WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A pro New Zealand basketball team are under heavy scrutiny due to off-court incidents that saw their top import sacked over an assault charge and a second player issue an apology following a report of disorderly behaviour on a flight home.
The New Zealand Breakers, four-times champions in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL), stood down American shooting guard Glen Rice Junior indefinitely on Monday, less than two weeks after he was signed as a replacement player.
Rice Jnr, the son of three-times NBA All Star Glen Rice, was arrested and charged with assault following an incident at an Auckland nightclub last Thursday and faces a court appearance on Wednesday.
After initially backing Rice Jnr as “innocent until proven guilty”, Breakers owner Matt Walsh said new information had come to light that required the 28-year-old former Georgia Tech basketballer be removed from the team.
“Regardless of the outcome of Glen’s court appearance, there is no denying he has let down the club, our fans and the New Zealand public after we gave him this lifeline,” Walsh said in a statement on Monday.
“I feel it is my duty to assist Glen in paying his accommodation, legal and medical costs while he remains in our country to settle his business.
“But I also have no option but to remove him from the team.”
Hours after the announcement, local media reported that Breakers forward Tom Vodanovich was met at Auckland airport by police after a report of disorderly behaviour on a flight home from a game in Perth on Sunday.
The New Zealand international was not charged but issued a public apology.
“I am mortified to have embarrassed the club and myself on the flight,” he said in a Breakers statement.
“I am particularly upset to have contributed to the perception there is a bad culture at the club, when it absolutely is not the case.”
Owner Walsh was unable to attend the away game against the Perth Wildcats having been suspended for two games by the NBL for a verbal clash with Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger following the Breakers’ defeat at South East Melbourne Phoenix on Nov. 9.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)