Perth Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge will write a regular column for thewest.com.au during the NBL season.
It was a great time over the Christmas break as we all got to enjoy time with our families, but it has also given me the chance to reflect on our first half of the season and I'm very frustrated with the way we are playing despite sitting in second position.
It was a tremendous Christmas. It was the first time that I can recall that I was around for more than two days. This year was the first time in a long time that I had four days off and it was exactly what I personally needed, and I'm sure the players did as well. I hired a house down at Peppermint Grove beach and we had another couple of families with us, and we had a tremendous time. It was good to not only relax, but try to spend as much time with the kids as well because Christmas is all about the kids. It was a lot of fun.
I know that for the players it was important to mentally refresh and physically we were really hurting coming into the break, and still have so many niggling injuries. That break couldn’t have come at a better time and I know that we are better physically than what we were when we played Wollongong. That's what the break was about – mentally and physically refreshing, and I think we are getting there slowly but we are far from 100 per cent.
Our play offensively so far this season has been very frustrating. We do so much analysis and evaluation trying to work out how to get better and we are really going hard at our players individually to continue to get better. The frustrating thing is that we are not playing as well as we can, but we are 8-4 and in second spot. Defensively on the flip side we are as good as we have ever been, and are continuing to get better, but we are only staying in games and winning games because of our defensive intensity, and the way we can take teams out of their stuff.
The exciting side of it is that if we start to get better offensively, which I think will happen, we will be a legit championship team. At the moment, though, we are the worst shooting team from the three-point line, which is obviously very disappointing. We are the second worst team from a field goal percentage, but we are the second leading scoring team in the league. The numbers don’t really add up, but what it reinforces to me as coach is that the system we play and how we are the No.1 rebounding team, No.1 defensive team and No.1 possession-winning team, is helping win and stay in games. Now we need to improve on our decision-making offensively and we can be very special.
Coming into this season we set ourselves goals as a team and individually about how we wanted to improve our shooting. I believe we've done the work, but obviously it has been the wrong type of work so we will change up some things. We will look at doing things in training differently to try and get out of what we are doing, and completely making the players uncomfortable. You have to put them in positions that are going to force them to become better and hopefully that will end up with us becoming better offensively.
I have to raise my levels as a coach and I expect that from my support staff, and our players. I expect them to all step up and that's what it is about. If we can do that, we can win a championship but if we don’t address how poorly we are going offensively we won't. It's as simple as that.
It still has to be a positive that despite that we are sitting in second position. If you look at the player's individual stats there's no way in the world you would think we have won eight out of our 12 games. Obviously we are covering up our weaknesses somewhere, particularly on the defensive end, but I'm excited that we have so much room for improvement. There's no chance we can make the grand final unless we do get better in different areas. Right now we've only played 12 games and have 16 to go, and we are spluttering along in second place. I know that we have so much growth.
Now our focus is on Sydney on Sunday. They are definitely one of the form teams and Shane has them playing extremely hard. He has always been a competitor, was a winner through his career and he is an extremely demanding coach of his players. They have bought into his system now and they are playing extremely well as a team. They beat New Zealand, they beat Wollongong and there's no doubt that they have circled this date and they want to beat the Perth Wildcats. There's absolutely no doubt about that.
A lot of teams voted them to come last to start the season and they are using that as motivation. They do have some extremely talented players out there and most of them have chips on their shoulders, and most of them have points they want to prove. Whenever any team plays the Perth Wildcats that's the attitude they go in with. We beat them quite well at home, but they are playing some great basketball.
I know we are underdone from a preparation perspective and have had to force our players into resting purely because of their injuries. Then there's the temperature and we've had to modify all of our trainings. It has been 40-plus degrees for five or six days and we are in facilities without air conditioning, and that's very telling on the players. We are trying our best to get the players through this time and then we have another week of this hot weather before another big road trip to Cairns next week. At least physically we are in better shape than we were against Wollongong though.
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