Kings star Didi Louzada is shaping up to be the NBL's next NBA success story after single-handedly taking Sydney to victory in the dying minutes of Saturday night’s opening finals series match against Melbourne United.
After laying relatively low throughout the entire match, Louzada swooped in where it counted, nailing a three-pointer with just 40 seconds left in the game just metres away from NBA Pelicans president David Griffin.
Kings co-owner Paul Kind said Griffin came to Sydney to see how the Brazillian was tracking under the Kings, with the 20-year-old looking likely to join the Pelicans’ roster in the next two years. Credit:Getty
Kings co-owner Paul Kind said Griffin came to Sydney to see how the Brazilian was tracking, with the 20-year-old looking likely to join the Pelicans' roster in the next two years.
"His simple statement was – in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line, he stood up," Kind said.
A draft-and-stash signing for the Pelicans in 2019, New Orleans retained the rights to Louzada as he signed with the Kings in July.
As a result of the three-pointer, the Kings believe Louzada will be heading to the United States after the NBL season to join the Pelicans in their summer league. The question is now whether he will return.
"I would assume that he will be part of [the summer league]," Kings chief executive Chris Pongrass said. "A big part of why the Pelicans are so comfortable with having him stashed down here … is because this is a great place for him to develop and be ready for the NBA. Alternatively, it's up to the Pelicans as to when they call him up and whether that will be next season."
Having another NBL player head to the NBA would be huge for the growth of the local league, Kind said, especially for the Kings, who managed the biggest crowds in history during the 2019-2020 regular season.
"If Didi is playing for the Pelicans in two years' time, and people connect him to the Kings, then that's going to draw more and more fans into the NBL," Kind said.
Not only was Louzada brought over to develop his basketball, he was also brought to Australia in an effort to improve his English skills. Louzada spoke no English when he arrived to the club in October.
"He gets tutoring multiple times a week and then we essentially have JP, his translator, with us on game days just as a backstop in case he needs further clarification," Pongrass said. "The way we've seen him develop this season we've needed him less and less because his English has come so far."
The Kings take on Melbourne United again on Monday night in the second game of their best-of-three series.
Head coach Will Weaver is adamant Casper Ware will not be shaken by playing his old team at home after Melbourne applied a mountain of pressure on the 30-year-old on Saturday night.
"The best thing about Casper is he measures his performance on whether his team has won and lost. Even in the fourth quarter there was no doubt he would be making those couple of baskets to take us home," Weaver said. "[Melbourne] know from experience how dangerous of a scorer he is."
"In general, our mindset to begin the game [on Saturday] was strong and appropriate and will hold us in good stead. Melbourne will be loose and free at home … and by no means do we take them lightly."
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