NZ Breakers upbeat latest import Kevin Dillard can lead late-season surge

Kevin Dillard is the third player to hold the mantle of Breakers starting point-guard in the 2016-17 season.
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Kevin Dillard is the third player to hold the mantle of Breakers starting point-guard in the 2016-17 season.

It is not something you hear often, a basketballer drawing comparisons with a rugby player.

For the stumbling NZ Breakers, though, these are far from normal circumstances.

Eighth and last on the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL) ladder, needing to win no less than six of their final eight games to be in playoff contention, the Auckland-based outfit are also onto their third starting point-guard of the season.

At least double that number have played the key position for the 8-12 club during their 2016-17 campaign.

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It is with good reason then, that a man who has played one game for the Breakers and been in the country less than a week has been the most talked about around the club ahead of their game against Sydney in Auckland on Friday.

Kevin Dillard has taken over at point guard after fellow US imports, first Ben Woodside and then his replacement David Stockton, departed with injury.

The team's most experienced professional, 36-year-old shooting guard Kirk Penney clearly spelt out just how important the Chicago native would be in their ability to make a late charge.

"In basketball the point-guard is like the coach on the floor," Penney said. "He's the guy who calls the plays and when that position keeps getting changed it's difficult.

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"It's the same as a first-five in rugby, it's that guy that's making a lot of the decisions. With our point-guard constantly changing, it seemed like every time we got into a rhythm with someone he went down.

"If Kevin can stay healthy and we can ride him out these next eight games that will be really good."

Youngster Shea Ili, who missed the first 11 games of the season with a back stress fracture, Australian ring-in Izzy Tueta and Corey Webster, who is out for the rest of the season to have hip surgery, have also run the point for the Breakers this season.

Penney admitted it had been difficult adjusting to so many different faces in the No 1 spot during the season, while head coach Paul Henare said it was something they were simply getting used to.

Dillard's integration into the Breakers system had been going well and they were trying not to overload him with information, Henare said.

And while the fact remained completing the dramatic turnaround they required to reach the playoffs, especially with such a new face calling the shots, was a very stiff challenge, the four-time champions were still full of belief.

Using the 2009-10 season, the season prior to the Breakers first title triumph, as an example, Penney said what they needed to achieve was absolutely within their reach.

"We just kept getting all this changeover and it was really difficult.

"[This season] reminds me a little bit of that but that year we won our last six games. We found really good rhythm and went for it and ending up missing the playoffs by about half a game

"Right now it is still in our control. If we can get a run going we'll very much have a chance to make the playoffs, and make some noise."

Much like the Breakers hope their fans will be doing plenty of at Vector Arena on Friday night.

 - Stuff

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