Capitals star Lauren Jackson (injury) and coach Carrie Graf (personal reasons) will miss several matches. Photo: Graham Tidy
Their superstar is out ''indefinitely'' and their coach has flown home on the eve of the game, but the Canberra Capitals are confident they have the right people in place to cover the two big losses.
Star recruit Lauren Jackson is yet to play a game for the Capitals due to a ''chronic hamstring'' injury, and Canberra chief executive Tony Jackson, on Thursday, refused to put a time on her return and Basketball Australia said in a statement she would be out ''indefinitely''.
In a further blow, coach Carrie Graf had to fly to Melbourne for personal reasons and will miss at least three games.
Assistant coach Sandy Tomley will take over in her absence.
Tomley's first test will be against second-placed Adelaide Lightning at AIS Arena on Friday night, before travelling to Bendigo to play the top-placed Spirit on Sunday.
It's far from the ideal preparation for a weekend of big games, but Jackson was confident Tomley and fellow-assistant David Herbert were up to the task.
''Sandy brings an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience in her own right but also as an assistant to Carrie for many years,'' he said.
''She is a former Australian junior coach and is very familiar with the Capitals' program and players themselves.
''We have full confidence in Sandy's ability to steer the program in Carrie's absence and also the other assistant coach, David Herbert, who is a former WNBL coach of the year … so the program is in very, very safe hands.''
The ACT was abuzz when the Capitals signed Jackson on a $300,000 deal to play three of the next four seasons.
But with hectic WNBA and Olympic campaigns the star forward has spent more time in the Capitals' medical room than on the practice court.
There was so much interest in her return that even Basketball Australia sent out a press release on Thursday.
Jackson has been experiencing nerve and muscle pain and, despite a pain-killing injection, is still struggling to run.
''We want to ensure her recovery is thorough and her return to the WNBL is sustainable, so we'll absolutely be guided by the advice of her medical team as to when she should come back to the court,'' BA chief executive Kristina Keneally said.
Up against Opals and former Capitals power forward Suzy Batkovic, Canberra forward Brigitte Ardossi would have loved to have ''LJ'' out there.
But Ardossi is coming off her ''best statistical game'' with the Caps and will relish the chance to test herself against one of the best.
''It's always good when you can play any person who's got such colours that Suzy has,'' she said.
''[She's] coming back from the Olympics and the match-up is a challenge, but it's something I'm trying to aspire to do, so I'm excited.''
Meanwhile, Capitals skipper Jess Bibby will join Sally Shipard's Movember campaign tonight.
Shipard - a W-League star for Canberra United - is raising awareness and money for men's health by having a moustache drawn on her face every day during November.
But she will turn artist tonight and draw a mo on Bibby before the Capitals' clash with the Adelaide Lightning.
The Capitals are urging fans to donate and the supporter with the best mo will win the chance to sit on the Canberra bench with Lauren Jackson.