Oscar Forman never considered retirement

It's easy to assume Oscar Forman's drawn out offseason negotiations with the Illawarra Hawks left him with a bitter aftertaste. But the veteran sharp-shooter insists that wasn't the case, despite being the final player re-signed from last season's grand final team. First-time fatherhood was a welcome off-season distraction for Forman, who swears he wasn't left feeling under-appreciated by the Hawks.

"I was fine with it," Forman tells ESPN. "I've played long enough to know that this is a business and a lot of decisions need to get made. There's people in the coaching staff and front office that need to make the decision together, and that takes time. I was never thinking it was going to be done in a month."

What did irk Forman was the perception that he was set to draw the curtain on his distinguished career after 16 seasons. He always planned to keep playing and is excited about lining up for a 17th season - his eighth with the Hawks.

"I never thought I was finishing," the 35-year-old says. "If it had finished, I would deal with that and would've been OK with where I was; but I never indicated I was finishing. One of the first things the NBL tweeted was that I'd shelved retirement plans, and when I read that my first thought was 'I didn't know I had any retirement plans'.

"Once you get to a certain age every coach or journo asks you the same questions: 'What are you thinking? Is this your last season?' I never think about it. If you come into a season saying it's going to be your last, you probably shouldn't be playing it.

"I've always said that as long as I have love for the game and a position to play, I'll play. Physically and mentally I feel good. I really don't think people should be judged on their age when it's more about how their body is and how they're contributing. I still feel like I provide an important role in this team."

Forman is one of nine returnees from the Illawarra team that upset Adelaide in last season's semifinals before being swept 3-0 by a red-hot Perth in the championship series.

Born and raised in Adelaide, he won a championship in his rookie season with the 36ers in 2002 and stayed with his hometown club for another four years. He spent the next four years with the New Zealand Breakers before joining the Hawks for the 2010-11 season. The move to Wollongong immediately paid off with Forman earning the NBL's Most Improved Player Award in his maiden campaign with the club.

One of the league's most durable players, he has chalked up 485 games and missed only a handful in his entire career. If the 2.06m forward appears in all 28 games of the 2017/18 regular season, he will join C.J. Bruton (513) in equal-sixth spot for games played. With 15 matches, he will also become just the 11th player in NBL history to reach the 500-game milestone.

"I've been very lucky not missing many games in my career," Illawarra's incumbent co-captain says. "A lot comes back to how you look after yourself and, of course, the input of support staff and medical staff.

"I won a title in Adelaide but I was a rookie back then, and I'd really love to be a meaningful part of a championship team. We're getting closer and a lot will depend on the rest of our signings, but bringing so many parts of our core group back is huge. We don't have to waste time on little pedantic things.

"We can roll the ball out and hit the ground running. We know what we're doing and know our structure, and we know what to expect from guys. That should be a big strength of ours this year. We won't be a young team. We're an experienced team and we're a team that knows each other, and that's going to be very important to us."

One of the NBL's all-time great catch-and-shoot marksmen, Forman has topped the league's three-point percentages a record five times during his career. His reputation as a perimeter bomber remains intact, but he will demand more of himself in the rebounding department this season.

"It's almost like the more that people pigeon-hole me, the more I pigeon-hole myself as a one-dimensional player. That does frustrate me about myself because I could go after more rebounds."

On-court frustrations won't linger like they used to, however, after Forman and his Italian girlfriend Gaia welcomed their first child into the world in July -- a healthy baby girl named Olivia Charlotte Forman.

"I know it's very early days, but it does change your perspective on the little things in life, like they don't matter anymore," Forman says. "That's now your No. 1 priority, and if you have a bad day at training you still go home to your little screaming bundle of joy. Sometimes we can over-analyse the game and get caught up on little things, but now in the big picture in won't matter. You realise some things are more important."

Forman believes the Hawks' team culture is as strong as it's ever been in his time at the club.

"We've got a hard-working group and we have so many guys who drag the wagon the right way," he says.

"We have a good culture at this club when it comes to working hard and being accountable to each other. It makes it a lot easier when everyone pulls in the same direction."

NBL MOST GAMES PLAYED

• Tony Ronaldson 640

• Andrew Gaze 587

• Leroy Loggins 547

• Glen Saville 544

• Mark Bradtke 531

• C.J. Bruton 513

• Lanard Copeland 511

• Brett Maher 507

• Mat Campbell 505

• Ray Borner 500

• Paul Rees 494

• Pete Crawford 489

• James Crawford 485

Oscar Forman 485

• Darryl McDonald 467