Fire burns but Creek's NBA plans on hold

Mitch Creek takes a break from his daily workout and rehabilitation schedule.

Like most 20-somethings, he's keen on Instagram so naturally he scrolls through his feed.

"I had to watch Josh Boone today post on social media a video of the time they (Melbourne United) were in the locker room when they beat Adelaide," Creek tells AAP.

"That f***ing just pissed me off. It stings and it hurts and I want to get back there and I want to win."

The coronavirus outbreak has hit the pause button on Creek's grand ambitions to return to the NBA and represent Australia at the Olympics.

But it has clearly done nothing to dim the fire that burns within the South East Melbourne Phoenix star, who was a key figure in the Adelaide 36ers team that lost to Boone's Melbourne United in the aforementioned 2018 NBL grand final series.

Creek's main goal is the NBA. It always has been.

When a return to the world's premier basketball competition is no longer an option for the 27-year-old he says he'll give the game away.

The versatile forward got a brief taste of it with the Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, and was in advanced talks with a western conference team to head back to the US this year.

He was set to fly out the day after the Phoenix's last NBL regular season game in February.

But the move was delayed by an untimely knee injury, before the coronavirus pandemic put it on hold indefinitely.

"We did have something lined up, but the virus has taken its toll in a lot of different ways," Creek said.

"That (opportunity) has been pushed back even further but we're not disappointed in it.

"We understand the whole world's hurting and at the same time we're very lucky and very fortunate to be able to call ourselves professional athletes that get paid to (play sport)."

Creek admitted he doesn't know what the future holds after he and other players in the NBL's highest salary bracket were hit by a 50 percent pay cut in a deal struck with the league this month.

He has multiple business interests, a stock market portfolio and investment property to look after, and concedes financial strains could lead to "hard decisions".

It means Creek may utilise a buyout clause in his Phoenix contract and head to a higher-paying league overseas when COVID-19 eventually subsides and international travel restrictions are lifted.

"There's a lot going on and there's a lot of moving pieces, so to cut everything in half and to make all of that work still is a very difficult thing," he said.

"We have to do what's best for ourselves and sometimes that makes making hard decisions a priority.

"We'll assess it as we go along, we'll take it in our stride and we'll try to make the best decision for my career, as well as my family and future family."

In the meantime, Phoenix teammate Adam Gibson has moved into Creek's home in Melbourne's east, where they have a gym set up in a backyard that backs onto a golf course.

It's Horsham-raised Creek's little slice of country-style tranquillity in the sprawling suburbs of Australia's second-largest city.

The new housemates also practice on a basketball court in a nearby warehouse, while Creek maintains regular contact with his physiotherapist to rehabilitate the troublesome knee.

"I'm making sure that I'm staying as active and fit and mentally prepared as possible," Creek said.

"My knee is still attached. We're just sifting our way through that at the moment.

"We've had some triumphs and we've had some setbacks but it's all part of the process.

"Irrespective of how long it's been, I've just got to keep chipping away at my small goals internally and trying to keep my focus on what I have to be ready for."

Whether that's an NBL season that starts on schedule in October remains to be seen.

As for South East Melbourne, Creek took positives from the expansion team's debut season, despite it squandering a bright start on the way to a 9-19 record.

He sees potential for a bright future for the Phoenix in Australian basketball's heartland and is philosophical when it comes to the NBL, which faces huge financial hurdles after several years of significant growth.

"For me, this is a beautiful time where you get to do a lot of self-development, self-reflection and self-improvement," Creek said.

"I hope the league can do the same thing."