NZ Breakers admit to their own shortcomings
The Breakers have moved quickly to dampen suggestions their disappointing 9-14 record has anything to do with officiating in the Australian NBL.
The New Zealand club lost both away games over the weekend (88-68 to Wollongong on Friday and 96-92 in Adelaide on Sunday) to plunge to 9-14, making their playoff hopes, and quest for an historic fourth straight championship, extremely difficult now.
Guard Corey Webster was reported to have expressed his disquiet about the raw deal the club continues to get from referees via Twitter following their defeat in Wollongong. He subsequently removed the tweet.
The Breakers were called for 29 fouls in Wollongong, as opposed to 16 for the Hawks who shot 11 more free-throws. Three of their players also fouled out of the game.
That theme continued on Sunday when the Breakers had nine more fouls than the 36ers, gave up 12 more free-throws and had another three players foul out.
The North Shore-based outfit still have a chance of making the playoffs if they can win either four or five of their last five games (four of which are at home) and results elsewhere go their way, notably from the fifth-placed Hawks (10-13) and fourth Sydney Kings (11-11).
But it was heartening to hear assistant coach Paul Henare move quickly to dispel talk of conspiracy theories against the Kiwi club following the agonising defeat in Adelaide where Tom Abercrombie missed a three-pointer that would have won the game.
"It's a bad look to come out and start making excuses," Henare said. "We addressed that with Corey at the airport. We heard about it, and tried to nip that in the bud straight away. It was addressed as a team.
"We don't need excuses at this stage of the season, we need to come out and perform and do what we can to the best of our ability. It was pretty disappointing for him to come out and say something like that.
"When you're frustrated sometimes stuff comes out, and it's almost the first thing that comes into your head. In this stupid day and age of social media, how many stories have we seen with sports people getting themselves in trouble by expressing their views online?
"It's something we try and educate the guys about but it's a work in progress clearly."
There have long been suggestions the Breakers get the rough end of the stick from the mostly Australian referees in the league, but they were able to rise above it for three straight championships.
It's a bad look for murmurings to start now when they're playing some wildly inconsistent basketball. They are also often their own worst enemies when it comes to fouling.
Added Henare: "There have had to be adjustments this year with the change in interpretations, but the whole league has gone through it. Hopefully that's behind us now and can continue to look forward and keep adjusting - and by the foul count we saw [in Adelaide] we definitely need to make some adjustments."
Henare said the entire focus in the team now was on winning these last five games and putting the pressure back on the teams ahead of them on the standings.
"Everyone's talking now that our target is to get to 14-14. That's all we can worry about. Looking at 14-14 gives you a chance, and we're still a chance to get there, with four of the last five at home, and one away against Cairns. That's a pretty good opportunity."
The Breakers host the Townsville Crocs at the NSEC on Thursday and then travel to Cairns for a Saturday night clash. Guard Daryl Corletto will have his sprained ankle assessed this week.
Henare described the undermanned Crocs (with import Josh Pace suspended following a DUI charge) as a "danger" team.
"They beat Sydney at home the other night, and they're playing with a lot of freedom and confidence right now. It shouldn't take any gee-up speeches or a big week of training to make sure we're ready for this one."