NZ Breakers to unleash Rakeem Christmas on Illawarra Hawks

New Zealand Breakers coach Paul Henare is ready to unleash star import Rakeem Christmas on the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night.

The match against the Hawks will be Christmas' first match with the Auckland club, since signing for the remainder of the season on Monday.

The 26-year-old has stints in the NBA, NBA G-League and Turkish league and is now hoping to make a name for himself in the Australian Basketball League. 

Speaking to the media before departing for Australia, Henare said Christmas will get court time, but how much time exactly is still up in the air.

"He will play," confirmed Henare. How much will be determined on how he is going. If he is out there looking awesome, then we'll play him.

"That is the whole message to the group really if you are playing well and deserving of minutes then you will find yourself out on the floor. 

Paul Henare.
Paul Henare. Photo credit: Getty Images

"He's a pretty laid back dude, easy going, and fitted in seemingly. He got here on Monday morning, had three trainings with the group and he seems eager and wants to help the team in any way he can."

Saturday's match against the Hawks will be the first of four this season between the two teams.

The Hawks are coming off a loss against the high-flying Melbourne United, despite once holding an 18-point lead in the game.

Henare is expecting the Illawarra to start the game with a bang after Hawks coach Rob Beveridge called out his players following the loss to Melbourne.

"They will be pretty disappointed with their last loss against Melbourne after having that 18-point lead and letting that one slip.

"Reading a couple of Bevo's [Beveridge] comments calling his players, soft and wonder boys, he'll want them to come out and play hard so reading between the lines, he's challenged his group. 

"So we are expecting them to come out with a bit of fire under their belly."