Steve Deane: Good luck to Penney, but spare a thought for the Breakers

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Kirk Penney. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Kirk Penney. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

At least they won't have to worry about being favourites.

That's the only positive to come out of Kirk Penney's likely departure from the Breakers to chase his NBA dream. And that's stretching it.

Good luck to Penney. Every supporter of New Zealand basketball will hope he can crack the San Antonio Spurs' roster. He has the ability.

There is not a grain of ill will about Penney's move. The Breakers have been lucky to have him for the past three seasons. There's no doubt Penney could have earned a lot more money playing ball in bigger leagues.

Instead he chose home and the Breakers, and New Zealand basketball has been vastly better off for that decision.

But that doesn't change the fact his departure just three weeks before the season begins is a major spanner in the works for the Breakers.

Having ended last season on a six-game winning streak, the Breakers were confident they were on the right path.

Having spent the middle part of last season trying unsuccessfully to get Penney to play a certain way to fit into the team's systems, coach Andrej Lemanis eventually decided to get the team to play a way that suited Penney.

He freed up his superstar and the results were spectacular.

The decision to bring back American point guard Kevin Braswell was based on Penney also being part of the team. The club held off signing Braswell because it wanted to be as sure as possible that Penney would still be here. A good passer but not much of scorer, Braswell was a great foil for Penney.

Now there has to be a question mark as to whether he is the right player for a Penneyless team.

Penney had a clause in his contract stating he must be released if offered an NBA contract. The Breakers were under no obligation to release him simply for a trial, but they were never going to stand in his way.

The worst thing for the club is the uncertainty. Penney could discover his fate as late as October 28, when the NBA season starts.

If he doesn't make the cut, he will return to the Breakers having missed just three games.

Given that prospect, the Breakers have their hands tied.

There are quality replacements on the market, such as classy Aussie Mark Worthington. But by the time the Breakers could make a move, the likes of Worthington will have been snapped up by other clubs.

The default plan is to go with what they have got and hope that the likes of much-improved Tall Blacks stars Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona can carry the club or that Penney returns if they can't.

If neither of those optimistic scenarios work out, the club will be chasing its backside very early in the season.

Either way, a team that entered last season as title favourites but didn't even make the playoffs certainly won't be overburdened with expectations this time around.

- NZ Herald

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