Success has been the catalyst for the Perth Wildcats throughout their 41-year history. 10 Championships, a winning culture, and legendary icons of the franchise. That says it all.
Now though, for the first time in a long time, the Wildcats are the underdogs, but in a good way. Last season, no one saw coming the team's historic 35 consecutive playoff appearances come to agonising end. Only those outside would relish that day of April 24, 2022.
Fast-forward nearly eight months, the Wildcats have completely undergone significant changes. New ownership currently in its second season under Craig Hutchison and a new coach, John Rillie. So far it has had its ups and downs.
From diehard Wildcats fans expressing their frustration at thefranchise's hierarchy for missing the postseason completely, the abolishment of the traditional "We will rock you" at the start of Wildcats games and Wolfmother's iconic hit "Joker and the Thief" at RAC Arena. You can't eradicate those important elements.
On the court, the Wildcats are starting to motor. After a five-game skid from October 14 to November 3, the side has won six of its last nine, including four of five. However, this recent turnaround is of more significance and one the whole squad can look back on if it makes the postseason for the 36th time in 37 seasons.
It's because two highly-prized additions are finding their feet and winning away from RAC Arena (5-4). Those two are former New Zealand Breaker Corey Webster and big man TaShawn Thomas.
After coming off the bench in the first 12 games, it would only take one game for Webster against his former side to show why he is a champion of the game. Webster torched his way to a 26-point performance hitting shot after shot. None more important than his fadeaway jumper in the game's final minute to put the icing on the cake. At least it made the Breakers' social media team eat some humble pie for their unclassy post on Webster's return.
If his stellar performance had rejuvenated the Wildcats, then the next outing against Melbourne United would be even better. Basically gone for all money after trailing by seven in the final minute, the sharpshooter came through with what every basketballer dreams of - hitting the game-winner.
Despite going scoreless against Cairns, Webster has been a key imprint as to why there has been much eagerness to pair him alongside Bryce Cotton in the backcourt. It's the perfect 'Batman and Robin' combination. During its four-game winning streak, Webster averaged 17 points on 52.9% shooting and a blazing 44.4% from distance.
By inserting the gifted scorer alongside the two-time MVP Cotton, it has significantly taken the pressure off Bryce to consistently score. At times this season, Cotton has looked considerably tired, particularly in second halves. But now, Bryce won't have to shoulder the majority of the scoring with Brady Manek getting into his offensive stride after a slow start.
Whether Webster's insertion into the starting five has been the further sprinkle into TaShawn Thomas' excellent recent play we'll never know. Thomas' production during the Wildcats surge has been important.
He averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4 assists on 58.7 per cent from the field in 28.5 minutes of action in the Wildcats' quartet of wins. His tremendous passing for a big man is an underlying value the Wildcats have been using to great effect. Whether it be passing out from double-teams in the low post to kick it out to either Cotton or Webster on the perimeter to find a cutting Manek for a dunk, it's all prized ammunition in the Wildcats' arsenal.
With the team building momentum, there is a glaring weakness which by far is such an important element in basketball. That is rebounding. The Wildcats sit dead last for rebounds per game (36.7), behind the second-worst rebounding team, the Tasmania JackJumpers.
Right from the opening game of the season against the Brisbane Bullets, securing the backboards continues to be an Achilles' heel for the Wildcats. The side has only won one rebounding count in 16 contests - coming in its recent encounter against the Cairns Taipans. Not to mention, in a game against the Adelaide 36ers, they gave up nine offensive rebounds to point guard Mitch McCarron.
Despite this flaw, there are some lineup adjustments during games in which the Wildcats can go big to combat the opposition on the glass. Perhaps inserting Majok Majok at the centre position, sliding TaShawn Thomas to power forward, Brady Manek to small forward, Luke Travers to shooting guard, and either Cotton or Webster at the point can at least breakeven.
Although last night the Wildcats had its best rebounding effort all season, winning the glass by plus eight over the Bullets despite going down for a second consecutive overtime.
It's well worth a try in the remaining 12 regular season games. Because there are going to be challenges ahead if they are to either face the South East Melbourne Phoenix with Alan Williams and Mitch Creek, Cairns Taipans with Keanu Pinder, and the Adelaide 36ers with Robert Franks, Daniel Johnson, and Kai Sotto in the play-in tournament.
With nearly three-fifths of NBL23 complete, the Wildcats should not be left out of the conversation. The defence - a driving force behind its championship pedigree is starting to turn a corner. It might have taken some adjusting to Rillie's game plan at the start, but now the team is beginning to gel at the right time.