There's been plenty of talk about Illawarra's newfound depth but Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas has issued a not-too-subtle hint that his starting group needs to lift its game following Saturday's home loss to the Kings.
The Hawks were competitive in the opening quarter that saw seven lead changes, but were jumped badly in the second term that saw them manage just three field goals until skipper Tyler Harvey beat the halftime buzzer with a deep three.
The game looked be getting well out of hand for the hosts only for an unlikely line-up spearheaded by Dan Grida to orchestrate a comeback that ultimately fizzled out to a 15-point defeat.
The plus-minus numbers of Grida (+7), Mason Peatling (+10), Biwali Bayles (+8) and Hyunjung Lee (+4) through three quarters spoke to the impact of the second unit.
Given the horrific injury toll that plagued his first season in charge, Jackomas said it's pleasing to be able to lean on bench punch, but the second-year coach said it's too early to be looking for those kind of silver linings just a game into a new campaign.
"I hope not," Jackomas said when asked if he'll lean on depth.
"I hope that the starting guys are coming in and setting the brand of basketball we want to play. There's certain guys that we need to put some pressure on to perform a little bit better. That's for us to discuss [internally].
"I'm definitely glad that we have that [depth] in our back pocket, and I'm not afraid to throw guys out there. Over a whole season it's a really good thing to have, but at game one right now, early on in the season, I'm going to need the main guys to do just a little bit more.
"I'll put my hand up and say I'm not perfect at this time of year either. I've got to be a bit better as well in regard to subbing, in regard to communication and maybe [I was] a little bit too emotional at stages.
"At the end of the day, it's a group effort, we're a team and we are better than this, definitely better than this."
Skipper Tyler Harvey had 19 points at an efficient 5-10 from long-range, while co-captain Sam Froling had eight of his 12 points in the opening term.
Justin Robinson had 12 points and four assists in his first NBL outing since the corresponding clash last season, but fellow import Gary Clark struggle on debut.
The experienced NBA big-man was 3-10 from the field, though he contributed on the boards with seven rebounds and added two dimes, a steal and a block.
"He's no different to Tyler, he's no different to Justin," Jackomas said of Clark.
"There's a total belief in their offensive package. There's not ever a question on that. We can communicate good and bad shots, and that's coaching.
"In regard to his offensive package right now, I just feel if we loosened it up with a couple of good stops and some energy plays, I think the guys will get on a roll.
"We sort of saw it in that in that last quarter where we came back with a lineup that just played with energy. It played fearless and played with energy,
"It was bit contagious when we started to move bodies, but we were too far gone. We'll learn from that. We have to or we're in big trouble because this league's too good."
The Hawks will enjoy a six-day lead-in to this Saturday's home clash with South East Melbourne, with Jackomas saying his team will need to quickly adjust its attitude.
"I wouldn't say [I'm] angry or frustrated in a negative way towards the team, I just think we're better than that," Jackomas said.
"We had a great crowd tonight, we let them down a little bit that way. We've played better, we've delivered a better brand than that.
"There were parts of the game where we started to come back in, we'd get [the margin] to eight and then we think we've done enough. I thought that was the mode of the game, if we just turned up today, we'd be good enough because we'd put the work in.
"Maybe [it was ] because they had a few injuries but, at the end of the day, we played with defending champions. We've got to play every possession which we didn't.
"There were four or five times where we were right there to tip it over and either something doesn't go our way, or we've got to move a body. What it screams is consistency. We have to be consistent to win basketball games."
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