Basketball: Henare's bold call pays off in Breakers opener

By Kris Shannon

Corey Webster of the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Getty
Corey Webster of the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Getty

It's not exactly how a rookie coach would typically draw it up - make last season's leading scorer "pissed off" before the new campaign even tips off.

But for Paul Henare and the Breakers, potentially upsetting Corey Webster produced the right result in Friday's season-opener against Melbourne United.

The coach took all of one game to make the first big call of his tenure, dropping Webster to the bench in favour of returning favourite Kirk Penney. The veteran's inclusion was hardly controversial but the relegation of Webster came as a surprise, given his influence on the Breakers in the last two years.

But with Henare seeking a reaction from Webster, the move was one factor that added up to an encouraging victory as the spurned guard delivered eight-straight points in a pivotal fourth-quarter stretch that lifted his side past the team many have tipped for the title.

"I wanted him to be pissed off with not starting," Henare said. "But I wanted him to be pissed off in the right way and use it the right way, to come out and play."

Webster initially struggled to make much of an impact but, as he has done time and again for the Breakers, the man once referred to as the microwave warmed up at the perfect time and finished with 11 points.

Penney, meanwhile, added nine after shooting three-of-12 from the floor and, considering the two shooting guards will both expect greater outputs as the season progresses, it's a pair that promises to give the Breakers a serious offensive edge.

Providing, of course, they can both remain in the right mood. Penney and Webster played almost identical minutes at Vector Arena and, having been denied an opportunity to experiment during an injury-hit pre-season, Henare insisted his starting plan was flexible.

"It's one of those evolving things that will take time," he said. "My grand master plan for the pre-season games was to start different guys and see how different guys responded. So we're not locked into it, but Corey showed a lot of maturity.

"That's something he takes a lot of pride in, being the starting two guard for a couple of years and playing some great basketball. For him to be humble enough to come out and not let it affect him, I thought he made some massive plays for us.

"We could adjust it during the season but, in terms of minutes, I like the fact we didn't play anyone over 30 minutes. Everyone got a decent hit out."

It also aids Henare's options that Penney can move up to small forward while Webster is comfortable running the point when new import Ben Woodside needs a rest, a reshuffle the Breakers utilised effectively against Melbourne.

Said Henare: "That's something we really haven't had a chance to do in the pre-season, either - when Woody's off the floor, finding him a few minutes at the point. I thought when he was at the point he ran the team really well and we continued to roll on."

- NZ Herald

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