United superstar Prather to undergo surgery
MELBOURNE United has been dealt a blow for Thursday's inaugural Throwdown with classy shooting guard Casey Prather sidelined for up to three weeks.
Prather, who pulled up with a sore knee after a hard session early in the week, had scans that confirmed a need for "minor surgery".
Prather will miss clashes against South East Melbourne Phoenix and Perth Wildcats on Saturday.
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He also won't travel with the team to the US for NBA pre-season games, and will aim to return for United's next home game in Round 3.
Melbourne has signed Dillon Stith as an injury replacement for Prather.
Stith, who has been involved in the United system before, most recently led McKinnon Cougars to the Big V Championship and collected league most valuable player honours.
In a double blow for last year's grand finalist, which opens the NBL season tonight at Melbourne Arena against expansion team South East Melbourne, veteran David Barlow has been ruled out with a thumb injury.
Barlow will also not travel to Perth for the grand final rematch and "at this stage" is likely to miss the whirlwind trip to Los Angeles for games against LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings on October 14 and 17 respectively.
Phoenix has injury concerns of its own with Tai Wesley (hamstring) seen walking out of the State Basketball Centre on crutches this week.
Veteran Adam Gibson (calf) has been ruled out, as has potential NBA draft pick Terry Armstrong (foot).
Despite the absence of Prather and Barlow, United remains well equipped in the bigs department after New Zealand international Tohi Smith-Milner and NBL rookie Jo Lual-Acuil caught coach Dean Vickerman's eye in the pre-season.
South Sudanese-Australian Lual-Acuil, 25, played professionally in Israel last year after graduating from college in America.
"Everyone has played in our league except Jo, and every time he has had a chance to play 20 minutes or more in pre-season, he has averaged about 18 (points) and eight (rebounds)," Vickerman said yesterday.
"He's going to play good minutes tomorrow and Tohi is playing the best basketball we've ever seen from him.
"He had a great World Cup with New Zealand and followed that form with a great (pre-season) game in Adelaide (last Friday night).''