Adelaide has Wright stuff for finals glory
BASKETBALL: Adelaide 36ers coach Joey Wright says the team's camaraderie and closeness reminds him a lot of the tight-knit Brisbane Bullets side which swept the NBL Championship in 2007, before they folded.
Wright, who moulded the 2006-07 Bullets into a championship outfit led by grand final MVP Sam Mackinnon, told APN his players had found the looseness they would need to upset fierce rivals Perth Wildcats in the best-of-three grand final series, starting at Perth Arena on Monday night.
"The camaraderie with this team is unbelievable, as it was the Bullets," said the highly-strung, two-time NBL coach of the year, tipping an emotion-charged opening finals game after the two teams were involved in an ugly on court brawl the last time they clashed.
"I've had teams where some players didn't like each other, but this group is like family, they go out together, go fishing, play golf and they play for each other."
The American, who admitted to being a walking stress ball five days out from game one, said there was "no love lost" between the two teams following their heated regular season battle.
"It'll be pretty fiery, I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"You've got to have emotion, you can't play without it. The key is controlling it."
Wright, drafted in the 1971 by the Phoenix Suns, recalled that all of his Brisbane players were nervous before their grand final series against the Melbourne Tigers.
"They were all fighting the nerves and we played some odd ball until they loosened up as the series went on," he said.
Wright (pictured) said he was overwhelmed that some fans had been turning up at games to support Adelaide wearing Brisbane Bullets and Gold Coast Blazer's singlets. Wright also coached the Blaze for three seasons before it folded at the end of the 2011-12 season.
"That's pretty special to see that," he said.
Perth will go into the series as favourites after finishing on top of the home-and-away standings, but the 36ers will go in with plenty of confidence after thrashing Melbourne 102-63 in game three of the semi-finals series on Tuesday night.
Coming off an 11-point loss in game two, and playing without star import Gary Ervin because of suspension, Adelaide smashed the shell-shocked Tigers at both ends of the floor from start to finish.
Daniel Johnson (23 points) led all scorers, while reserve guard Jason Cadee (19 points) stepped up admirably in Ervin's absence.