Basketball: Dickel eager to turn Nuggets around

Nuggets veteran Mark Dickel will have wife Ashley and sons (from left) Boston (3), Jalen (7) and...
Nuggets veteran Mark Dickel will have wife Ashley and sons (from left) Boston (3), Jalen (7) and Madden (5) watching every big play this season. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago Nuggets guard Mark Dickel has spent his basketball career putting other people in scoring positions.

When it comes to passing, the Tall Black point guard is one of the best in the business.

But one thing he will not pass is the buck. No matter where he plays in the world or what team he is playing for, it is Dickel's team.

That is how he views it and now he is back playing for the Nuggets - where his career began in 1993 - the job of rescuing the franchise's reputation has fallen squarely on his shoulders and he would not have it any other way.

"I'm well aware the team is only going to go as well as I play," he said.

"I know the responsibility and the pressure is on me but I like that.

"If you want to act like you are the man then you have to go out on the court and perform like that. I'm looking forward to the opportunity, I've prepared well, I'm fit and have been working hard for the last four or five months with no injuries."

Dickel has a big job ahead of him. The reality is the Nuggets have won just 11 games since 2005 and have been anchored at the bottom of the competition table.

Dickel might be confident but he is also realistic. The assist only counts if the player you pass the ball to can complete the scoring move.

"We have to say to ourselves it is about going out every game and giving ourselves a chance of winning. I don't think we can sit here and say there are a number of wins or losses that is acceptable because you don't want to put limits on yourself either.

"But we have to let every team know that, hey, it is not going to be an easy game against us. We have to give ourselves a chance to win in every game and, once we are at that point, then the wins will come.

"We've got to defend our home court and try to win games on the road. That is what every good team does. I've always been on teams which have won and I have no expectation other than to win. I pride myself on that.

"But, if you want to be good, then you have to put in the work. It is just that simple."

On that score, Dickel can not fault his team-mates. The Nuggets have had a "crew of five or six" training since October.

But the late arrival of imports Antoine Tisby and Akeem Wright, coupled with the fact the Nuggets have not played any pre-season games, has led some to question whether the team is ready for its opening match against the Harbour Heat in Auckland tonight.

The Nuggets will also be without Breakers duo BJ Anthony and Leon Henry for the opening month. That means players such as Riki Buckrell and Sam King will have to fill the void. They are not in the same class as Anthony or Henry but Dickel has faith in the local talent.

"Obviously BJ and Leon are good players but we've got good players here, too. They are going to get their opportunity - I'm speaking of Riki Buckrell, Sam King, Ethan Carruthers, Matt Trueman and James Ross. They are going to get their chance and I think they are pretty good.

"And as long as people play the way they are capable of, we are going to win our share of games.

"Up until now, they haven't really taken the chances they have had. But they are more mature now and are ready to step up."

The Nuggets should be productive under the basket this season. Tisby led the league in rebounds during his first stint with the Nuggets in 2008 and can certainly score. And Wright is expected to be a solid all-rounder. He rebounds, he can cut to the basket and is a good defender.

Dickel will drive the offence and when Anthony and Henry arrive, the franchise will have a dangerous starting five.

But until Henry arrives, the Nuggets will not have a proven outside shooter and will have to look to attack on the inside.

The bench struggled to make an impact last season and depth will continue to be a problem for the Nuggets this season. But for the first time since 2005, the franchise has assembled a roster capable of delivering more than two or three wins it has had to settle for during the last seven years.

The Nuggets
How they look

Record since 2005: 11-93

Record during last two years: 2-30 (2010, 0-16; 2011, 2-14)

Gains: Tall Blacks Mark Dickel, BJ Anthony and Leon Henry and imports Antoine Tisby and Akeem Wright.

Losses: Former Tall Black Craig Bradshaw, Sam To'omata, Tom Rowe, Mark Morrison and imports Lance Allred and Scott O'Gallagher.

Key player: Dickel will drive the offence with his superb passing game and he is a tenacious defender.

Strengths: The Nuggets have a formidable forward line with Tisby, Wright and Anthony, and should get good ball with Dickel running the plays.

Weaknesses: Breakers duo Anthony and Henry will miss the opening month, and making outside shots could be an issue.

Squad: Dickel, Tisby, Wright, Anthony, Henry, James Ross, Sam King, Riki Buckrell, Matt Trueman, Tom Ingham, Damon Cleverley, Tom Allan, Olly Smith, Ethan Carruthers, Steve Robinson.

Coach: Alf Arlidge (third season).


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