Let's not beat around the bush — the Supercity Rangers versus Hawks encounter in the penultimate round of the National Basketball League is a dead rubber tomorrow. It's pointless talking up the round 13 match tipping off at 3pm in Te Awamutu tomorrow because the Taylor Corporation-sponsored visitors will have their minds on the Final Four berth already in the bank on July 20-21 in Christchurch.
The Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks will face the Canterbury Rams at the Horncastle Arena from 6.30pm, after the Wellington Saints v Southland Sharks encounter in the 3.10pm first semifinal.
Consequently the Hawks hosting the Rams in Napier in the final round on Thursday at 7pm makes it the best dress rehearsal for the NBL playoffs.
Perhaps what sticks out most against the Rangers is coach Zico Coronel's decision to rest diligent American import small forward EJ Singler after he flopped straight on to the physiotherapist's table at the Pettigrew-Green Arena in the 102-97 victory over the Sharks last Saturday.
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However, injured or not one would expect a player of Singler's work ethics to be rested based on his double-double shift this winter, which fellow US import power forward Brandon Bowman has picked with aplomb since arriving several weeks into the NBL following his stint in the Israeli league.
Singler is among the 10 nominees for the NBL defensive player of the year award but he has reiterated all season collective causes override any individual accolades for him.
Hawks swingman Ethan Rusbatch, who is hoping to feature in New Zealand and Wellington Saints coach Paul Henare's Fiba World Cup equation to China in a few weeks, also is among eight nominees vying for the NBL most improved player of the year award.
Nevertheless, with the glare of trinkets during the silly time of the season the Hawks will be focused on getting the job done in the Final Four front.
No doubt, Coronel will intend to offer more minutes on the court to his some of his bench players who will need to pick up any slack due to injuries or early foul counts in Christchurch.
The burning question is whether the Hawks can secure a second NBL crown without a big man in the mould of Australian import centre Daniel Kickert who has returned to Sydney.