Guard Cedric Jackson 'no' to Breakers return
The New Zealand Breakers have suffered an early double-blow as they start the process of rebuilding from their hugely disappointing Australian NBL season.
The club confirmed after Friday night's insipid season-ending 95-83 defeat to the Cairns Taipans in front of 8000 fans at Vector Arena that a much-discussed return by Kiwi hoops superstar Kirk Penney was all but ruled out for next season because he wants to finish his studies in the US.
But the Sunday Star-Times understands the Breakers have also already had a knock-back from former import Cedric Jackson who rejected a potential deal to return next season in favour of continuing his career in Europe.
Jackson is fresh off an injury- plagued season in Slovenia and the Breakers had hoped he might be keen to return. Apparently not.
Penney's decision is disappointing, though coach Dean Vickerman indicated it remains very much on the radar. "It's going to happen soon, but it might not be next year," he said.
Breakers GM Richard Clarke confirmed Penney was "more than likely" to do the final semester required for his degree following the World Cup in Spain. He also said the player's return was "more a matter of when, than if".
But Jackson's knock-back will be a blow. Vickerman said it has become apparent the Breakers need an injection of "speed and athleticism" and Jackson would have ticked both those boxes.
Vickerman said after being swept by both Perth and Adelaide this season it became apparent the club lacked those key qualities.
"We gave up a lot of transition baskets against both those teams, and as we recruit we want to make sure we take care of that. We want to make sure we've got enough athletes and enough speed in the team to play at a high tempo."
Those comments must throw a major cloud over current import point guard Kerron Johnson whose numbers were solid (12.6ppg, 4.2apg, 2.9rpg) but his performances less so. The 23-year-old rookie pro lacked Jackson's decisiveness, and love of the big moments, and doesn't fill the need for speed and athleticism.
Johnson has a two-year option on his deal, and Clarke said decisions on both import spots would not be made until after a thorough review process.
The Breakers essentially have four roster spots to fill - the two imports, and those vacated by CJ Bruton and Casey Frank. Given Vickerman's comments, a less mobile player like Daryl Corletto might also be entitled to feel a little nervous. But it would be a surprise if Corletto was jettisoned while still on contract. He's been a loyal servant and a key part of the last two championships, and remains one of the best spot-up shooters.
Though the Breakers have cut contracted players before - Leon Henry and Jeremiah Trueman - Clarke indicated it was somewhat of a last resort.
The Breakers will also make a play for former academy player Rob Loe who is finishing up a successful career at the University of Saint Louis, but Clarke admitted the big Kiwi's NCAA heroics on Friday probably meant they had some competition there now.
Vickerman said he'd have a clearer idea on his potential roster make-up after the review process. "I know those top two teams were quicker than us, we struggled defensively, on the boards and in the post a little bit. They're some areas we've got to shore up."
BREAKING BAD THE RECORD / 11-17
Away: 3-11 / Home: 8-6
Tom Abercrombie (15.5ppg, 4.0rpg). Mika Vukona (11.3ppg, 7.8rpg) brought the most effort, but Abercrombie had more consistent impact with his athleticism and ability to create his shot.
A poor year for Dean Vickerman who, by his own admission, has to get better in his man management. But he's got to be given the chance to learn from his mistakes.
MOST COSTLY LOSS
It's hard to look past the cataclysmic home implosion with the lead and the ball late against Adelaide. It was a loss they never fully recovered from.
A healthy Alex Pledger would help. And a player like Southland Sharks import Brian Conklin is someone who could add a lot of value in the import big spot. Rob Loe's size and skill would also be invaluable.
Sunday Star Times