Melbourne United may be pushing hard to qualify for finals but they’ll be pushing even harder to hang onto their out of contract stars for next season.
Support is growing for Newcastle as a genuine NBL expansion option, with the league seeing merit in the Hunter’s reach and strong junior ranks.
The Steel City hasn’t had a basketball team since the Hunter Pirates dissolved in 2006, but the region has emerged in expansion discussions within the league.
There is a belief that Newcastle possesses the perfect mix of history via the Falcons from 1979 to 1999, grassroots participation, population and passionate support to back the successful return of an NBL team.
The Hunter region has also produced countless professional basketball players, including Damian Martin, Kouat Noi, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Suzy Batkovic and Australian NBA star Ben Simmons.
Simmons spent nine years of his youth living in Newcastle while his father Dave played for the Falcons and coached in the city.
The now Brooklyn Nets guard began playing basketball at age seven for the Newcastle Hunters under 12 representative team.
Simmons’ links to Newcastle and junior basketball in the city could also be used as leverage for a potential NBL team.
The Hunter region is also proven for its love of all sport, and it’s believed the city would wrap its arms around another basketball team.
Basketball NSW CEO Maria Nordstrom says a Newcastle NBL team makes sense.
“If you are looking at basketball DNA and a rich history with the Newcastle Falcons and now an involvement in the SEABL and NBL1,” Nordstrom said about Newcastle, the NBL’s birthplace in the 1979 via Dr John Raschke.
“Then around the Hunter and Central Coast region, there are 11,000 to 12,000 members who participate in basketball and if you include school programs that number goes up to 25,000 to 30,000.
“So, it (basketball) is big in the (Newcastle) region.”
Ramped up interest in Newcastle as an expansion option comes as plans have been unveiled for a proposed 11,000-seat entertainment centre in the city.
Venues NSW have completed a business case for the state government recommending a replacement venue for the dated Newcastle Entertainment Centre, which requires major funding to be upgraded.
Venues NSW said a new $350 million indoor stadium should be built beside McDonald Jones Stadium as the first stage of the 63-hectare Hunter Park sport, entertainment and residential redevelopment at Broadmeadow.
The proposal still requires approval, and funding, but the NBL are keeping a close eye on how the plans progress.
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger previously said the league is interested in hearing more about the proposed 11,000-seat Newcastle Entertainment Centre and looking at ways to bring an NBL team back to the area.
“The NBL are always open to discussions with all governments around bringing games to regions who have NBL-standard venues” said Loeliger.
“We want to keep growing the NBL and the game of basketball, and bringing the sport to new regions is paramount in achieving that goal.”
PHOENIX HOPE FOR ZHOU RETURN
South East Melbourne Phoenix officials remain hopeful star Chinese big man Zhou Qi will return this season, but concede the clock is ticking.
Zhou has been back home in China for the past three weeks attending to private family matters.
South East Melbourne CEO Tom Greer is optimistic the Chinese international will return this season, with only five games left before the playoffs for the seventh-placed Phoenix.
“We’re still in communication with him and things are getting a bit better for his family, but thing are still chaotic over there,” Greer said.
“We don’t have a return date set yet and we are starting to get pretty late in the season.
“We still remain somewhat hopeful, but there is nothing set.”
Greer, though, wants to extend Zhou’s one-year contract and keep him at the club beyond the 2022/2023 season.
“Absolutely, he remains keen on future years,” he said.
“He has a lot of international commitments this off-season, and with the Covid situation over there, he also has a lot of family stuff to deal with.
“But we’ll stay in contact and work through it as things sort themselves out.”
UNITED FACING BIG DECISIONS
Melbourne United are busy trying to defy the odds and qualify for the finals and they’ll be equally flat out over the off-season with eight players off-contract at season’s end.
Key players like Rayjon Tucker, Mason Peatling and Xavier Rathan-Mayes are all currently on one-year deals and I’m told some players could depart.
It’s the same off-contract scenario for veterans David Barlow and Brad Newley.
United could look very different next season, but for now the men from Melbourne are focused on a playoff push from eighth position.
The Dean Vickerman coached team has done a tremendous job to win five of its last six games to be in the mix given injuries to key players.
United take on the Breakers in New Zealand on Thursday night and must win to keep their season alive.
GIDDEY’S TRIPLE TREAT
Josh Giddey’s love-affair with playing games on national TV in America continued on Wednesday when he dropped the sixth triple-double of his young yet successful NBA career in a one-point loss to Miami.
Giddey finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in an impressive 32 minute stint.
The Melbourne-born guard continues to improve his game, especially his three-point and free-throw shooting.
FRANKS’ PLAYOFF PLEA
Adelaide 36ers star Robert Franks has urged to team to treat this weekend’s away games against Tasmania and Perth with a “playoff” mentality.
The 36ers sit in sixth position and need to keep winning to make the playoffs, with eight teams in contention for six positions.
Franks knows Adelaide is more than capable of beating anyone in the league, but they must be more consistent.
“These games are definitely playoff games against two playoff teams, so I think we are going to be ready,” Franks said.
“(These games) are very crucial, especially when you talk about where we are on the ladder.
“We’re all there and even, so to get two wins and a bit of separation would be real nice.
“We feel like we can play with anybody, but we need to have the right mindset and focus going into games and we’ve just got to be disciplined.”
Franks is particularly excited about playing in the Open-Air game against the Wildcats in Perth on Saturday night.
“I’ve never played in an open-air game, so I’m definitely excited,” he said.
“I think it is going to be a cool environment and to have never played in one before it is going to be special.”
KINGS RECOGNISE GREATS
The Sydney Kings will give fans a chance to take part in history through the 2023 Ring of Honour Award.
The Kings have named six nominees for this year’s award, which gives fans and members a chance to vote for their favourite players over the last three decades.
Once again, a four-person judging panel has decided on six nominees for the award.
Kings great and assistant coach Daniel Kickert, Kings historian Matt McQuade, television commentator and presenter Jo Healy and this columnist judged the nominees based on the criteria supporting the award.
The Ring of Honour recognises players, such as inaugural winner Tommy Garlepp (2020) and last year’s recipient Ben Knight, not just for their talents on the court, but for other reasons worthy of recognition consisting of:
The most entertaining; the most courageous; a great teammate; or those who gave back to our community.
Separate to the Sydney Kings Hall of Fame, which is the club’s most distinguished award, the Ring of Honour is an award that enables the entire Sydney basketball community to vote on the winner.
The nominees for this year’s award are Ben Madgen, Brad Rosen, Leon Trimmingham, Bruce Bolden, BJ Carter and Marc Ridlen.
The Logue Down column will exclusively reveal the winner in next Thursday’s column.
2023 Sydney Kings Ring of Honour nominees:
Seasons played with Kings: 5 (2010-2015)
Games played with Kings: 139
Seasons played with Kings: 5 (1995-1999)
Games played with Kings: 99
Seasons played with Kings: 2 (1994-1995)
Games played with Kings: 55
Seasons played with Kings: 4 (1995-1998)
Games played with Kings: 110
Seasons played with Kings: 7 (2001/2002; 2002/2003; 2003/2004; 2004/2005; 2005/2006; 2006/2007; 2007/2008)
Games played with Kings: 150
Seasons played with Kings: 3 (1988; 1989; 1990)
Games played with Kings: 83
Originally published as Logue Down: Melbourne United’s busy upcoming off-season, Phoenix hopeful of star’s return
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