Sydney Kings to fight like those who beat ‘violet crumbles’ tag, says Tom Garlepp

Lessons from the past: Tom Garlepp wants the Sydney Kings to learn from the hard times the club has previously endured. Photo: Hannah PetersThe best way the struggling Kings can honour their final game at the Sydney Entertainment Centre is to channel the determination of those who wore purple and gold before them.

The assignment can hardly be more difficult. After a 96-84 loss to the New Zealand Breakers across the Tasman, they return to play the powerhouse Perth Wildcats on Sunday before travelling to take on high-flying Melbourne United on Wednesday.

Wins will restore confidence to the last-placed side, but the game against the Wildcats will have a special edge, as it is the last game at the venue affectionately known as the Kingdome.

“I think the last game at this arena for me just means being able to represent a club that has a lot of history there,” said forward Tom Garlepp, who is in his fourth season at the club.

“They won three championships all at that venue, they really changed, got over that hump of the ‘violet crumble’ tag. A lot of old Kings, ex-Kings and people who talk fondly about [club founder Mike] Wrublewski … that’s who we’re representing.

“We’ve got to understand that we’re representing some times that were really hard for people, times that the people at the club overcame.

“A lot of ex-Kings and people attached to the club wear that as a badge of honour and for us, in this last game, we really have to represent that the right way, play as hard as we can. That’s the way to honour this last game. That’s what it means to me.”

On a personal level, Garlepp wants to show his appreciation to a club he says has been good to him and has given him the opportunity to “grow as a player and a person”.

But a more immediate concern is to get the Kings back in the winner’s circle amid a disappointing season.

“We’re not shocked,” Garlepp said of the players’ response to their 3-11 campaign.

“There are some things that we understand have contributed to it. We haven’t accepted what’s happened willingly, but we’ve been without two starters for the majority of the year, [Josh] Childress and [Steven] Markovic, so there are things there that are completely out of our control. I think a lot of people have failed to mention that.

“There have been things going on but, at the same time, we’re professionals, you’ve got to get the job done and we’ve haven’t. We have to accept that as well, take a lot of responsibility and just try to keep improving.”

The Kings showed some good signs in pushing the Breakers and Garlepp said there was “definitely a strategy that we took into the game” and could gain some confidence under new coach, former Washington Wizards assistant Joe Connelly.

“There’s been a bit of personnel change and a new coach. We’ve had to up our conditioning a bit more at training. I think that’s good in the long run. Joe’s been a positive influence on the group. He’s done a good job with that.

“Perth are a quality team and you’ve got to enjoy playing the best. They’re deep and they’ve got Boomer talent and some good Americans. It’s a good challenge. But I think we’ll be OK.”

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