Under-fire New Zealand Breakers owner Matt Walsh is questioning his own judgment at signing Glen Rice Jr. and concedes the US import’s NBL stint could be over after two games.
Former NBA guard Rice is to face charges in an Auckland court on Wednesday, having been arrested over an alleged assault with intent to injure in a late night incident last week.
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The NBL ordered the Breakers to pull the 28-year-old out of Sunday’s road loss to Perth Wildcats, having become the subject of investigation by the Basketball Australia integrity unit.
On Monday afternoon, the Breakers announced that they had suspended Rice indefinitely.
“I respect our legal process in New Zealand and firmly believe that you are innocent until proven guilty,” Walsh said.
“However, 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.
“I put structures in place, which I thought would prevent any problems happening, but I was wrong.”
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American Walsh, who is also the Breakers chief executive, came under fire when he contracted Rice less than two weeks ago.
The talented guard’s chequered past off the court included several brushes with law in the United States.
The signing was initially defended by Walsh, who said he wanted to give the former Washington Wizards player a shot at redemption, noting Rice had previously forged a close bond with current Breakers coach Dan Shamir. Walsh told Radio Sport on Monday that Rice’s latest misdemeanour had forced to him to address the wisdom of the deal.
“I’ll be honest, maybe it was self-indulgence or me being naive… I thought we were the perfect place to help him and playing for a coach he knows well,” he said.
“We have the infrastructure and the people…this country is such an amazing place. How do you mess this up?
“He’s got a court appearance on Wednesday, we’ll help him with that and it’s very much a wait and see. We don’t have much more information than the news reported.”
Former Israeli league coach Shamir said he was surprised when informed less than two hours out from tip-off that Rice had to pull out of Sunday’s game at RAC Arena.
Shamir admitted he wasn’t aware of Basketball Australia’s regulations but believed other leagues would have been more lenient.
“In other places, where I would have been, he would have played, so I didn’t have (see) it coming; I didn’t know something like that could happen,” he said.
The 88-77 loss to Perth continued a disastrous start to the season for the four- time champions, who have slumped to the bottom of the ladder with a 2-7 record. Walsh was the subject of negative headlines himself last week when fined $5000 and banned for two weeks for a verbal altercation with NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger during their previous game away to South East Melbourne. Walsh had the suspension reduced to one game and part of his fine suspended on appeal.