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NBL carnage causes headaches for Basketball Australia

Basketball Australia is searching for a last-minute injury replacement for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Qualifying window, with Sydney Kings star Xavier Cooks a late withdrawal after suffering an ankle injury in a chaotic top-of-the-table game against the New Zealand Breakers on Sunday afternoon.

The injury follows the news that Perth Wildcats forward Luke Travers will also miss the trip to Kazakhstan due to load management. Travers' reason for withdrawing from the games stemmed from the completion of a heavy 18-month schedule that included NBA Summer League after being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, sources told ESPN.

"It looks like an ankle. Unfortunately, the Boomers are down to ten men now," Sydney head coach Chase Buford said after the Kings 81-77 win on Sunday afternoon.

"I saw they had another one out for load management and it's tough for those guys. I wish they could get some replacements but when it happens late like this there's nothing you can do.

"I'm sure (Cooks) will get x-rays, he gave me the 'I'll be okay in a few weeks', but that's probably going to be 2-4 weeks minimum."

It was a day of carnage overall at Spark Arena in Auckland, with first-round NBA draft prospect Rayan Rupert suffering a suspected broken wrist, while import big man Dererk Pardon also tweaked an ankle, before returning to the floor to complete the game.

"I don't know, I'm very worried. Fingers crossed everything is okay, he's on his way to get an x-ray," Breakers head coach Mody Maor said of Rupert.

"He landed poorly on his wrist; I hope it's nothing too bad. He's the best of kids, he deserves nothing bad to happen to him. Let's all just hope it's nothing serious."

The matchup was as physical as advertised with two of the best defensive squads in the league, with bodies flying on the floor throughout the afternoon. The game was halted on multiple occasions for wet spots on the floor, while the floor mopping staff was working overdrive to maintain a safe playing environment.

A competing player contacted ESPN postgame, commenting on the slippery surface throughout the afternoon.

"Every time bodies hit the ground it wasn't mopped up immediately or was poorly done," the player said. "We have kids wiping the floor when it should be volunteer adults or paid people. Xavier slips and rolls his ankle, Dererk slips and nearly messes his ankle up bad and then you have a first-round pick and great player in Rupert with a broken wrist.

"If that doesn't cause some sort of concern moving forward for all clubs, not just in New Zealand, then more players may be in jeopardy, which I hope doesn't happen."

Kings forward Justin Simon pointed to the physical nature of the game in regard to the status of the court.

"It's part of the game with guys diving to the floor. It was a tough game, it was a dogfight, that stuff is always going to happen," Simon said.

Cooks was unstoppable prior to the incident, posting 13 points and four rebounds in 13 minutes on perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the floor. Maor tipped his hat to Cooks, who has started the season as one of the league's MVP candidates.

"He has a unique combination of speed and skill combined with a very high basketball IQ. He has a knack of finding the right space and the right spot and every time you put him in a situation where there is a decision to make the ball goes to the right place," Maor explained.

"These are skills that you usually see in high level point guards. It's rare when you see it in a forward, that's what makes Xavier unique and I'm looking forward to playing against him again."

Although Cooks will not travel for national team duties, Dejan Vasiljevic left straight from the arena to the airport to meet the Boomers in Melbourne before travelling in the morning, while big man Tim Soares is headed to the United States to represent Brazil. For the Breakers, Alex McNaught will represent the Tall Blacks during the FIBA window.

"Honestly, I think playing for your country is one of the coolest things you can do as a basketballer, as an athlete," Buford said.

"To go represent your nation and your people, that's cool. Every opportunity they get to do that, I want them to go enjoy it and embrace it. The rest of us will enjoy a few days vacation, I'm heading to the beach myself. We have a few days off, we'll let the guys enjoy it and refresh."

The Kings and Breakers will now look to re-load post break, with Buford leaving a scary message for the rest of the league as the defending champs start the season with a 7-2 record.

"It's funny, I feel like we are really just scratching the surface with this group," Buford declared. "I feel (Derrick) Walton has so much more he's going to give as the season goes on, Justin (Simon) shows he can score he can do a lot of things and provides such a punch from his position and Tim (Soares) and Jordan (Hunter) are just finding their feet game after game. I think the balance on this team is really great, obviously we go as probably X takes us, but we've got great people around us. It's a fun team to be a part of."