‘Line in the sand’: 36ers’ boss sets record straight

    On the back of a sputtering 6-8 start where a disruptive import caused bitter internal dissension among players and staff, Sixers chief executive Nic Barbato has revealed the whole club, earlier this month, pulled together to wipe the slate clean.In a wide-ranging interview, Barbato set the record straight on Sydney Kings’ part-owner Andrew Bogut’s claims the Sixers were the NBL’s new cash kings, shed more light on the difficult situation the club found itself in with sacked import Craig Randall and revealed Adelaide’s off-court boom.WE TRIED WITH CRAIGIt’s fair to say, the Sixers would like to put the Craig Randall issue to bed and move on with new import Ian Clark.But a documentary, released last week, put the focus back on the selfishness, temper tantrums and bickering the talented American brought to the group.Barbato said the Sixers did their homework and knew the baggage that could come with the 26-year-old scoring machine but tried everything they could to make it work.If you saw Randall explode for 35 points and nine three pointers to help Adelaide become the first NBL team to defeat an NBA team, you couldn’t blame the Sixers for taking a punt on such a prodigious talent. “It was a risk that we took and it didn’t quite eventuate the way we wanted it to,” Barbato told News Corp.“(Coach) CJ (Bruton) made the call in terms of ‘let’s get this guy in, he’s really, really talented and we’ll see whether we can make this work’ and we backed him on that.“There was always that question mark and, obviously, going to Phoenix and seeing the performance there, we were like ‘this is tremendous, if only he can stay in this lane and stay in this mindset’ but that wasn’t in the works, so we made that call (to part ways).”The Sixers took six weeks to lure their replacement for Randall and Barbato says NBA champion Clark has already become a strong presence in the locker room.“From the short amount of time he’s been here, he’s been tremendous in his leadership, he’s got a winning mentality and he’ll bring that to our team going forward,” he said.“In the small interactions that I’ve seen while Ian’s been here, everyone listens to him, he has great input into the team in terms of what he sees and what we need to do going forward.”SYDNEY’S OBSESSIONThe Sixers are on the map in Sydney.Earlier this year, Kings’ owner Paul Smith took a cheeky dig when he branded them the ‘Golden State Warriors’ in the wake of the pre-season hype train.The Sixers had the last laugh when they pulled off a thrilling round-four win in Sydney.Last week, Bogut said Adelaide was the biggest-spending club in the league and it was “championship or bust” in the City of Churches.It’s been a one-way dialogue between the two rivals — until now — but Barbato says he doesn’t understand the Kings’ “fascination” with his organisation — and the Sixers want to win the championship every season. “For some reason, they love to talk about us a bit,” he said.“First, we were the Golden State Warriors, and now we’re the biggest spenders in the league.“I’m not sure of their fascination about us but we’re not privy to what other clubs spend and nor do we ever want to speculate.”He said the Kings were among the teams at the top for a reason — another roadblock the Sixers had to conquer if they were to achieve the ultimate goal.The two teams meet in the last round of the season in the Sixers’ house in a blockbuster rivalry game that attract a record crowd for an Adelaide home game.THE MONEY THINGBarbato did acknowledge the Sixers were spending more on player wages than they did last season but said that had been offset by a huge jump in revenue and a restructure in the basketball department.“Our club revenues have more than doubled over the last 18 months and sponsorship is up by over 200 per cent,” he said.“We’ve rejigged a whole lot of the basketball spend and (it) is less than 10 per cent higher than what it was last year.“Last year we had a Next Star in Mojave King, this year we don’t have Next Star, so while that doesn’t go in the cap, it was an expensive exercise for us.”He said some of the basketball department’s operational savings had been redirected into player wages. He refuted claims Clark was earning US$50,000 net per month and said the American’s wage was offset by the money saved on Randall’s early departure: “it wasn’t as if we paid out that contract, it was a clean break.”Barbato said there was an expectation from fans that the club did everything in its power to compete for a title.The 36ers’ faithful is voting with its feet, a recognition the club is on the right path.Amid a record membership figure approaching 5000, the largest crowd in the club’s 40-year history — 9071 — watched it take on Perth on November 5 and average attendance at Adelaide Entertainment Centre is almost 7500 per night. It’s safe to say, the Sixers are one of the hottest tickets in town.SO FAR, SO GOODThe honest conversation has led to a three-game winning streak and, now with a positive win-loss ledger at 9-8, it’s put the 36ers back in the finals race — with Clark set to be injected into the mix on Thursday night against Brisbane.“We all got together … and reflected on all of our performances. Myself, the players, the coaches,” he said.“We put our views forward and we all took responsibility for where we are at.“We were not happy with our performance for the first half and we just need to put everything right.“We’ve got so much talent in our team, if we can make this work and make it click in the second half (of the season), then we’re going to be dangerous and make a tilt for the title.”Winning is often a cure to all ills but Barbato said the meeting had strengthened relations between the front office and playing group and energy levels within the Sixers’ camp had lifted.“(The players) had their input and the positive communication is noticeably better. The team culture is shifting,” he said.Adelaide this week, faces a huge test, hosting, on Thursday, a Brisbane Bullets team that has had its own on and off-court issues, but is finding some health, before backing up 48 hours later against Cairns on New Year’s Eve.

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