It may have been two weeks since Esh Group Eagles Newcastle have been on court but for Captain Darius Defoe it feels more like three as Newcastle return to BBL action against Plymouth Raiders, writes Jeff King.
When “The Beast from the East” rolled in and caused the postponement of last week’s BBL Championship game against Worcester it meant the Eagles didn’t have the opportunity to build on the fact that they’d got back to winning ways in the previous game against Leeds.
That game had seen Defoe limp out of the game without two minutes being on the clock and although his team-mates continued and did a fine job in his absence his inside and powerful presence is always a miss for the Eagles roster.
Going in to the game, Defoe was far from certain that he would be able to return as he hasn’t been able to train since that Leeds game and he faces a last-minute decision about his participation against Plymouth.
“I won’t know until I see the Doctor on Friday morning if I’m fit enough to play. If the Doctor gives me the okay, then it’s on Fab as whether he plays me or not. It’s my knee. I got a couple of bumps in England training and then banged it early against Leeds in the same place.”
“It’s tough for someone like me as I don’t like being on the side lines watching my team-mates play knowing I can’t help them or doing anything about it. So, really and truly it is frustrating because I want to play in every game.”
“But if I can’t play I’ll be No. 1 cheerleader on the bench, cheering the guys on, talking to the guys on the bench, encouraging them and helping them out any way I can to still be part of the team.”
The visitors to Northumbria University Sport Central tonight are a team that beat Newcastle down in Plymouth back in November but have had only one win in thirteen since that day. Perhaps they would be boosted with the news that Defoe may be out.
“If I don’t make it I have faith in the guys without me. We’re a team and there’s no I in team, we’re in it together and we have to play together whoever is available. I feel the guys have enough to cover me if I don’t make it.”
“We do owe them one after the last game, so I hope tonight we handle our business and then move on to the next game. The key to the game for me is defence and defensive rebounds. Then we have to space the floor in transition and just keep playing together.”
With a delay to the announcement to the England Commonwealth Games squad, these must be slightly worrying times for Defoe as he plans the next few weeks. His hope is that he gets the green light for his return in time for this week’s game and he won’t be restricted to a view from the bench.
If not, then his team-mates will need to show the togetherness and power they showed in the last game against Leeds where in the absence of their trusty Captain they powered to victory. More of the same is what is required against Wolves, with or without Defoe.