Sydney Kings star Dejan Vasiljevic has thrown petrol on the fire that threatens to explode whenever his side face the Perth Wildcats, pointing out Tai Webster’s appalling free throw record before he even steps on the court for the club.
Webster sat on the bench during Wednesday’s loss to New Zealand. The Wildcats didn’t risk putting him on the court a day after meeting his teammates after being released without playing in Turkey. That changes Saturday against the Kings.
A prolific scorer during his time with the Breakers, Webster was less comfortable getting to the free throw line. He made just 58 percent of his free throws in the NBL.
After Vasiljevic scored 42 points against South East Melbourne, sponsor Hungry Jack’s will hand out free cheeseburgers if the player misses two of his free throws on his way to the stripe, alluding to an NBL promotion.
“He’s a great guy to have back in the league. Let’s see who gets more cheeseburgers — him or X (Kings teammate Xavier Cooks),” Vasiljevic said.
Kings captain Cooks has fed the fans while shooting just 50 percent this season.
When Kings coach Chase Buford pointed out Cooks’ record, Vasiljevic doubled down on his comments about Webster.
“Trust me, Tai Webster is perfect,” he said.
Those comments followed Kings owner Paul Smith mocking the Wildcats for missing the finals last season during an NBL documentary. The strained relationship also saw Wildcats center Matt Hodgson suspended for two games for hitting Vasiljevic last year, and Smith declaring the Wildcats ineligible for the 2020 championship due to the premature cancellation of the grand final series amid Covid-19.
Saturday will be the first time the clubs have played this season.
The addition of Webster should give the high-scoring Wildcats a more potent offense. The team has averaged 97 points over the past seven games since making major changes to their starting five.
But coach John Riley has ruled out plans to turn NBL matches into high-scoring shootouts for the rest of the season.
“It’s definitely not a mindset,” he said.
“The mindset doesn’t change. We need to get stops. Our defense needs to improve. We scored enough points (against New Zealand). We definitely had some moments.
“It’s easy to reflect on the second quarter. The way the opposition has been working for a while and the buckets, they’ve consistently had a very high percentage of shots.