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CLB 3x3 League

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Tis the season to be jolly, x3

CHRISTMAS. That’s what a day of CLB3X3 action resembles. It took me a while to work it out, because the festival atmosphere outside the State Basketball Centre during last month’s tournament caught me by surprise.

It was a weekend to remember, with first the legend Brian Kerle (pictured) rocking the microphone at Pete’s Bar Lunch before the launch of the WNBL’s Cluster Round and Champions League Basketball inviting me to see, first-hand, what 3-on-3 basketball truly looks like.

Honestly, as a basketball tragic and traditionalist – yes, I’m that guy who wants EVERY travel called so there’s never any grey area, not the current NBA and FIBA interpretive BS ... and let's not even start on unsportsmanlike fouls! – I've always been ready to dislike 3-on-3.

But, hand on heart, I am 100 per cent converted. And I am 100 per cent behind Matt Hollard and his wife Yvette and their CLB organisation. They simply do it right. And FIBA agrees.

So we leave Pete's Bar Lunch after a morning which has seen Matt and his team of Yvette, Andrew and Crystal, laying down the court and courtside accoutrements outside the SBC.

CLB's free-standing portable backboard and retractable ring have not arrived from Fremantle so Hollard is working the mobile phone (hands free) while driving back toward the SBC.

He tries every possible contact, even Hisense Arena, United's NBL assistant coaches Mike Kelly and Simon Mitchell and the club's CEO Vince Crivelli in a desperate search.

It is late on a Friday and the chances of finding a portable backboard of the type required is slimming rapidly, CLB's now confirmed as having been shipped from Fremantle but currently believed to be somewhere near Sydney.

CLB has a portable which can be used for kids and is set up at the SBC. But it is not up to the standard of elite level 3X3 as will be on show the following morning. One dunk and the day would be done.

Hollard sleeps on-site in the CLB van overnight as a portable backboard he has tracked down and successfully negotiated arrives from Geelong.

"I never give up," he tells me.

I spend the night at a new hotel-motel-apartment in Wantirna which, as it turns out, isn't officially opening until Saturday. But I am shown to my room, the only inhabitant in the building.

{Yes, it's a great premise for a horror story. "Hey? What was that noise in the corridor? I'm the only person in the building ... aren't I??"}

CLB's 3X3 event itself is spectacular and far exceeds my wildest expectations.

There's music and colour rocking the place, the one-and-only Nathan Strempel is providing courtside commentary, the inimitable Matt McQuade is calling the games on livestream with basketball majesty in Lori Chizik - it is all happening.

LIVE STREAM: Legendary Luke Schenscher joins Matt McQuade and Lori Chizik on the call.

The players have been told only blatant fouls will be called so, basically, get on with it.

There's no time for personal admonishments on a mistake, or to flop. That ball is whipped outside the 3-point line and back in to offence so fast there's zero BS time. Two players compete for a loose ball, one falls over...get up and get on with it.

Love it!

The sun is shining, the strategies are so different from 5-on-5 basketball that those who believe selecting 3X3 teams from 5-on-5 players without any experience of the short-form game will do just fine, are asking for trouble.

The first adjustment, obviously is the pace. The relentless pace. There's just no time for butt-scratching.

And sure, a 10-minute game (or first team to reach 21) sounds easy-peasy.

Forget that and forget it fast. As already revealed, the pace is relentless, the action continuous.

Every basket is worth one point, traditional 3-pointers are worth two. If a foul is too blatant and a player gets a trip to the free throw line, it's just one shot, worth one point.

There's no coaches - there's no time in a nonstop 10-minute game - and four players to a team.

Subbing presents an immediate difference to 5-on-5 basketball. In the traditional game, generally teams will play until someone needs a rest or someone is subbed for strategic or foul reasons.

In 3X3 ball, experienced teams were sending someone out after a couple of minutes, and continued rotating every 90 seconds to two minutes to maintain intensity.

Intensity - there's the perfect word to describe 3X3.

The sun is shining and there's a fun mood, a unified spirit of everyone having a good time. I guess that's what happens when you rule out all on-court BS and the 3 Fs of basketball - flops, fakes, phonies. (Yeah, I know, that's 2 Fs and a Ph, so sue me.)

The on-court action only gets a little willing when the exciting Darwin men's team takes on New Zealand's finest - yep, they've made the trip across the Tasman to Melbourne to be part of this CLB event - and the physicality goes up off the charts.

But, even then, the mood stays positive.

And then, as Melbourne's fickle weather is wont to do, without warning something akin to a tornado suddenly sweeps across the court, sending marquees flying and everyone scurrying inside to escape the windy downpour.

Again, CLB's team is the model of hyper-efficiency, relocating the tournament adjacent to the WNBL's Cluster Round.

With the tournament moved inside the SBC, surprisingly the mood changes appreciably.

Once inside basketball's traditional environment, incredibly, the players start to whinge, moan and act up, the officiating becomes more over-bearing ... welcome to basketball in the 2000s.

Outside it was bliss. Inside it's back to hit-or-miss.

(Just as typically, Melbourne's weather clears up within minutes, the sun shining deceptively. It's almost a shame CLB moved so swiftly.)

It's been an eye-opening day, the CLB team packing it all away as the WNBL crowd filters out of the stadium.

Sunday and it's time to debrief for Matt and Yvette, with their crew and basketball notables such as NBL champion Mark Nash, now also heading up the Hobart Devils 3X3 program.

The job is never ending, new gigs to stage all around the country. (One is coming to Port Adelaide in South Australia next month. Get the details here.)

There are others setting up or getting ready to set up 3X3 comps and tournaments, administrators who watch CLB with a keen eye for detail, to work out how they will do it better. But they won't.

Typically Basketball Australia has left 3X3 to its own devices.

Just as the NBL and WNBL were formed by clubs, coaches and players - not by any national body - so too 3X3 has emerged from the people. And again, typically, BA is arriving late to the party it should have been across from Day One.

Why it simply does not embrace those already doing it right - CLB's FIBA endorsement says enough in itself - remains the mystery their big announcement in January figures to change.

In the meantime, the international rankings of Aussie players in the 3X3 format continue to rise, as will a sport which not only should be high on the teaching agenda for little hoopsters but also the prospect for old-timers for whom getting up and down a fullsize court is getting too arduous.

Played outdoors, it is a magnificent spectacle.

3X3 is the present FIBA has given us. CLB is the Santa to deliver it. Merry Christmas.

Dec 29

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.