NZ Breakers sever ties with Corey Webster, accept ANBL rivals will now chase him hard
The New Zealand Breakers expect all seven Australian NBL rivals to go hard after Corey Webster after they made the decision to cut their problematic star loose for next season.
The club on Tuesday revealed its decision to sever ties with the talented Tall Blacks guard in the wake of his latest indiscretion, an assault charge which is still before the North Shore courts.
Breakers general manager Dillon Boucher said Webster had failed to live up to their "expectations" and "make the most of his opportunities" and they felt the best move for both club and player was for him to pursue other opportunities outside of New Zealand.
Boucher, a former team-mate of Webster's during his 10 seasons with the club which included three championships, said it had been a hard but necessary call to make.
"We felt it was better for Corey to maximise his basketball career by not being here," Boucher told Fairfax Media. "We felt like with the distractions around in New Zealand it would be better for him to further his career elsewhere, hopefully in Europe. But we want what's best for Corey in whatever situation comes up for him."
Asked if he had to be prepared for the possibility of Webster coming back to haunt his old team with, say, the Sydney Kings or Melbourne United, Boucher said they had to accept that as a "reality" of the situation.
"It could come back to be detrimental to us if he plays on a team against us, but we know that's what's going be best for Corey and we wish him the best fulfilling his dreams.
Fresh start, new challenges and vulnerability...that's where I grow and I love it.— Corey Webster (@cwebster9) March 20, 2017
"I think there will probably be seven [ANBL] clubs that want his signature. I'd say him and [Adelaide free-agent] Nathan Sobey would be the names on everyone's lips.
"We know it's a reality [if an ANBL team] snaps him up he's going to want to play well against us. It was like when Kirk [Penney] played for Illawarra, he would light us up and it would frustrate us. We didn't hold anything against Kirk, and Corey will be no different."
Webster had been a standout performer for the club since breaking into the top squad in 2008 and played in three championship-winning squads (2011, '13 and '15). But he was well down on form through the 2016-17 season (11.7ppg, 35%FG) before being shut down to deal with niggling injuries before Christmas.
"We certainly haven't cut him because he's not a good basketball player," added Boucher. "He didn't have a great season but that was due to his injuries and off-court distractions. The reality is there were a lot of distractions off the court and for us those distractions were real. That has to come into play when you're recruiting players.
"We feel Corey has the potential to be in the NBA, and he was right on the fringe there for a minute. We need him to get back to being that player."
The Breakers boss said he would not rule out re-signing Webster, now playing with Wellington's Saints in the Kiwi NBL, should the right situation come up in the future.
"The best-case scenario for us would be he goes away, grows, makes the NBA or the top level in Europe, and really thrives, and at the end of his career he wants to come home and finish in front of his family here.
"We definitely haven't ruled him out. We're parting ways very amicably and there are certainly no ill-feelings.
"We felt like he was probably comfortable here and he needs to be challenged by another coach and another environment where he can become the best basketball player he can be. If he knows there's a safety net for him here that's never going to push a guy to his full potential."
This is not the first time Webster has been let go by the Breakers. In 2011 the club terminated in his contract after he was suspended a year following a positive drugs test for synthetic cannabis.
But he was brought back on a three-year deal in 2012 after he demonstrated the right attitude and commitment during his year away from the game. This included a spell stacking shelves at the supermarket of club owner Paul Blackwell.
Webster responded to the news of his departure from the team by expressing optimism at the challenges ahead.
"Fresh start, new challenges and vulnerability...that's where I grow and I love it," he wrote on Twitter.
The Breakers said their priority was now in continuing negotiations with big man Rob Loe about a return to the team. They have six players already on contract in Alex Pledger, Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie, Kirk Penney, Finn Delany and Shea Ili.
"I know Rob enjoyed his first season with us, and he told us he wants to come back," added Boucher. "I'm fairly confident we'll be able get a deal done there. We just hope it will be sooner rather later, then we'll know we've got a good, core group of seven on the roster."