Melbourne United sit atop of the NBL ladder with an 8-2 win/loss record. The crowds are piling into John Cain Arena. Everything is looking great, right?
Well not necessarily. Melbourne United has faced a horror run with injury this season, with a mounting injury list to star players.
Time has been spent on the sidelines by Jo Lual-Acuil Jnr, Ian Clark and Matthew Dellavedova, just to name a few.
Considering United’s horrid injury run, they have done remarkably well to be sitting where they are currently.
There is no doubting that injuries have hit United hard. So much so that Monday night’s contest against the Perth Wildcats served as the first available opportunity for Dean Vickerman and his coaching staff to have every member of his squad at their disposal.
Earlier in the week Vickerman expressed his optimism at the potential of getting the full group playing together.
“We haven’t played a full team yet, so we haven’t had a full roster on the floor. In these next three games before the FIBA break, [the goal] is to try and put that group out there and there’s some line-ups that we haven’t tried yet, there’s a lot more things to explore with this group,” Vickerman said.
Unfortunately for Vickerman and his men, injuries again mounted in a highly exciting thriller at John Cain Arena against the Wildcats on Monday night.
After facing a knee issue during the week, highly touted youngster Luke Travers lasted just 47 seconds before concussing himself when he stumbled into teammate Ariel Hukporti’s knee while driving to the lane.
It not only ruled out Travers for the rest of the game, but Hukporti himself battled discomfort in his knee, playing just 10 minutes and being far below his best.
After missing United’s last game against Illawarra with a hamstring complaint, Ian Clark also returned the line-up.
After starting hot which saw the former Golden State Warrior hit his first three shots from beyond the arc, Clark was also struck down by the same injury. This ruled him out for the rest of the game, leaving Vickerman vigorously shuffling the magnets to make things work.
Despite the early injury setbacks, United were able to battle hard, eventually succumbing to the Wildcats in a thrilling over-time fiasco, 102-95.
Vickerman admitted that it is frustrating to lose stars in the first opportunity for him to explore different line-ups and that it undoubtedly had a bearing on the outcome of the contest.
“He’s taken some hits LT [Luke Travers] this year, but that’s not one he gets back up from. That was a big loss to start the game. You lose three pieces in a game that we finally got our full team together and we just didn’t get to play enough together,” he said.
So, the real question is will United’s latest injuries prove decisive in their quest for a maiden championship since 2021.
Well, they have been able to push through their adversities so far this season, but at not one point have they had multiple injuries to valuable players of the calibre of Travers, Hukporti and Clark.
It remains to be seen how bad their injuries are, but the latest outing looks set to stretch United’s depth like never before.
Whether they can overcome the injuries will be the measure of the group and the next few weeks until the FIBA period, will make or break their championship credentials.
Perth next face the New Zealand Breakers at home on Friday, November 10, while United will look to get back on the winners list against South East Melbourne Phoenix this Sunday.
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