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Kings gazing into a clouded future

AAP logoAAP 23/12/2016 Tim Keeble

Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze is fearful of player burnout becoming an ongoing issue for some of his stars in the run to the NBL finals.

Two-time Olympian Brad Newley (toe injury) sat out Friday night's 87-75 home loss to Illawarra, while key players Kevin Lisch, Greg Whittington and Jason Cadee have been shouldering heavy workloads.

Sydney had to release former NBA player Steve Blake a month ago after a family member became seriously ill, while experienced centre Julian Khazzouh's hopes of returning from a 12-month injury lay-off were buried last week when he was ruled out for the season.

Freshly-signed import Garrett Jackson was solid on debut against the Hawks, but with eight games remaining, Sydney are under pressure to regain the form that had them in top spot for the first half of the season.

Friday's loss was the Kings' seventh in their past 10 games and left them clinging to third spot with a 10-10 record.

"I'm playing some of these guys a lot of minutes and perhaps down the stretch in games it's taking it's toll," Gaze said.

"I need to look at that and see if that's something we need to reassess. We need to figure out our rotations because it's clearly not working at the moment."

Newley is no certainty to be fit for Sydney's home game against New Zealand on December 30.

"I don't exactly know what the diagnosis is but it's very swollen and quite painful," Gaze said.

"We need him. He's a big part of what we're doing and he's having a great season."

The Hawks (10-8) are second on the ladder and host slumping titleholders Perth on New Year's Eve.

"You can't underestimate a wounded bull. They are super desperate," Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said of the Wildcats.

"We've just had four tough road games and won three of them. But we can't get complacent just because we've got seven out of our last 10 at home. Once we get back into it after the Christmas break we want to go to another level."

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