Penney, Abercrombie may cut Breakers links

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2011
Tom Abercrombie
BEN WATSON/Auckland Suburbans
FUTURES UP IN THE AIR: Young small forward Tom Abercrombie, along with star shooting guard Kirk Penney, may quit the Breakers after this season.

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The worst case scenario is that the NZ Breakers could lose both Kirk Penney and Tom Abercrombie at the end of this potentially historic Australian NBL season.

But the North Shore-based club remains optimistic that one or even both of their star Tall Blacks can be persuaded to stay on and continue to do special things in this part of the world.

Word is Penney and Abercrombie are both keen to expand their hoops horizons and take their talents to Europe or even the NBA if the big boys will have them.

Penney gave it a tilt with the Spurs this season, but came up short; while Abercrombie is enticed by the lure of the major leagues in Europe.

Penney, it's said, is contemplating one last shot at the big time as he continues to have his NBA ambitions thwarted.

The 30-year-old shooting guard is coming into an option year on his contract at the Breakers, while Abercrombie has a clause in his deal that would allow him to take up the right offer in Europe.

Further clouding matters is the probability of an NBA lockout occurring over the off-season as the new collective bargaining agreement appears destined for an impasse. It's thought that could crowd the European leagues with uncontracted players from the US, and limit opportunities there.

The Breakers say they will wait until the final act of their Australian NBL season plays out before they turn their attentions to re-contracting players for 2011-12 and beyond.

"We would want to have both of them in the team next year if possible, and at this stage we're reasonably confident we'll be able to do that," said Breakers general manager Richard Clarke.

"We have a good enough relationship with both of them. We can be pretty open with what their ambitions are. There hasn't been any actual discussion yet but we know they both enjoy it here and we'll certainly work with both of them in terms of those broader ambitions and the club's own ambitions."

If Penney and Abercrombie can be retained, the Breakers would be left with only the retiring Paul Henare's spot to fill, though as ever they won't confirm their imports until after "locals" are all confirmed.

It's almost certain the club will look to get Gary Wilkinson back again, while Kevin Braswell is also highly thought of at Atlas Place. CJ Bruton, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, Corey Webster and Dillon Boucher are all under contract for next year.

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Clarke confirmed the Breakers were working hard at adding the highly promising Steven Adams – younger brother of Olympic shot put champion Valerie – to their roster.

Adams is due to head to the University of Pittsburgh next year but Clarke said it was hoped he could fill one of the Breakers' development spots next season before he takes his shot at the NCAA.

"As far as we're aware, providing he's not paid, he's able do that. It would certainly help get him ready to join Pitt."

Clarke said the upcoming April playoffs, which could see as many as four games at the NSEC, would provide a much-needed financial spinoff for the club. The Breakers retain all money generated by ticket sales, less an NBL levy, and are hopeful of generating sellouts throughout. Offsetting that, most players have playoff bonuses in their contracts.

Clarke said playoff ticket offers would be going out to members this week and would be then made available to the general public once they, corporates and sponsors had had first dip. The Breakers are guaranteed No1 spot and thus home advantage in both best-of-three series. The semifinals will take place in the April 7-17 window with the finals set to run around Easter.

The good news for the Breakers is that their strong lobbying with the NBL has seen the home-away-home playoff format locked in.

Clarke viewed this as imperative. "You're not going to battle all season to finish first, then do double the travel of a lower qualifier. That just wouldn't be fair," he said.

Clarke also had an interesting observation after a recent trip to the US where he took in an LA Lakers match at the Staples Centre as well as the All Star game.

"It was very apparent players have a lot of confidence in officiating. They know exactly how it's going to be called and that it will be called the same way by all refs.

"If you can get to that point where it makes the game flow, it's a very enjoyable spectacle."

- Sunday Star Times

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