An Australian basketball star makes a heroic comeback, a player banned for betting on games and some bold season predictions.
The new NBL season tips off this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Round 1.
Adelaide 36er cops ban for betting
Basketball Australia has handed Deng Acuoth a 10-match ban and $2300 fine for engaging in prohibited conduct by placing bets on NBL games.
Nine games of the ban will be suspended subject to no additional indiscretions.
The Adelaide 36ers centre was found guilty of betting on NBL games while he was playing in the NBL1 competition and prior to him signing with the 36ers.
Watch every game of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. Season starts this Saturday October 1. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
He will miss Adelaide’s NBL season opener against the Tasmania JackJumpers on October 13.
But he will be free to play in Adelaide’s NBL x NBA matches against the Phoenix Suns on Monday from 1pm (AEST) and the Oklahoma City Thunder from 11am (AEST).
Elsewhere, Melbourne United’s Isaac Humphries has been fined $1500 ($500 suspended) for calling NBL referees “not great” in a radio interview.
Humphries fouled out three times in his five lead-up games and the Phoenix have asked for clarity over the expectations around officiating this season.
Aron Baynes makes heroic comeback
Veteran Australian basketballer Aron Baynes will play his first season in the NBL for the Brisbane Bullets this season after making a remarkable comeback from injury.
Baynes suffered a spinal cord injury at the Tokyo Olympics last year and missed out on playing in the Boomers’ bronze medal-winning game.
At one stage the 35-year-old thought he might never play professional basketball again but he has recovered, showing great form in the pre-season NBL Blitz as he hopes to eventually return to the NBA.
“It’s huge,” Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze told news.com.au of Baynes’ inclusion in the NBL.
“When you get a quality player like that coming back into the competition, someone who’ve we’ve grown to love primarily through his exploits of playing for the Boomers, it’s a big thrill to have an NBA-quality player coming into the league.
“And it makes it even more special when it’s a guy who’ve pulled on the Australian jersey a lot over the last decade or so.
“It creates a real buzz and when you hear some of the stories about the challenges he’s had recently with injuries, it’s great that he can use this as a vehicle to get back.
“Having watched a bit of him in the pre-season, he’s got a smile on his face, he seems really happy to be out there. To get a guy of his size and skillset in our league, it just further enhances our competition.”
Gaze makes season predictions
Baynes’ inclusion in a Brisbane team featuring Nathan Sobey means there will be high expectations for the Bullets, who missed finals last season.
The Sydney Kings dominated the back half of last season to win the NBL title but the loss of MVP Jaylen Adams, Jarell Martin and Ian Clark will be tough.
But the Kings’ new imports Derrick Walton, Justin Simon, and Tim Soare are solid and they should contend again.
“Sydney have lost a couple of really important players but it seems like they’ve done a good job to replace them,” Gaze said.
“Anytime you lose the MVP or your competition from your team, that’s really hard to place but they’re going to be right up there. I still like what they’ve done with their recruiting.”
Gaze believes the Perth Wildcats will be serious title contenders again this season after missing the finals for the first time in 35 years.
With three-time NBL MVP Bryce Cotton, NBA prospect Luke Travers and US college import Brady Manek, Perth could be one of the teams to beat.
“I think the Perth Wildcats have done a really good job as well, they way they’ve done their roster,” Gaze said.
“When you’ve got the bona fide star of the competition in Bryce Cotton to build off, you’re coming a really good starting point.
“The kid they’ve got (Manek), the 6’10” guy can shoot, he’s an athlete, he’s played for North Carolina, he’s been part of a big program — he’s going to be a big part of what they do and I like what he brings to the table. I think they are going to be really good.”
Melbourne United youngster Ariel Hukporti suffered an Achilles injury on the eve of the season and it could throw United’s campaign into disarray.
“They are one we’ve seen in the playoffs in the last few years and there’s a real question mark about them,” Gaze said.
But Gaze rates the South East Melbourne Phoenix’s squad highly, especially after recruiting Chinese seven-footer Zhou Qi for another season.
“I think their cross-town rivals the Phoenix have put together a really nice line-up,” he said.
“Getting Zhou Qi to come back, to have a player of his skillset in our league is another good thing. With that signing, Phoenix could be right up there as well.
Aussie NBA stars honoured in ‘beautiful’ artwork
Baynes is on the path back to the NBA, and the ever-growing group of Aussies playing in the world’s premier league have been honoured in a mural at Melbourne’s RMIT A’Beckett Urban Square.
Artist Kris Andrew Small has designed a huge mural featuring the names of the Australians currently plying their trade in the NBA.
“They’re the heroes of a lot of players that’ll be using that court,” Gaze said.
“It’s a visual example of the pathways and the success that our Australian players are having. “It’s a beautiful piece of artwork. They’ve done a really good job of presenting it in that environment.”