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Kings have their best chance in years to end Melbourne struggles

This time the Kings will start with almost their full roster, although new signing Xavier Cooks is not expected to play as he completes his recovery from a knee injury. Rio Olympian Kevin Lisch is out injured as well.

Cooks’ signing fired up many around the league who claim the Kings have gone well over the NBL’s “soft” salary cap with one coach estimating the Kings have spent over $4 million.

Weaver and Kings owner Paul Smith rejected both claims and maintain they are below the cap although the league does not reveal salaries or cap figures.

“People are going to say what they are going to say but we are in the unenviable position of having players want to come play here,” Weaver told media in Sydney.

“Sometimes teams that aren’t in the same position have the unenviable position of having to ask themselves why they aren’t in that same position.”

Melbourne (7-5) are without key guard Shea Ili (calf) and centre Alex Pledger (ankle surgery) and arrive in Sydney after a disappointing 93-86 loss to Cairns Taipans in Cairns on Friday night.

The loss was United’s second defeat in Cairns this season and they were exposed for not rebounding well and failing to match the aggression at the rim shown by import forward Cam Oliver (26 points, 13 rebounds) or finding a solution for NBA import point guard Scott Machado (17 points, 10 assists).

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman called out his side for their lack of rebounding and their inability to draw more free throws by going hard enough at the basket.

Cairns won the rebound count 50-39 and kept Melbourne to only 15 free throws compared to their usual tally in the mid 20s.

Vickerman has demanded a response from his players against the Kings.

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“We have got no choice but to respond,” Vickerman said post-game on Friday.

“Their attack on the rim was a little different, whether our guys were hit on the arm or different things, they went in to dunk on people and forced some good contact.

“We went in to force a little contact and just put it up there. We have to attack the rim with greater purpose than we did tonight.”

The Kings can take plenty from what Cairns did to Melbourne. If they have import forward Jae’Sean Tate attacking the basket as Oliver did and have Casper Ware going at Melo Trimble and Mitch McCarron just as Machado did then the visitors will be on the back foot.

But Melbourne have a strong history of bouncing back after losses.

“We are the only team to beat them so far but they haven’t lost at home and are very close to full strength and have just recruited another guy as well,” Vickerman said.

“We know how much Shea has given us in a defensive match-up with Casper or Machado but we will go in there, we know what their defence will allow, we will have to make shots against them.

“If you screen well, you will get open looks and you have to knock them in.”

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