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Hawks hit back at Clarke NBL critics

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016 Matt Encarnacion

Rotnei Clarke of the Illawara Hawks passes the ball during the round six NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Illawarra Hawks at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on November 12, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images) © Morne de Klerk/Getty Images Rotnei Clarke of the Illawara Hawks passes the ball during the round six NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Illawarra Hawks at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on November 12, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images) Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge has hit back at critics calling for the sacking of import Rotnei Clarke and backed a return to his MVP-winning form.

Former NBL stars James Harvey and Chris Anstey have led a chorus of calls for Clarke's head after a subpar beginning to the NBL season that had the Hawks in last place after a month.

They have improved to fifth with four wins and five losses heading into an important double-header against the third-placed New Zealand Breakers this week.

The Breakers (5-4) are the home team on Friday before the teams meet again two days later in Wollongong.

Clarke is averaging 13 points on 39 per cent shooting after nine games this season, well below the 21 points on 46 per cent shooting he enjoyed in his MVP season in 2013-14.

However Beveridge has refused to follow a growing trend of NBL clubs quick to pull the trigger on their underperforming imports, opting to stay patient with the 27-year-old American.

"I don't think that I'm of a culture that wants to threaten players to perform," Beveridge told AAP.

"I listen to James Harvey on TV and Chris Anstey's tweeting, saying, 'Rotnei should be gone, they should be replacing him because other teams are getting rid of their imports.'

"But I just don't operate that way. We're going to back these guys, we're going to work with what we've got because we do have a very good team."

Beveridge admits Clarke has struggled with the increased scrutiny that has followed his heralded homecoming to Wollongong after a two-year stint in Europe.

But he remains confident Clarke will find another gear as the season progresses.

"I know he'll get better because he's too good a player not to shoot the ball well. At the moment he's below 30 per cent from three, but he's one of the best shooters I've ever seen."

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