Chris Goulding out, RJ Hunter in and Zhou Qi questionable as NBA Warriors prepare for Klay’s return

But United won’t rush Goulding – the two-time championship winner captain is too valuable to risk – nor will Phoenix rush Zhou, so we will all be watching with interest on Saturday.

Breakers battling

The New Zealand Breakers have done it as tough as any club in the past 12 months, spending 156 days in Australia last season and again saddling up for a long stint this campaign.

But they have had a horror week after COVID-19 hit nine of the 39-strong travelling party, and two players and coach Dan Shamir had to isolate.

Shamir has reportedly been feeling under the weather despite being vaccinated and reported on Wednesday that Shamir was unlikely to coach on Saturday night.

The NBL won’t be postponing the game as their COVID-19 player rules allow for replacement players to be called in and postponements can only be considered if a team can’t suit up eight active players.

If LeBron can get it, anyone can

The Breakers aren’t alone in battling COVID-19. NBA superstar LeBron James was put onto the league’s health and safety protocols this week and has reportedly tested positive for the virus.

LeBron James is in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

LeBron James is in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.Credit:AP

The LA Lakers forward is reportedly double-vaccinated and it isn’t clear if he has had a booster shot, but it proves yet again that the virus doesn’t discriminate and can get to anyone in the right circumstances.

James is the player of his generation and the biggest figurehead in the league, so everyone will be hoping he is back soon and back at full fitness. James, who turns 37 this month, is on track to play several more years unless injury or illness intervenes.

At 12-11 (win-loss), the Lakers desperately need him back too.

Boomers to Parkville, Lynx to country Victoria

WNBL title contenders Melbourne Boomers will have a new home this season, heading to the renovated Parkville – formerly known as the State Netball and Hockey Centre.

The Boomers’ home at the State Basketball Centre at Wantirna South in Melbourne’s south-east is undergoing major extension works, so the club has moved its club base and home games.

The Boomers kick off their tenure at Parkville against reigning champions Southside Flyers on December 11, but they will do so while looking for a new general manager. Christy Collier-Hill has been snapped up by Basketball Australia to replace Lauren Jackson as head of the WNBL.

The WNBL tips off this weekend and WA’s tight border restrictions mean the Perth Lynx are stuck at home until round five, when they are tipped to temporarily move to regional Victoria for the majority of January and February.

The league still has a February 20 home game listed for the Lynx, but no one can confidently predict what WA’s border rules will be by then.

Warriors prepare for Klay

In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors (18-3 win-loss) suffered their third loss of the season on Wednesday as the Phoenix Suns (18-3) scored a 104-96 win and made it 17 wins in a row.

But the Warriors know they have an ace up their sleeves, with championship-winning guard Klay Thompson fast approaching a return from serious knee and Achilles injuries.

Klay Thompson just wanted to be alone.

Klay Thompson just wanted to be alone.Credit:Getty Images

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was excited about what they could do to teams who overplay on MVP favourite Steph Curry when Thompson rejoins them.

“When people commit players to Steph the way Phoenix did then there has to be openings,” Kerr told US media after the game.

“There will be openings for Jordan Poole, openings for Otto Porter and openings for Klay.

“That’s going to be fun. We have a lot to look forward to, but we have to get better.”

Two moments to look out for on Friday night

Tasmania JackJumpers open the NBL season and their renovated home MyState Arena, formerly the Derwent Entertainment Centre, when they tip off the season against Brisbane on Friday night.

The JackJumpers name has been a win on the island and import Josh Adams has had fans excited about his dunks and three-pointers during the NBL Blitz, while former Bullet Will Magnay has much to prove after his short-stint with New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA last season.

But the scene-stealer could come in Perth when new Adelaide 36ers coach CJ Bruton and his side receive their trophy for winning the NBL Blitz pre-season tournament.

The word is that league great Cal Bruton, father of CJ, will be at the game to present his son with the Loggins-Bruton Cup which is named after Leroy Loggins and Cal Bruton.

Cal has always been a proud dad: CJ won six NBL titles as a player in 516 games and two Olympics with the Boomers, the national men’s team.

CJ is in his first season as an NBL head coach and he has made a stellar start, though Perth would love to spoil the party and beat the Sixers.

Australian basketball has some great parent-child combinations and the Brutons are right up with the best of them.

Hoops Heaven is The Age and SMH’s weekly basketball column that will feature news, views and insights from basketball writer Roy Ward.

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