Bullets hold fire on star Bairstow
BASKETBALL: Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis will give Cam Bairstow until the last minute to prove his fitness for the team's much-anticipated return to the National Basketball League tonight.
The former Chicago Bulls big man heads a talented roster as the Bullets play the defending champion Perth Wildcats at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in their first game in the competition since disbanding in 2008.
He has been recovering from a dislocated shoulder picked up playing for the Boomers at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Lemanis said a decision on whether he played would be left up to the 25-year-old but teammate Adam Gibson said he expected Bairstow to play.
"I think Cam will be fine. He's done all his work off the court. He's a beast,” he said.
"That's why they call him 'The Bear'. He's solid down in the paint. He's ready to go.”
Gibson, who was with the Bullets when they last played in the NBL, said he was glad to be back.
"We've had the fingers crossed for many years,” he said.
"I've said many times if the Bullets were still here I'd be a one-club player. I'm glad I'm a part of the rebuild and hopefully we can do well.”
Lemanis, who has also recruited high-profile players such as Anthony Petrie, Jermaine Beal, Torrey Criag, Daniel Kickert and Tom Jervis, said he hoped the Bullets would bring a lot to the competition both on and off the court.
"We've got to give fans a team that they're going to be proud to come and support,” he told reporters.
"We certainly respect and we'll honour the history of this club ... but this team needs to establish their own identity.
"(We'll be) a team that plays defence. A team that stays in every possession. A team that shares the ball offensively and plays the game the right way.
"There won't be a lot of hero ball the way we play, we'll play as a team.”
While Perth is one of the favourites to defend its title, the NBL season is expected to be the most competitive in a number of years.
The Wildcats have lost key man Nate Jawai to Cairns and will need imports Jaron Johnson and Jameel McKay to fire.
Melbourne United, which finished in top spot last season, losing to the NZ Breakers in the semi-finals, will also be a title contender with Cedric Jackson and David Andersen adding to a line-up that also includes Chris Goulding, Todd Blanchfield and Devin Williams.
Boomers great and NBA winner Andrew Gaze will also bring something to the competition as coach of the Sydney Kings and he will hope new signings Kevin Lisch, Brad Newley and Aleks Maric will put them in the mix come the end of the season.