Every week, ESPN's Olgun Uluc runs through what's catching his eye across the NBL, and takes you inside the conversations trickling around the Australian basketball ecosystem. The NBL season is approaching Round 3, so the league's review process, a shining Next Star, and booming crowds are on the agenda.
It's time to amend the NBL's review process
It was half-time on Saturday evening when Aron Baynes and Adam Forde were involved in an alleged physical altercation. We got to Wednesday afternoon and charges were only just being filed, with a tribunal still to come.
The delay seemed wholly unnecessary. By late Saturday night, word began to spread around the league of what happened in the tunnels. ESPN confirmed it by Sunday morning. The tunnel the alleged incident occurred in wasn't some secret, exclusive area of the building either. There was at least one match-day official who saw enough of the incident to alert the referees at the time. The audio from Forde's mic was live and captured the incident at the time.
There should be a world where all of that evidence -- and statements from those involved -- can be collated within 24 hours, and a single review member could be allocated to hand down sanctions in that time frame. Charges can be filed, and then a team or player can choose to accept or appeal it. It's a process that can be quick, but still treated with the necessary seriousness that a review deserves.
Instead, the league collected statements and evidence, then asked for a "please explain" from all parties involved, all of whom have 24 hours to provide it. The Game Review Panel then has 24 hours to issue a charge. We got three days in without any official word of what even happened. This situation was complicated by the Cairns Taipans heading to the U.S. for a pair of preseason games, but the dragging out of this process led to speculation and innuendo, which is obviously not fair on either party, and only muddied the discourse.
The NBL is too legitimate of a league to have such an antiquated review process; hopefully this incident is the catalyst for change.
It's hard not to like Bobi Klintman
What Bobi Klintman has been doing to start the season has been a pleasant surprise.
It's surprising because you never really know how good a teenager is going to be in the NBL. The easiest bet is on them not being very good, at least to begin the season. Usually we see slow starts -- we did for LaMelo Ball, and for some of this season's Next Stars -- or an obvious teething process.
Klintman, though, has just come in and made an impact right away.
Last round, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then 19 points and six rebounds in a win over the Brisbane Bullets. Klntman is impacting winning in a real way for the Taipans, and we're only just entering Round 3 of the season.
Klintman is streaky, but not in a traditional sense. He enters games for the Taipans and is at his best when he looks to be a microwave type of bench guy. The shooting is real, but the streakiness we've seen has more-so been about his energy.
Early in the second quarter against the Phoenix, the Taipans were down 30-23. Klintman checked in and hit a corner three. Next possession, he had a dig down on defence to force a turnover. He then found Bul Kuol on a backdoor cut for a jumper. Another dig from Klintman led to a bad shot from the Phoenix; he'd go down the other end and hit another corner three. He had an emphatic help-side block the next defensive possession, then, a few plays later, jumped the passing lane for a dunk in transition.
All of that was in less than three minutes, and the Taipans were leading by the end of it. He might not always give you 10 points in three minutes, but one energy play can seemingly get him in this mode to get streaky with more of them. The play-style is obviously different, but think of the bursts Patrick Beverley brings teams, or Corey Brewer toward the back-end of his career.
Klintman is such an interesting prospect because there are still so many questions. Is he a perimeter guy long-term, especially defensively? The shot is real but there's still improvements to be made when it comes to his offensive awareness; how long does that take to develop? What we know is that he's physically in a great place, and has a skillset that can translate to the NBA. And, perhaps most important, he's already impacting winning.
These crowd numbers seem sustainable
We'll generally keep things on the court in these columns, but it's early in the season so we do need that sample size to increase just a bit. So, for now, let's talk about the success practically every team is having with regard to crowd numbers.
The NBL set a new attendance record with 50,934 fans attending Round 1 games. That's even more impressive, considering the Sydney Kings didn't host a game in that round, so the potential of a large crowd at Qudos Bank Arena didn't misleadingly inflate the numbers.
Tasmania JackJumpers games at MyState Bank Arena are seemingly always the toughest tickets in town, and even the Illawarra Hawks -- a team that has struggled with crowd numbers in recent memory -- had an impressive opening two home games: 4,322 vs Sydney, and 3,590 vs South East Melbourne.
Melbourne United had sell-outs for their first two home games of the season for the first time in the franchise's history, with the team using the momentum from its opener -- a Throwdown -- to bleed into its 'Grassroots Game'. United had close to 2000 junior basketball players at its Grassroots Game against Tasmania in Round 2; the type of initiative most teams should try to emulate.
"The Grassroots Game is an initiative that allows the club to recognise and celebrate the grassroots level of our game," United's Chief Marketing Officer, Tom van de Vusse, told ESPN.
"This is the second year where the club has conducted The Grassroots Game, with both games completely selling out. It provides a fantastic opportunity for our club to celebrate community basketball and for teams to proudly represent their club or association colours.
"Clubs and associations are encouraged to get their teams together and make group bookings to receive a discount and gain access to a signing session with Melbourne United players after the game."
Round 2 ended with the Kings' home opener, which saw 14,029 head to Qudos Bank Arena: the largest standalone home opening crowd in NBL history. The team had immense success, with regard to crowd numbers, toward the end of last season, and there does seem to be some carry-over.
Every sport obviously took a hit during the pandemic, but the NBL seems to have recovered as well as any league in Australia. The numbers bear that out, and those around the league genuinely seem confident that this level of crowd engagement is sustainable moving forward.
My favourite plays of the round
Here is just great patience from Justin Robinson. The Phoenix have trouble matching up on the way back, leaving Will Cummings on Sam Froling. Robinson sees Mitch Creek really wanting to help down on Froling, so the Hawks' point guard just teases him a bit. He waits for Creek to commit just a little bit more -- while throwing some pass fakes in -- before finding Hyunjung Lee in the corner for his second straight three.
Justin Robinson teases the post entry to lure Creek, throws a bullet to Lee for 3. pic.twitter.com/Pa3mfVxV4J— OlgsNotebook (@OlgsNotebook) October 12, 2023
Jaylin Galloway is getting a lot of hype for his defence to start the season, and this was fun from Sydney's game against Adelaide. Galloway just rips it from his defender twice in the one game. He emerged as a reliable point-of-attack defender in the playoffs last season, and now seems like their go-to matchup on the opposition's best perimeter guy.
Jaylin Galloway with two bully ball strips in one game. pic.twitter.com/VNsCkCsnfd— OlgsNotebook (@OlgsNotebook) October 12, 2023
There still isn't anyone in the NBL who has the audacity Chris Goulding has. This is a bad shot for anyone else in the league -- and probably is for him, too -- but Goulding hunts these threes in transition for a reason.
Chris Goulding's unmatched audacity. pic.twitter.com/vfy8nk9rou— OlgsNotebook (@OlgsNotebook) October 12, 2023