The South East Melbourne Phoenix unveiled import guard Gary Browne on Thursday evening in New Zealand, much to the benefit of their scoring capabilities.
With him in the team, the offence looked like that of a totally different side to the one that put up just 77, 76, and 72 points in the three games prior.
Browne was named straight into the starting five, playing point from tip-off. In his first six minutes as a Phoenix player, he accumulated six assists in a flash.
The 29-year-old was just the player the Phoenix needed to pick out shooters and run offensive plays, especially compared to their already established guard group.
Kyle Adnam and Trey Kell III have been looking to put up scores of their own, averaging 16.2 and 10 points respectively, and four and three assists.
Browne brought a different type of play onto the court, that the Phoenix haven’t seen yet this season.
It gave them their best chance to hit shots that they may have missed in previous weeks. The side finished the night shooting at a brilliant 62 per cent from the field.
“I thought Gary did an amazing job in the first quarter… finding guys. For me, I’ve always got to be flexible. Whatever my role is, I’ve got to be available to bring the energy,” Adnam said.
“Credit to Gary tonight, he’s been working really hard on his knee, he’s had a good week and a half of practice. Tonight I thought he did an amazing job.
“To play alongside him too, and just get me some time off the ball is really important. I’ve been on the ball for the pre-season and the first three games. I’ve absolutely loved having him back with the group.
“It’s really important we stay unpredictable on offence, and have multiple scoring options.”
“I could feel it from the sidelines, the communication was a lot better,” coach Simon Mitchell added.
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It was the first time that all of the Phoenix’s imports got on the court together, after an injury-riddled start to the season across the entire squad.
Browne was battling a knee injury, Kell had a broken rib, while Mitchell explained Zhou Qi had been struck down with illness before it was announced he’d be re-joining the group.
Along with the likes of Mitch Creek and Ryan Broekhoff, most of the Phoenix squad is still building their way back to full fitness.
It showed in a sluggish start to the season, but the coach feels as though they’re finally in a position to start building their continuity for NBL23.
“It’s been a battle for us, going all the way back to the start of pre-season,” Mitchell said.
“Every day there seems to be a new drama for us to try and overcome. It’s just nice to have the boys back. It was good to see the ball go through the hoop.
“We left a lot of points on the floor last game. Whilst our offence wasn’t good, we still missed a lot of easy looks at the rim, a lot of easy, open looks at the three point line.
“Tonight, to see that ball drop early with Rowdy [Broekhoff] and Trey… Alan [Williams] made an early impact in the game and then Zhou Qi came on and kept it going.
“It was just so encouraging. We’ve got to make shots. We don’t have our legs yet… it’ll keep us in games.”
The Phoenix return back to Melbourne to face the Brisbane Bullets off a short turnaround on Saturday night.
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