Sydney Kings nail import battle to deliver NBL crown back to Sydney

Sydney Kings star big man Jarell Martin had a flight to catch, and he was not about to change his plans.

With his partner scheduled for a final ultrasound within 48 hours of the final buzzer of Game 3 of the NBL22 Grand Final series, Martin told the team he had no plans of heading back to Tasmania.

At times morphing into a human battering ram in the paint, Martin meshed his deft touch with brute force, finishing the night with 22 points and 17 rebounds in a dominant performance to help the Kings clinch their first title in 17 years.

While the after party lasted all night, Martin would eventually leave for Sydney International Airport, heading home with fatherhood just weeks away.

"He's just a few weeks from becoming a dad and we're so happy for him. He's just such a good partner and wanted to get there for the last doctor's appointment," Chase Buford told ESPN on Thursday morning.

"I don't think he slept straight from the celebrations right to the airport and we just wish him all the best. What a performance he put on last night. He said he wasn't getting on a plane back to Tassie and he showed every bit of that."

Grand Final MVP Xavier Cooks politely asked to sit for his post celebration interview with ESPN, gingerly moving the morning after battling with the JackJumpers across a three-game sweep that was far more competitive than the end result suggests.

"It's awful right now. It's been awful for a little while now. The JackJumpers beat me up man, but it's all worth it," Cooks said of the soreness.

"But I'm telling you, Jarell's body would be a lot worse than mine. He takes charges, he puts his body on the line for this team. He does a lot for this team, he's such a valuable player.

"He had that flight booked for about a week now so he couldn't afford to go to Game 4. You could tell that guy was desperate out there, man. He had 17 rebounds, to play the way he did was incredible."

It wasn't the only compelling import story from the Kings drought breaking championship, with head coach Chase Buford and regular season MVP Jaylen Adams fulfilling a destiny that was two years in the making.

The pair lead the 2019-20 G League Wisconsin Herd to the best record in the league before COVID ended the season prematurely, cruelly dashing their hopes of championship success.

Although Adams was unable to play in Game two and three due to a hamstring strain, his place as king of the fans remained, with the electric guard walking laps of the court well after the presentation to greet adoring fans.

"It was close. If I would have played, I would have been fighting through some pain and I think the staff knew that, so they were concerned and worried about my future, so they didn't want me to go out there and risk it," Adams said of the injury. "I'm thankful that they care about me as a person and my future just as much as they cared about my season.

"One thing Chase first told me when I came out here, 'let's go get a championship'," Adams said. "I agreed with him, I thought we had unfinished business and it came full circle tonight."

Multiple family members travelled from the US to watch Adams in the Grand Final series and while they were unable to see him at his dynamic best, they were still able to join in on the celebrations with the rest of the Kings family.

At one point during the after party, Adams' mother grabbed a photo with Andrew Bogut, with the Kings owner joining Australian hoops legend Luc Longley in a never-ending line of photo opportunities to which they kindly accepted each request.

Another feature of the after party was the third member of the import superstar trio, Ian Clark, with the former NBA champion now adding an NBL ring to his collection.

Drink in one hand and game ball in the other, Clark would not let grip of the orange for as long as the celebrations lasted.

The title clinching game made it 14 wins from 16 appearances for Clark since signing with the team mid-season, in an acquisition that not only boosted the team's talent stocks but changed the mentality within the Kings locker room.

"He elevated the competitive spirit in our group. In practice and in games. Every single day he made our group better," Buford said of Clark.

"He really wanted to win every drill, every segment. He coached guys and really embraced a new role. The guys called him 'the OG', he was the older guy in the team which was a first for him. He took that, he embraced it and really became a leader for our group, and we saw it in spades down the stretch.

"The man has been an absolute weapon on the court. Off the court, his leadership, experience, it speaks for itself. From day one he's been guiding all of us, myself, the young guys, just teaching us the ins and outs of the game, how to approach it and the mentality to have," Cooks added.

Without Adams, the Kings needed every bit of Clark's on-court ability on Wednesday, with the star guard tallying 22 points including three triples in a critical span of 2:14 in the fourth period that sent the first nail into the JackJumpers' coffin.

"Ian Clark is always clutch. It's what he does. He has that thing locked and loaded," Cooks said.

"I missed a couple early ones in the first half that I thought I should have made but my teammates kept giving me confidence. I think we just kept to it, we knew they weren't going to lay down, it was going to be a fight. It was just grinding it out. We didn't want it to be easy." Clark added.

Oftentimes winning an NBL championship can come down to nailing your import signings. On this occasion, the Kings celebrated long into the night with Adams, Clark and Martin delivering in the biggest moments throughout the postseason.

Now all that's left to do is celebrate. For Martin, that means becoming a father. For Adams and Clark, they had other ideas.

"We're about to find out, man. We're about to find out," Adams said with a laugh when asked what the next few days will entail.

"Oh man, a lot of celebrating. My voice will be gone. It's worth it. It's worth it," Clark added with game ball in hand of course.