Basketball: Muted celebrations for Breakers

Kirk Penney of the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kirk Penney of the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Sarah Ivey

It wasn't really worth turning up after all - the New Zealand Breakers shunned the Australian National Basketball League's awards night and practically ended up empty-handed.

Despite the championship favourite's remarkable regular season the Auckland-based franchise was overlooked for both major individual accolades during a gala function in Melbourne tonight.

Andrej Lemanis missed out on the coach of the year award after guiding the side to an unprecedented 22-win 6-loss record; go-to shooting guard Kirk Penney also missed out on the most valuable player award to Wollongong's American import Gary Ervin.

Penney collected multiple MVP of the week awards as he averaged 20.1 points per game to spearhead the Breakers charge to the minor premiership - but missing the start of the Breakers campaign in October while he pursued his dream of playing in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs counted against him.

The MVP award is voted on a game-by-game basis by the coaches - Penney played 23 of a possible 28 games for the Breakers; rival guard Ervin, who also averaged 20.1 points per game missed only one match for the Hawks.

Penney, named MVP in the 2008-09 season, was not allowed to attend the awards, nor did Lemanis - who polled 36 votes to finish second behind Trevor Gleeson the mentor of fellow semifinalists Townsville.

American import Kevin Braswell was the only winner among the six Breakers nominees, he was named best sixth man in absentia.

Mika Vukona was denied the best defensive player award by Damian Martin of the Perth Wildcats - the duo go head to head on Thursday's opening semifinal clash at the North Shore Events Centre.

Dillon Boucher was also overlooked in the sixth man category while young Tall Black Tom Abercrombie missed out to former Breakers teammate Oscar Forman as the competition's most improved player.

Penney had the consolation of being named in the ANBL's first team alongside the Breakers American import Gary Wilkinson, who has enjoyed an impressive debut season at the club.

Meanwhile, Breakers chief executive Richard Clarke defended the decision to bar players and Lemanis from travelling to Melbourne, saying the overnight trip would disrupt preparations for the biggest match of the club's career against the reigning champions.

The Breakers and Wildcats may face sanctions after virtually snubbing the awards but Clarke was unapologetic.

"Frankly no team with the same desire to win facing the same schedule as us this week would do any different," said Clarke, who represented the Breakers with chairman Paul Blackwell.

The Perth Wildcats also refused to send their nominees across the continent before flying to New Zealand.

Wildcats chief executive Nick Marvin said head coach Rob Beveridge Martin and fellow guard Brad Robbins would remain in Perth.

"Our entire season could basically come down to this one away game, so I will let nothing get in between our team's preparation for that," he said.

ANBL award winners:-

MVP - Gary Ervin (Wollongong Hawks), Best Sixth Man - Kevin Braswell (New Zealand Breakers), Coach of the Year - Trevor Gleeson (Townsville Crocodiles), Best Defensive Player - Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats), Most Improved Player - Oscar Forman (Wollongong Hawks), Rookie of the Year - Ben Madgen (Sydney Kings).

All-NBL First Team - Julian Khazzouh (Sydney Kings), Kirk Penney (New Zealand Breakers), Gary Ervin (Wollongong Hawks), Gary Wilkinson (New Zealand Breakers), Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats).

- NZPA

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