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Why the US market has suddenly dried up for the NBL

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Phoenix, this week, tore up the Pennsylvania native’s contract after several breaches of its conditions.Amid soaring cases of Covid-19, NBA clubs have used a record number of players this season as a revolving door of stars find themselves in ‘health and safety protocols’.Watch Every Game of the 21/22 NBL Season Live & On-Demand with ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial >The scramble to cover losses has gifted NBA opportunities to players who might have normally been on the Phoenix’s radar.Whenever Phoenix has an open roster spot, Australian Boomer Dante Exum, who is a part-owner of the club, is high on the list.But, with the 26-year-old playing well in Barcelona, Phoenix boss Tommy Greer said it would take a minor miracle to secure the athletic guard.“In the current environment, the NBA’s calling up absolutely everyone,” Greer said.“We would never say no to Dante and I would find a way to make it work but, until he puts his hand up, we’ll continue our search.”Greer said Thomas “wasn’t the right fit” for the playing group.“The bar is high. We’re looking for a good culture fit, a guy who’s going to come in and fit in with the group,” he said.“We will consider both young local options and imports — we have ample talent and depth.”One former Phoenix player who has benefited from increased opportunities is point guard Keifer Sykes, who has signed a deal with the Indiana Pacers and made his NBA debut on Thursday.Sykes, who grew up on the mean streets of Chicago, wowed NBL fans last season with his high-energy play and Greer said the Phoenix wore his success as a badge of honour.“I’m so pumped for this guy, I was texting with him the other day, he’s just such a good guy,” he said.“He’s just so thankful for the opportunity down here and he really credits his time here as what pushed him over the edge.“He’s such a hard worker, he’s been so dedicated to realising that dream. He has knocked down doors to get his shot.“Sometimes, when a guy makes it, you just know he earned it.”Backboard wrecker tipped for NBL cult following—Michael RandallIf South East Melbourne Phoenix thought they were tough, they’re about to get a whole lot tougher after rounding out their roster with aggressive American big man Devin Thomas.The 206cm forward, a four-year college product out of Wake Forest, loves to rock the rim and prides himself on being one of the most competitive players on the floor.SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH Devin Thomas’ insane backboard destruction in the player belowThe 27-year-old will arrive in Melbourne this weekend and says he’ll be ready to hit the floor in the NBL.“I am excited and, most importantly, grateful for the opportunity to play for this great organisation,” Thomas said.“I can’t wait to meet all of my teammates, coaches, and the fans.“Thank you for welcoming me into your country and I can’t wait to get to out to Melbourne soon.”At Wake Forest, he played under former NBA No. 1 draft pick Danny Manning, who lauded his passion.“Devin’s emotional energy makes him the player that he is,” Manning, who starred with the LA Clippers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said during his time at Wake.“He displays that on his sleeve every time he steps on the court.”That passion — and power — was clearly evident in high school when the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native tore down the ring on an alley-oop pass that left the court covered in the shattered backboard.Thomas went undrafted in 2016, but spent the NBA Summer League with Minnesota. He has a clear policy on his hoops career: have basketball, will travel, counting Turkey, Spain, Israel, Greece, Hungary, Argentina and Estonia among his professional stints.The brother of former WNBA player Alyssa Thomas left a lasting memory on Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell when he watched him suit up for the Demon Deacons while on a US tour.“I remembered Devin’s passing ability and it always stuck with me and it made me take an interest in his career,” Mitchell said.“I see his size and athleticism at the defensive end providing us a different look on our front line, particularly in cleaning up the boards.“Devin’s pick and roll play combined with his passing ability will further complement our team offence.”With the Phoenix stacked with ex-NBA talent, Thomas projects as a role-playing enforcer off the bench, adding more depth to the line-up.Phoenix chief executive Tommy Greer believes Thomas will become a fan favourite at the Fire Pit.The Phoenix continue their NBL pre-season Blitz campaign against New Zealand at MSAC on Saturday night.Ban, fines galore after wild NBL weekend- Matt LogueThe NBL has slapped Melbourne United forward Mason Peatling with a one-game ban and handed out fines amounting to $3750 following a wild weekend of melees across the league.The NBL’s Game Review Panel (GRP) have released their findings following their investigations into the on-court brawl during Throwdown last Sunday, which has attracted global interest.Creek’s dunk alone has picked up over 10 million views.Peatling was charged with unduly rough play and Engaging in a melee/brawl. The incidents were assessed as a two-game suspension and $500 fine, but Peatling accepted a one-game suspension and $375 fine with an early guilty plea. David Barlow was charged with bench clearing during a melee/brawl. Although he entered the melee to keep the peace and diffuse the situation, the rule states that a player cannot leave the bench during such a confrontation. The incident was assessed as a $500 fine, but Barlow accepted $375 with an early guilty plea.United assistant coach Justin Schueller was charged with unsportsmanlike behaviour, after engaging in a verbal exchange during the altercation. The incident was assessed as a $500 fine, but Schueller accepted $375 with an early guilty plea.At South East Melbourne, Mitch Creek, Izayah Le’afa and Kyle Adnam were all charged with engaging in a melee/brawl and fined $375 each after all accepting the early guilty plea.Elsewhere, Sydney stars Xavier Cooks and Angus Glover will play against Melbourne United on Thursday night. Both were charged with engaging in a melee/brawl during last Saturday’s clash against Hawks. The NBL’s match review panel handed both players a $500 fine reduced to $375 on an early guilty plea.Illawarra duo Sam Froling and Justinian Jessup also took the early guilty plea to cop $375 fines each for engaging in the melee. Creek: Delly savagery not personal, despite Boomers snubSouth East Melbourne Phoenix star Mitch Creek has denied his poster dunk on Matthew Dellavedova was personal following his non-selection in the Boomers Tokyo Olympic squad. Creek is one of 10 players to receive charge notices following a wild weekend of melees across the NBL, highlighted by a heated Phoenix versus United Throwdown clash on Sunday. United forward Mason Peatling is the only player likely to receive a match ban after shouldering Creek to the ground after his dunk.Peatling faces a minimum two game ban if it is deemed that his shoulder charge was intentional and had medium contact.He could have this charge reduced to one game if he enters an early plea, however if the contact is deemed to be higher on Creek he will be sent to the tribunal where he faces a longer ban. The NBL has also slapped a further four Phoenix and United players with charges, including David Barlow (bench clearing during fight), Phoenix’s Izayah Le’afa, Kyle Adnam and Creek (engaging in melee), who all face fines.United assistant Justin Schueller was also charged unsportsmanlike behaviour for allegedly making disrespectful comments towards Creek, although his punishment is yet to be determined.Four Sydney and Illawarra players also received charge notices following a melee that erupted during Saturday’s Kings and Hawks clash at Qudos Bank Arena.Kings guard Angus Glover didn’t like being blocked by Hawks forward Sam Froling so he stood over him, prompting multiple players to come together. As a result, Glover, Froling, Xavier Cooks and Justinian Jessup all received notices for in engaging in a melee or a brawl and face fines.Creek’s monster dunk on Dellavedova, meanwhile, has dominated global basketball discussion.The play has already attracted upwards of 10 million views, making it officially the NBL’s biggest dunk in history. Creek’s passionate celebration to the dunk, when he stood over Dellavedova and yelled, has also sparked interest.The incident ignited talk that Creek was taking his frustration out on Delly after he missed out on the Boomers Olympic squad, allegedly for cultural reasons. Creek, though, dismissed these claims. “There is no bad blood there – it was just a really big and passionate play,” Creek said on News Corp’s Basketball Show.“There was no tension. I didn’t get picked (for the Boomers) and that is all it ever was. I’ve never had any issues in that team.“There has been rumours in the past about leadership stuff and whatever else, but anyone that knows me knows I’m just a guy that wants to go out and give my best for the team on any given night.“But I’ve got a lot of time for Delly. He is a hell of a player. We’ve had a lot of conversations in the past.“We have a good friendship, and this (dunk) doesn’t change anything. I still respect him as an athlete and person on and off the court.”NBL: Sydney Kings head coach Chase Buford discusses a ripping weekend of NBL action that saw a triple-header on Sunday.Creek’s poster dunk on Dellavedova sparked chaos.Creek revealed the entire South East Melbourne team have sat down to discuss the incident, conceding they want to set better standards for themselves and the team. “We kind of had a bit of a gut check with that because there were some things that were inappropriate from us and also from both sides during the game and after the game,” he said.“These things happen in sport sometimes where tensions run high.“You have to steady yourself back and work out what are your goals and values as a team.“We’ve talked about professionalism and the character that we want to represent the club with and as ourselves as individuals.“So, we have to tighten up on that because we need to be better than that because that is who we want to be as a ball club.”Milwaukee to Melbourne: X’s chance Delly beach date—Michael RandallAnother stop in a foreign land with unfamiliar faces and few people to lean on.That was South East Melbourne Phoenix import Xavier Munford’s reality when he landed in Australia.Or so he thought.There was one connection, dating all the way back to his college days — and then later to his NBA stint with the Milwaukee Bucks.So it was perhaps a little serendipitous that, shortly after he arrived in Melbourne, a big smile greeted him at the beach, of all places.Those pearly whites belonged to none other than Melbourne United recruit and Boomers Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Matthew Dellavedova.Both men have arrived in the NBL this season, and the duelling point guards were at the centre of one of the league’s biggest rivalries on Sunday afternoon when the two Melbourne teams met in the NBL pre-season Blitz — Munford’s Phoenix emerging victorious in an 89-87 thriller.But there was no talk of hoops on that sunny day at Mordialloc beach. The former college rivals, who later became NBA teammates at the Bucks, “caught up on life”.“I went to the beach and he saw me and I chatted with him and his son and his wife,” Munford told the Herald Sun.“At the beach we didn’t really speak about basketball, we were just talking about life, because it had been so long with the Covid restrictions.“He said he hadn’t seen his family in maybe two years, so I’m like ‘wow’ and I’m telling him about my kids and we just really caught up on a personal level, not talking about basketball.”Munford, like Dellavedova, has had to scratch and claw for everything he has achieved in basketball, with multiple stops in the G-League as well as Spain, China, Turkey and now Australia.“Every guy has a different story and a different path to where they have made it,” Munford said.MY YOUNG ‘KINGS’Munford’s story involves a love of basketball that goes back “as far as I can remember”, inspired by his father Darren.Darren and his mother Zamora were high school sweethearts — “they’ve been together forever” – and he has a brother, Elijah, 21.A father himself, the New Jersey native is working hard to attain the necessary permits to bring his two boys to Australia to spend time with him while he plies his trade in The Heartland.“It’s kind of tough with the borders and corona and all the restrictions — hopefully it’ll come through,” he said.“I’m just basically playing it by ear now, listening to what people are saying and what the news is saying, checking up, doing my research. I talk to people in the front office and they are updating me as well.“They are telling me it’s been a struggle to get (new Phoenix import) Devin Thomas out here, so I imagine how it will be trying to get my kids out here.“I’m staying optimistic about it, trying to stay positive (because there’s) not a lot I can do.”Munford’s boys are four and one, and he has bestowed royal names on them: Khari, which is of African origin and means “son of a king” and Sire, which means “kingly” or “regal” and is of French etymology.“They both kind of mean the same thing. They mean ‘kingly’, so that’s basically where their names come from — they’re my young kings,” he said.“They’re definitely my ‘why’. They are the reason why I sacrifice and go all the way across the world, not being able to see them. They don’t really understand it yet, but they know it’s all in their best interest. That’s just the toughest thing about (being an) overseas player, leaving behind your family, parents, brothers, friends. You’ve got to really stay mentally strong with this, it’s not for a weak person.“So many times when you’re lonely you feel like you’re by yourself, but you need to understand you have to come in every day and do your job.”‘PRO’S PRO’The “do your job” ethos gives context to Phoenix chief executive Tommy Greer’s description of the 29-year-old as a “pro’s pro”.And it is moments like his decision to stay home earlier this month and nurse his aching body, rather than go out for Phoenix captain Kyle Adnam’s birthday, that underlines it. Munford had played 25 minutes and poured in 20 points to go with four assists and four rebounds in a pulsating 92-90 loss to New Zealand Breakers. “I was supposed to go to Kyle’s birthday dinner but, after the game, I was feeling a little sore, so I just stayed home and iced, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting out with the guys and spending some time off the court,” he said.Adnam may have had a hand in the soreness — “X” says the captain and fellow Phoenix point guard Izayah Le’Afa go their hardest at him in training.“These guys are tough,” he said.“Every day going to practice against Kyle and Izayah, those guys are pushing me every day, they’re high-quality guards.“You can tell they’re motivated, determined — they have hunger in the way they play, with their physicality and they’re pretty quick as well.”Munford’s expression rarely changes on the court; he is measured and focused and, at 190cm, taller than most NBL point guards.He sees this as an advantage at both ends of the floor.“I just try to make the right play, whatever’s best for the team and try to stick to playing to my strengths and not getting out of the rhythm of my game,” he said.“If you had to label me as something, I’d be your scoring point guard; I can also play the two (shooting guard).“I have some length, use my length on defence and I’m usually taller than other point guards, so that is to my advantage.”He’s very capable of highlight reel plays, too, whether it be nifty passes or finishes in the lane – or something really special, like his incredible three-quarter-court heave against Illawarra in the Blitz that has to be seen to be believed (watch it below).NBA IS WATCHINGWhile the focus is on getting acclimatised with his teammates and then hopefully leading them to NBL glory, the ultimate goal is a return to the NBA, where he has had but a taste — 20 games across stints with Memphis and the Bucks.He jumped at the chance to play in the NBL, given the buzz of the past few seasons that has helped a number of locals and imports win NBA chances.“I knew they (the NBL) had the ESPN contract and a lot of eyes are on this league, especially (from the) NBA, so it was a no-brainer,” he said.“The league is very competitive.“I was talking to Glizzo (teammate Cam Gliddon) the other day and I was just telling him this is one of the toughest domestic leagues that I’ve played in.“It’s definitely growing. Guys like, for example, (former Cairns Taipan) Cam Oliver, (ex-United big man, now with San Antonio in the NBA) Jock Landale, Keifer Sykes (the point guard Munford replaced at Phoenix), guys who are getting noticed through the NBL.“The Australian players are high-quality players.“The talent is definitely there domestically and you see the list of imports who came in — guys who have been in the NBA or played a high level overseas. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I see the sky’s the limit for the NBL.”He played against teammates Mitch Creek and Zhou Qi in the G-League, so has some familiarity there, and Munford was also a teammate of Perth Wildcats superstar Bryce Cotton at the Grizzlies.“I haven’t seen Bryce in a while, but I’ve always been watching and paying attention on him doing his thing out here, and he’s had a great career in Australia,” he said.



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