FORGET Lauren Jackson's return, Australian Opals legend Rachael Sporn says an improvement in discipline is needed immediately if the Canberra Capitals are to recover from Friday's nightmare loss to Sydney.
Sporn commentated on the 46-point loss for ABC TV, the second-biggest defeat in Canberra's history, and said she was ''bewildered'' at the Capitals' uncharacteristic lack of intensity.
''I think their endeavour was OK, it was just their discipline, it was the 1 per cent things,'' Sporn said on Saturday.
''Things they could control they didn't really take care of. You can have an off shooting night but you can still block out, you can still set your screens properly.
''There were times where the Canberra girls did put their body on the line, but Sydney put their body on the line more.
''I'm just surprised because [Canberra coach] Carrie Graf demands that. I'm bewildered as well what is going on.''
The loss followed last week's unexpected 74-59 home loss to Logan, where the Capitals trailed by 22 in the first half.
''Last week [fellow ABC commentator] Narelle Fletcher said, 'OK, look at this [Logan] game as the one where nothing goes right'. But to follow it up with [Friday's] game, it becomes a concern,'' Sporn said.
''I really hope they can get their focus back because they were looking a really competitive team the first few rounds, and it's looking pretty tough now.''
Sporn said the playing group needed to address its deficiencies immediately, and not rely on the possible injection of Lauren Jackson post-Christmas to be the quick fix.
''I don't know whether Lauren will play this season and hopefully she will, but they certainly can't rely on Lauren to save them,'' Sporn said.
''I think they can [make the finals] and of course it's going to go by other results.
''I can't see [top three sides] Bendigo, Dandenong and Adelaide changing, and because it's top four now it's even tougher.''
Sporn does not feel Opals head coach Graf, an assistant at national level when she was playing, is distracted by the uncertain future regarding her dual roles.
The Capitals began contract negotiations with her last week, and Basketball Australia is believed to be considering the merits of making the Opals post a stand-alone role. ''I think Graffy's too much of a professional to let those outside factors affect how she's coaching,'' Sporn said.
Capitals skipper Jess Bibby rated the Sydney loss ''a disaster'', and faces one of the biggest challenges of her career this week to instil confidence in the players before next weekend's West Coast-Adelaide road double.
Canberra is now two wins behind fourth-placed Bulleen, but Bibby said they could climb off the canvas and press for a finals berth.
''While it was a disaster, it doesn't end our season, it's not a position we can't get out of and we're still right there with a bunch of teams fighting for third and fourth,'' she said.
''It's probably good we are heading away, we get to be together a lot more and we can talk about different situations and what we want to achieve.''
Bibby said the Capitals remained a united unit, and there were no problems with morale.