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Penney given big shot at NBA

Published: 6:17AM Thursday September 23, 2010 Source: NZPA/ONE Sport

Contract or no contract, New Zealand shooting ace Kirk Penney is determined to have no regrets as he chases a return to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The world class guard was has been offered a trial with NBA heavyweights San Antonio Spurs and was to leave for the United States today in a bid to force his way onto the roster.

The 29-year-old had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Clippers at the end of 2004 but was released after just four games. He spent several years trying to crack the big time but a contract never eventuated, and he has played the past three seasons with the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL).

Penney had always held onto his dream and he is determined to take this opportunity. He will probably have to compete against six other players for two or three spots ahead of the season's start late next month.

"I have to see if I have what it takes to make it in the toughest professional league in the world," he said today.

"There is no guarantee of an offer at the end of this process (but) it is up to me to impress the right people and show I can be of some value to the Spurs. I am going to give it my best shot and have no regrets."

Penney's standout performances at the recent world basketball championships in Turkey raised his stock considerably. He emerged as the tournament's second leading scorer, helping the Tall Blacks reach the last 16.

He admitted bailing on the Breakers 22 days before the start of the ANBL season was bad timing but that could not be helped.

"This club and the guys on the team mean so much to me and I have loved every minute of the past three years, but ... I have always been open about a desire to get back to the NBA and the club has been equally supportive," he said.

"This could be that opportunity and it is one I have to seize."

Penney had the blessing of the Breakers, although general manager Richard Clarke admitted to having mixed emotions.

"The Breakers absolutely wish Kirk all the best with this opportunity and yet there is still a small chance he might return in a few weeks time having given it his best shot, but is then available for us."

Clarke said the Breakers were already exploring options to replace Penney.

"But given the uncertainty over the length of Kirk's absence, we are not going to rush into any decisions."