United’s Felix faces early cut
BASKETBALL: Playoff-bound Melbourne United could be forced to dump Carrick Felix before the end of the NBL season.
The season-defining decision has been brought forward with star import Casey Prather on track to return from a dislocated elbow.
Felix has slotted into the starting line-up seamlessly after being signed as an injury replacement in December and helped United win 11 of their past 12 games.
Despite the record, Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman indicated he would stick with Prather - if medically cleared.
"If he ticks all the boxes, he will play," Vickerman said.
"He got through a good part of practice today and took some bumps on it and could weather that.
"We are getting him back into game shape but you look at the other side of it and we have won 11 out of 12 with Carrick in there and that's pretty important as well.
"We have some tough decisions to make."
NBL rules allow for three active imports on a roster at any one time.
"All being said, Casey is the guy we recruited at the start of the year and I have a strong belief in his ability," Vickerman said.
"If he is totally healthy and in great game shape then you would think we would go that way."
United would prefer Prather, who averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in 17 games, played before the playoffs.
But a 10-day international window at the end of the season, for Australia's leg of FIBA World Cup qualifiers, gives United some wriggle room to get Prather match fit on the practice court.
"It's not ideal but if we believe through that FIBA window that Prather is the best fit then I've got no problem with playing him," Vickerman said.
Prather could play off the bench, if needed, with ex-AFL rookie Craig Moller becoming a reliable defensive weapon.
Moller ate into Felix's court-time last Saturday night against Brisbane.
"We (Felix) had a good chat this morning about his role and what we saw against Brisbane and why we chose to go with Moller," Vickerman said.
With four games to play, Melbourne needs two wins to clinch the minor premiership and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
United will host New Zealand on Friday night at Hisense Arena before travelling across the Tasman for Sunday's return bout against the Breakers.