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The Juggle is Real

Juggling so many stars was always going to be Paul Henare's biggest task upon assuming the head coach role with the New Zealand Breakers and if Corey Webster and Akil Mitchell keep accepting their place off the bench, he backs his team to be tough to stop. Henare has been groomed as Breakers coach since retiring following the 2011 NBL championship and after Andrej Lemanis and Dean Vickerman led the club to titles, he has big shoes to fill. But despite losing Cedric Jackson, Charles Jackson and Tai Wesley from last season's team that lost to the Perth Wildcats in the Grand Final, nobody can accuse Henare of not having enough talent to work with. That can create its own problems if everyone isn’t willing to accept their roles. But judging by the opening two Rounds, Henare has things well under control. The Breakers opened the season at Vector Arena beating Melbourne United before a two-point defeat on Friday night in a Grand Final rematch with the Wildcats. But New Zealand had a chance to force overtime with the game's lost shot not falling from the hands of Webster. While he didn’t get the chance to experiment before the season as much as he would have liked, Henare has been impressed the way that Webster and Mitchell especially handled coming off the bench with Kirk Penney and Alex Pledger earning the respective starting roles. "Obviously we would have liked to have had the opportunity to try things out in the pre-season and my grand master plan was to start different guys to see how they responded," Henare said. "But I thought especially for Corey he has showed a lot of maturity. He takes a lot of pride in being the starting two guard for a couple of years and playing some great basketball, so for him to be humble enough to not let it affect him, is massive for us." Webster has been one of the brightest stars and most prolific scorers in the NBL in recent years moving into the starting role after the departure of Penney following the 2011 championship. With Penney's return after a season with the Illawarra Hawks following time in Europe, he again has the starting role ahead of Webster at least for now. Henare hopes Webster keeps enjoying the Sixth Man role too because the potential at times of him providing the spark off the bench and even at times playing alongside Penney and Tom Abercrombie is a salivating one. "I think he already has his head around it. I wanted him to be pissed off with not starting, but in the right way and to use it the right way to come out and play," he said. "When Woody's off the floor, we want to see how Corey can go at the point for a few minutes and when he has done that so far he ran the team well and we continued to roll on. "It's one of those evolving things that will take time and obviously we're off to a good start, and we can make improvements from here." While Woodside, Webster, Penney and Abercrombie juggle their minutes, it's a similar story among the bigs with Pledger, Mika Vukona, Mitchell and Rob Loe. All four have played at least 14 minutes each in the opening two games against Melbourne and Perth showing good signs. Henare is looking forward to their chemistry continuing to grow. "I thought the bigs worked extremely well together. We've got four really good bigs there and it's like we just keep rolling them in and you have confidence they can come in and do the job," Henare said. "The discussions over who starts and who plays how many minutes is similar with the bigs as the guards, but thankfully they all just want to play well for their team. "If we can keep that formula throughout the season and for them to be happy for their teammates to go and do their thing, and knowing their time will come and they will have an important role to play. They've got a nice chemistry going right now so they need to keep that going." The impact that Loe had in 20 minutes against Melbourne was remarkable with the Breakers outscoring United by 30 points in that time. He added another seven points and five rebounds in Perth on Friday Henare expects nothing less from the Tall Black. "Rob Loe being plus-30 in 20 minutes is absolutely astounding to me, it's amazing. I've coached Robbie a long time now with the national team and have been around him a long time, and I have the highest expectation of him more than any other player," he said. "He is smart, he knows his game and he knows who he is as a player. You develop a level of trust because you know what you're going to get out of Robbie and he played out of his skin to open the season." One new arrival with some pressure on him is import point guard Woodside given he is replacing Cedric Jackson. He made a solid debut at home to Melbourne and then was improved further against the Wildcats. He stood up well to the defence of Perth captain Damian Martin and delivered six points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals. He is enjoying part of such a talented unit that he already feels has great chemistry. "There was a lot of build up to that first game so I was a little anxious to get out there and get the game going. But once the ball gets tipped up that's all aside and it felt good to get a win. It was a good first win for us," Woodside said. "I just think we have a great chemistry. Guys just want to come in and play for the team. Anyone off the bench is ready to play and if you get into foul trouble you know the next guy in will work his tail off for the team. We should hang our hat on that and keep that going."
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