The NBL All-Star Game made a successful return Saturday after a five year absence, but the game proved there remains a number of hurdles the NBL must still overcome before it wins over the Australian public.
The South team, comprised of Perth, Melbourne Adelaide and New Zealand players, posted a comfortable 134-114 win against the North (Wollongong, Sydney, Townsville and Cairns) at the Adelaide Arena.
Former NBA lottery pick Johnny Flynn and Chris Goulding wowed the audience with star performances. Goulding took out MVP honours with a 24-point effort (13 in the fourth) while Flynn had an entertaining seven-point, 10-assist night.
Other South standouts included Wildcat’s captain Shawn Redhage (12 points, eight rebounds) and hometown favourite Daniel Jackson (21 points).
Redhage, Perth’s lone representative after MVP Kevin Lisch and Matthew Knight were forced to withdraw due to injury, made an immediate impact entering the game in the first quarter off the bench. He connected with an early slam then fed Goulding with an alley-oop pass as the South took a commanding first quarter lead.
They extended the lead to 18 at halftime courtesy of a buzzer beating three from Flynn before North stars Adris Deleon and Lance Hurdle (18 points apiece) provided a third quarter comeback of sorts. Goulding’s big fourth quarter finished things off for the South.
Although the All-Star Game comeback can be considered a success, it is clear the NBL still has a ton of work to do promoting the game. Adelaide Arena drew just 4,523 spectators and the game could have had a much greater effect had the festivities been held at the brand new Perth Arena which seats 11,000 and has been a huge success since opening last month.
Another cause for concern should definitely be the lack of fan interaction in the pre-All-Star process. Fans were given the opportunity to vote for the game’s starting line-ups, but leading vote getter Cam Tragardh tallied just 1,401 votes. Though not a fair comparison, the NBA has released the first ballot from their All-Star voting with the leading vote getters already having tallied in excess of half a million votes. The NBL must surely be disappointed with the low numbers; it's not like we have less internet down here in Australia, do we?
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