NZ Breakers put out of their misery by Kings
After what's seemed like months clinging to an ANBL playoff lifeline, the Breakers have finally been put out of their misery.
After Sunday's 100-90 victory by Sydney Kings over a flat Adelaide 36ers outfit, the Breakers can officially no longer finish in the top four.
The Kings' victory puts them level with the Wollongong Hawks in fourth place on 12-14, and with the two clubs meeting on Friday night the winner will advance to 13-14 and will be out of the Breakers' reach.
The 11-16 New Zealand club hosts the Cairns Taipans at Vector Arena on Friday night in their season finale which is also CJ Bruton's last game after a glittering six-year career at the club that netted three straight championships between 2010-13.
The club is hoping to fill the downtown Auckland arena to celebrate Bruton's career, and are offering special ticket packages to entice fans. They will be wearing a one-off "CJ" playing singlet to mark the occasion.
The Breakers will be desperate to farewell Bruton in style, though they'll be bitterly disappointed to have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10.
The reality is after such a patchy season, where they've never really found a consistent vein of form, the threepeat champions don't deserve a shot at an historic fourth straight title.
The long-term injury to starting centre Alex Pledger hasn't helped, but the Breakers never came to terms with the personnel changes they had to make following the retirement of stalwart forward Dillon Boucher and MVP point guard Cedric Jackson, as well as the departure of head coach Andrej Lemanis.
They won only three games on the road all season and also dropped five at home during a campaign where they struggled with the league's new clampdown on physical defending.
The Breakers will now look to make some major personnel moves, with four roster spots to fill, including both imports.
It's understood that star Tall Black Kirk Penney is keen on a return home to round out his storied career, and finding room for him will be a priority over the off-season.
It's understood the club has also already approached Jackson about a possible return to fill the import point guard role.
The Breakers will also have to weigh up whether to bring back the popular Gary Wilkinson as the import big man, or to go in a different direction.
They're also likely to make a strong play for Tall Black and North Shore local Rob Loe who finishes at Saint Louis University this year.