Otago Nuggets coach Alf Arlidge is a glass-half-full kind
So when he discovered his side would be playing six of its
opening eight games at home he could only see the upside.
The Nuggets open their campaign against Waitakere at the
Edgar Centre on April 20.
The following week there is an away double-header against
Hawkes Bay and Waitakere and then five consecutive home
''I think the draw is really good for us,'' Arlidge said.
''We've got a run of five games at home and I actually don't
mind that. I know some other franchises prefer to have their
home games more evenly spread so you don't lose the home
crowd. But I think it is an opportunity for us to get off to
a good start.''
Waitakere is new to the league this season. It replaces the
Auckland Pirates who have pulled out citing financial
concerns. The Pirates were part of the league for just two
seasons and won the 2012 title after assembling an all-star
cast featuring Tall Blacks Alex Pledger, Lindsay Tait and
Hayden Allen and former international Dillon Boucher.
Waitakere will not have the same firepower and the Nuggets
are perhaps fortunate to strike the rookies twice in their
first three games.
The down side to all those early home games is the Nuggets
have a difficult back end to the season. The Nuggets play the
highly-rated Wellington Saints in the capital on May 28 and
two nights later strike Waikato, which is back after a year
out of the league.
The franchise will host the Manawatu Jets on June 6 and then
has three away games before returning to the Edgar Centre to
host the Saints on June 30 and rounding out the regular
season against Taranaki in New Plymouth.
The Southland Sharks entered the league in 2010 and their
clashes with the Nuggets in Dunedin on May 19 and
Invercargill on June 21 promise to be highlights.
The game always feels like watching two brothers arm-wrestle.
Last year two brothers were actually on opposite sides with
Richard Dickel coaching the Sharks and Mark Dickel running
the point for the Nuggets. The game is never short on feeling
and has developed into a classic fixture. The Nuggets are
gunning to make their first appearance in the playoffs since
1997 and have put together a strong roster. American Antoine
Tisby was the tournament's leading player last season and is
returning for his fourth stint with the franchise.
Mark Dickel had the Nuggets humming before he got injured
part way through the season and is fit and fizzing again.
Former Tall Black BJ Anthony made an immediate impact in his
debut with the Madgeburg Eagles in the German league. He
scored 33 points and added eight rebounds, two assists and a
blocked shot in 36 minutes to power his side to a 98-93 win.
Leon Henry is chipping in from the bench for the Breakers,
locals Sam King, Riki Buckrell and James Ross are all
expected to return, and Allen is returning to the Nuggets
after a long absence. His deadly outside shooting game will
be warmly welcomed.
American swingman Akeem Wright is still on the radar but the
Nuggets have not made a decision on their remaining import
slot. Wright, though, was a big contributor for the franchise
and fitted in well with the team culture.
He is keen to return so it would not be a surprise if he did
end up back in a Nuggets singlet. Wright's outside shooting
game was a little patchy but he is an excellent defender and
rebounder and Allen's return would lift the pressure on