Australian Olympic hero Dante Exum is making his way back to the court after signing with high-profile European club Barcelona on a three-month deal.
The 26-year-old was one of the Boomers’ key reserves in their bronze medal-winning campaign in Tokyo after injuries had ruined his recent years in the NBA.
Dante Exum celebrates during a Boomers match at the Tokyo Olympics.Credit:AP
But after signing with the Houston Rockets, he was waived by the rebuilding team and has now taken a deal at the club that Exum’s good mate Joe Ingles starred with before his move to the NBA.
Boomers and Melbourne United point guard Matthew Dellavedova said Barcelona could be the ideal club for Exum to make a leap back to the NBA.
Exum will be able to sign short-term deals with NBA teams by the time his contract in Spain is finished on February 28.
“It’s exciting news for Dante,” Dellavedova told Hoops Heaven.
“When he is healthy he can still be a great role player in the NBA and this gives him the opportunity to show that.
“We saw him show his best traits with the Boomers with his slashing to the basket, getting out in transition and getting after it defensively.
“I’m sure Joey [Ingles] will give him some good tips on restaurants and different things to do there and hopefully after his three-month stint we will see him back in the NBA.”
Dellavedova will play his first game at John Cain Arena for United on Sunday in the season’s first Throwdown against South East Melbourne Phoenix.
United are smarting after a loss to the Kings in Sydney and have been working hard on their ball movement and passing after a frustrating offensive display.
The Phoenix face New Zealand Breakers at John Cain Arena on Friday night. They easily accounted for the injury and COVID-19-hit Breakers last round but will get a stiffer contest this time with coach Dan Shamir expected back in charge and some players hopefully returning too.
There were still Throwdown tickets left, but both clubs hope for a sell-out for the first time since before the pandemic.
Owners go toe to toe
The Sydney Kings and Illawarra Hawks have been firing off-court shots at each other this week as they build up towards their clash in Sydney on Saturday.
Both owners have been exchanging barbs but NBL legend Brian Goorjian, who will appear in his 800th game as a player and coach, has called for the silliness to end and the game talk to begin.
“I love this rivalry, I’m nervous for it, I want to beat them with everything I’ve got but this, I don’t like,” Goorjian told the Illawarra Mercury.
“I don’t think it’s good for our game, owners going at each other.”
Hopefully, the antics draw in some extra fans for what shapes as a classic contest between Goorjian’s Hawks and Chase Buford’s Kings.
Buford thinks there is no better side than the Hawks despite his club’s win over Melbourne.
“They look like the best team I’ve watched so far,” Buford said of the Hawks.
“They got talent at every position, and they play the right way. It’s going to be a stern test for our team, we will have to be ready come Saturday.”
Brondello eyes new WNBA job
Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello was coy about her plans in the WNBA next season after mutually parting ways with the Phoenix Mercury this week following eight years and a franchise-best record of 150-108 (win-loss) along with the 2014 WNBA championship.
Brondello said she may just spend the year focused on the Opals’ campaign at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney as she already plans to have her side play 15 or more games before next September’s tournament.
Opals coach Sandy Brondello is considering her options after departing the Mercury in the WNBA.Credit:AP
But the New York Liberty are looking for a head coach and, without naming any teams, Brondello said she would know “by January” if she would be pairing a WNBA job with her Opals role again.
ESPN has listed her among the favourites for the Liberty job. “I’ve enjoyed it, but that inspires me more, it’s like, what’s the next challenge because I really do love coaching,” Brondello told Hoops Heaven this week.
“I’ll see what happens over the next few weeks, there might be another opportunity in the WNBA and, if not, I welcome the opportunity to focus on the Opals leading into the World Cup – time will tell.”
Boards now, play making next for Travers
Perth Wildcats forward Luke Travers continues to turn heads in the NBL, pulling in 14 rebounds in the win over Cairns in the first round.
Over the years NBL coaches have felt the need to talk up their players as NBA or national team prospects after such displays but Wildcats coach Scott Morrison took a different tack, perhaps showing his mindset as a recent NBA assistant coach.
When asked about what Travers’ rebounding showed about his future prospects, Morrison praised his desire to get the ball but turned the focus to how Travers could be more assertive as a playmaker. With Bryce Cotton and Vic Law already firing, unlocking Travers could be what pushes Perth over the edge.
“He could be a little more aggressive, more keen to be a playmaker,” Morrison said. “Sometimes he defers, that’s his natural personality, but in a number of games he has stepped up in the second half and got guys good looks.
Perth’s Luke Travers (centre).Credit:Getty Images
“We need that third or fourth playmaker as teams are going to key in on Bryce and Vic.”
Morrison was an assistant coach at the Boston Celtics and his eye for development will be vital as Travers looks to press his claims to be first-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
“One thing I’m going to talk to him about this week is just making quicker decisions when he gets a catch,” Morrison said.
“Whether it means he’s driving it, making the extra pass or being ready to shoot. We just don’t want him holding the ball too long and lose any advantage as he has a good first step, and he can’t do that as well when he’s holding the ball.”
Spirit break drought
The Bendigo Spirit scored their first WNBL win since February 1, 2020 when they upset Melbourne Boomers 63-58 in Bendigo on Wednesday night.
Spirit forward Anneli Maley had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and the Boomers have to dust themselves off for their debut game at the redeveloped Parkville venue on Saturday against the reigning champions, Southside Flyers, at 7.30pm.
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