NBA wrangle a nice 'break' in Kirk Penney talks

GEOFF LONGLEY
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2011

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The New Zealand Breakers are more confident of retaining the services of marquee shooting guard Kirk Penney after the American NBA lockout.

Tall Black Penney has a clause in his Breakers contract which allows him to explore opportunities in Europe until August 1 by which time he must confirm with the Australian national league champions for another season.

New Zealand Breakers chief executive Richard Clarke said they were 90 per cent certain of having Penney back on the roster for next season. Once that decision was settled the Breakers could then confirm their imported players.

Last season they had Americans power forward Gary Wilkinson and point guard Kevin Braswell who they have been in talks with.

NBA team owners and the players union was unable to reach consensus on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement last week, which keeps all players off the court until a resolution.

With no jobs being signed in the NBA, many fringe players will now be chasing contracts for next season in Europe, making those leagues harder to get into.

Penney, who had a four-game stint with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2004, tried to break back into the NBA last season for the San Antonio Spurs after averaging 25 points a game for the Tall Blacks at the world championships in Turkey.

He left to trial at the start of the last Breakers season but was unsuccessful. Penney is in Europe at present visiting family, but Clarke said coach Andrej Lemanis was due to speak with him soon.

Meanwhile, the lockout is likely to have a silver lining for the Tall Black ahead of their Oceania Olympic qualifying series against Australia in September.

Star Australian centre Andrew Bogut, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, is now an unlikely starter for the three-match series in Australia from September 7-11.

Because of the lockout, the players are no longer entitled to many benefits, which includes the NBA's insurance cover, which Basketball Australia would use to insure Bogut for any upcoming international commitments, including the series against New Zealand.

As a result, the sport's governing body in Australia has not been able to secure the insurance to provide the guaranteed coverage of Bogut's multi-million dollar contract.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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