Kings import guard Derrick Walton Jr isn’t happy with his form despite a dominant start to the season.
“I think I’ve been OK, but I can get better,” declared Walton Jr, the former Detroit, Miami and LA Clippers guard who has averaged 17 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 52 per cent shooting from the field.
“Overall, I think I can improve and be a little bit more aggressive in my scoring and playmaking.”
It’s a scary prospect for the stacked 36ers, who have been cheekily dubbed the Warriors after creating pre-season history to beat NBA powerhouse the Phoenix Suns.
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Kings owner and chairman Paul Smith whacked Adelaide ahead of Friday’s clash at Qudos Bank Arena.
“These 36ers deadset think they are the Golden State Warriors,” Smith said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“They are talking themselves up so hard. I’m glad we’ve seen them recover a bit from their trip to the states. I would have hated to play them and kick their arses and them saying they were jet lagged.”
Adelaide officials are refusing to bite on Smith’s ‘Warriors’ dig, opting to let their basketball do the talking.
36ers captain Mitch McCarron isn’t taking a backwards step, though, welcoming the challenge of taking on the reigning titleholders on their home court.
“If we are not ready to go to play the defending champs, then what are we doing,” McCarron said.
“It could be our toughest matchup, but every team can beat you every night in this league.”
Adelaide has missed the finals for four straight seasons, but they have people talking after defying the odds to defeat the Suns.
The 36ers have also spent big over the off-season, securing star recruits Antonius Cleveland (Hawks), Robert Franks (Bullets) and the G League’s reigning Most Improved Player in guard Craig Randall II.
Adelaide’s roster is worth in excess of $1.7 million, so the expectations to deliver results for the City of Churches has significantly intensified.
This pressure to perform comes despite the 36ers recording just four road wins last season.
McCarron understands why the extra eyeballs are on his team, but he believes Adelaide can turn the added attention into a positive.
“I think we are going to have a target on our back,” he said.
“I think people know that if we are allowed to play a certain way that we are going to be fun and able to put points on the board.”
Walton Jr certainly respects the 36ers for beating a star-studded Suns side featuring Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, even if it was just a pre-season game.
“The way the pre-season is run over there, it isn’t too far-fetched, but of course it is still a huge milestone for the NBL.
“So, not taking anything away from Adelaide and just giving kudos to the team that was victorious.
Walton Jr also has a close connection with 36ers shooting guard Cleveland after briefly crossing paths at the Chicago Bulls back in 2018.
The pair spent a pre-season at the Bulls together and have kept in contact ever since.
“We’ve stayed in touch when things go well for each other,” Walton Jr said.
“He (Antonius) is a good two-way player who is exciting to play against, so I’m looking forward to this game.”
SYDNEY KINGS VS ADELAIDE 36ERS AT QUDOS BANK ARENA FROM 7.30PM (AEDT) AND LIVE ON KAYO AND ESPN
Avengers assembled: Full squad to finally hit court for Phoenix
Phoenix powerbrokers’ hearts were in their throats when floor general Gary Browne limped off the training court on Tuesday morning.
The prized import is yet to debut for South East Melbourne, owing to a pre-season knee injury.
The Puerto Rican grimaced as he hobbled from the Knox court, but a quick thumbs up from Phoenix training staff to boss Tommy Greer was met with relief.
The 29-year-old confirmed to News Corp he’d be good to go Thursday night against New Zealand.
“That’s been sore, but I’m going to play on Thursday, I’ll be fine,” Browne said of his beat-up knee.
The smooth-talking point guard joins his team in a tough spot at 1-3 but gives coach Simon Mitchell his full roster contingent for the first time since March.
Now, Mitchell says, he’s just got to get them fit.
“I’m very excited about having these guys on the floor but I’m also conscious that these bodies are not in playing condition,” Mitchell said.
Trey Kell, Zhou Qi and Ryan Broekhoff made their season debuts on the weekend and Mitch Creek is on light duties as he manages a foot injury.
Browne is level-headed about being forced to watch his struggling team from the sidelines: “injuries happen through the whole season.”
“I can’t be upset, I can’t control that,” Browne said.
“They brought me here to win, to make the club better.
“If you get frustrated you’re not going to get better.
“I just see it as a challenge we put ourselves in. We’ve just got to get out of it.
“We’re going to turn it around and look forward for the rest of the season.”
He’s been taken by the atmosphere inside John Cain Arena.
“It’s like going to a concert — we’re going to our concert,” he said.
“I love the fans, the way the green and black (Phoenix colours) look, the lights, the arean, it’s awesome.
“Sometimes you get so focussed, ‘you gotta do this, you gotta do that’, but you’ve also got to enjoy it.
“People come watch you play, watch you work. We are in a privileged position.”
Browne could be inserted straight into the starting line-up against New Zealand, but Mitchell says he was recruited for a specific reason: “to close out games”
“We’ve got to weigh up how much of that nervous energy gets burnt at the start of a game
and will it take away from his legs in the last quarter?” Mitchell said.
“I’ve got to have him in somewhat of a state of freshness down the stretch of games.”
Originally published as NBL 2022: All the basketball news and happenings from around the Aussie league