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Reborn Bullets set to welcome NBL rivals

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Brisbane Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis expects to learn a little more about where his side sits in the NBL's pecking order in a revamped Australian Basketball Challenge.

The four-day pre-season tournament kicks off on Friday at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, bringing together all eight NBL franchises plus two teams from China.

The reborn Bullets have been drawn to face the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, Sydney Kings and Cairns Taipans in their first official tournament in eight years.

Wooden-spooners last season, the Kings have a new coach in Australian basketball great Andrew Gaze, big-name imports in US pair Greg Whittington and Michael Bryson and an undefeated four-game tour of China to their name.

They are among a handful of teams expected to contend for the title, along with reigning champions Perth and a re-tooled Melbourne United.

Not every side will be in it to win the Loggins-Bruton Cup, with most teams expected to hold their cards close to their chest on the eve of the new NBL campaign and treat the tournament as pure preparation.

But Lemanis said: "You learn something."

"You get a little bit of an understanding, particularly of the new imports and what they might bring and how teams are going to play.

"Teams generally play their style - they are who they are at this stage of the year.

"Different teams use it for different things but you certainly get a good feel of where everyone's at."

With teams now allowed three imports on their roster, there are 15 new imports in the NBL this season, Cairns the only team with an all-new foreign legion having signed former NCAA stars Travis Trice, Fuquan Edwin and Nnanna Egwu.

Returning Wildcats star Casey Prather shapes as the headline attraction after falling just short of an NBA contract, claiming he "upgraded" his entire attacking arsenal during an encouraging Summer League stint with Dallas in the off-season.

Sydney also snared reigning NBL MVP and Boomers guard Kevin Lisch from Illawarra.

"You look down all the rosters and I think that's one of the exciting things about the NBL this year, is everyone's got an opportunity to win it," Lemanis said.

"Melbourne and Sydney have certainly loaded up, and they'd suggest they'd be early favourites, but Perth is returning champions and haven't missed a playoff for 35 years.

"New Zealand's good, we'll be good, Adelaide's retooled - it's going to be one hell of a competition, I think."

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