty seamless."

Another key to Abercrombie's successful return will be his ability to shoot the ball. While his high-flying panache is well-suited to scoring around the basket, he is also one of the league's most accurate long-range shooters, connecting on 44.7% of 76 three-point attempts.

That's the best return from any player attempting more than 50 from the arc.

"That's been the big thing over the last two weeks," said Abercrombie. "It's felt pretty good and I've started doing everything else, but shooting has been holding me back.

"Yesterday and today have been the first two days I've really got some reps up. I haven't shot a lot in the last two weeks, so the more I can get up, the better.

"It's not aggravating anything and I make sure it recovers well, so that's the big thing. We've just got to wait and see this week."

Wisely, Henare is not leaving the final decision to his player.

"He's been able to do more and more over the past couple of weeks, but we have to be smart as well," he says. "If it's not right on Thursday, we'll look at it Sunday ... if not Sunday, we'll look again next week.

"He wants to play - he'll tell you he was right a week-and-a-half ago - but we've got those tests and measures in for a good reason."

- NZ Herald

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