Variety of reasons Breakers have struggled

Shawn Long, Corey Webster and Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers look dejected as they walk off...
Shawn Long, Corey Webster and Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers look dejected as they walk off the court in Perth late last year. Photo: Getty Images
Once a constant force in the ANBL, the New Zealand Breakers find themselves second-last on this year’s table. As the team prepares to play the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong tonight, Jeff Cheshire looks at why the team has struggled this season.

Better competition

Simply put, other teams have improved in recent years. There are no easy games and the top three - Sydney, Melbourne and Perth - are genuinely high-class teams that the ANBL did not have five years ago. The Breakers still boast plenty of talent, as does the rest of the league, but those top three are on another level talent-wise.

Tough draw

An 8-10 win-loss record is not great, but it is not as bad as it looks. Eight of those losses have been against the top three teams. Against the other four they have six wins from eight games. Of the 10 games remaining, only two are against top three teams. On top of that they have played two fewer games than most sides. While they are three wins behind fourth-placed Brisbane, that could become one after they have caught up on games. It has been a tough start, but it is a much easier run from here.

Foul factor

Playing effective, clean defence is arguably the hardest thing to do in modern basketball. Failing to do so not only hurts you at the defensive end, it can leave your best players out of the game in foul trouble. That has been big for the Breakers, notably for star import Shawn Long. The big man is a monster when he stays out of foul trouble. He has been doing that of late and his scoring and rebounding ability have been huge in the side finding its winning ways.

Webster underwhelming

If the Breakers are to contend with the top teams, they need a fully firing Corey Webster. There is no doubting his talent and he has the ability to win games. However, he has been plagued by injury and a lack of form this season. His scoring has dipped and shot selection has been questionable, not things you want from your go-to perimeter option. The Breakers have seen glimpses of his best at times through the years, but the reality is he has played much of his best basketball outside of New Zealand.

Adjustment period

After years of stability, this season the Breakers have a new coach, a largely new-look roster and a new management team. That was not always going to click straight away. After slumping to a 4-8 record early in December, the side has now won four of its past six games. Included in those was an impressive win over the Perth Wildcats, its first against a top-three side since October 14.

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