In a small jar at his home, Tom Abercrombie has the bone chips surgeons took out of his ankle over the off-season.

It's a reminder of the agony he endured at the end of last season when he battled a troubling ankle injury that restricted his game time as the Breakers charged to consecutive ANBL titles.

It's the winner's medal from that season Abercrombie prefers to remember but his ankle injury has been a constant for the past four months.

Yesterday, the swingman made his first tentative steps back onto the basketball court for his first practice session since surgery. He got through it unscathed and thinks he will be ready for next Friday night's season opener against the Perth Wildcats at the North Shore Events Centre.


The club, however, won't take any risks with him. It's what happens at the end of the season that is more important.

"At the moment it's being managed very conservatively and we will keep doing that,'' coach Andrej Lemanis said. "He's a chance to play but we will make a decision on that closer to the time.

"Our approach with him is the same with anybody. It's silly to risk further injury to get someone back quickly. If they need to miss a game or two to make sure they are right, it makes more sense than rushing them back and having them out for six weeks.''

The Breakers will need a fit Abercrombie if they are to win a third-straight title. The club's depth is one of their greatest assets - they are largely unchanged apart from the arrival of Will Hudson for Gary Wilkinson - but Abercrombie is one of the league's best players.

He looked a little tentative at training yesterday but reminded everyone of his quality with a couple of sweetly-time outside jump shots.

"It feels a lot better than it has been and it was just good to get out there and run around freely with the boys again,'' he said. "There's obviously a bit of rustiness there I will work through over the next couple of weeks and hopefully get better and better.

"My fitness is fine. I have been doing a lot work in that area. It's just getting used to the contact again, getting the confidence again to really push off the ankle and do things I'm used to doing. It will just take a while to get that confidence back. I think I can get there. We have two weeks to get ready for that first game and I think I will be ready.

"It's been a long and frustrating process. It's the first time I have had to go through that. You think it's going to heal a lot faster than it does and it might have gone a little slower than I would have liked. But I am back out on the court, I'm where I want to be now so there are no excuses any more.''

The Breakers aren't exactly where Lemanis hoped they might be less than a fortnight out from their first game. They won two of their three games at last weekend's pre-season tournament but were hamstrung by the fact they had only seven fit players by the third game - Mika Vukona had knee tendinitis and CJ Bruton was ill.

They are still expected to be one of the favourites along with Perth but Lemanis wants to see them sharpen up in the coming days.

"I think offensively we are still finding our rhythm,'' he said. "There are stages when we are very good and others when we become stagnant. Defensively, there are times when we are very good and times when we don't execute the rules and our attention to detail is not where it needs to be. We are not where we want to be right now and we need to get better.''

Abercrombie's return to fitness will help.

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