NBL plans for delayed season start

Wildcats' MVP Bryce Cotton (r) will be back in action when the NBL eventually tips-off next season.
Wildcats' MVP Bryce Cotton (r) will be back in action when the NBL eventually tips-off next season.

The next NBL season is likely to start at least one month later than normal to avoid clashing with Australia's football finals and maximise the potential of crowds being able to attend.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a sporting log-jam later this year, with the AFL and NRL grand finals now slated for late October.

The NRL restarted on Thursday to empty stadiums, while the AFL is in line to follow suit next month.

With basketball more reliant than the football codes on gate takings, NBL owner Larry Kestelman was hopeful the competition would not have to follow a similar 'fan-free' model as he announced plans to delay the usual early-October tip-off.

"It is our intention to start our season after the AFL and NRL have completed theirs," he said.

"The lifeblood of the NBL is its fans, and basketball is a product for live fan entertainment. We will be doing everything possible to start our season in front of our much-loved fans."

The WNBL announced earlier this week a restructured season from late November until early March that still included all 21 fixtures.

Tiered player-wage reductions of up to 50 per cent, along with reducing roster sizes from 11 to 10 and import numbers from three to two, have been introduced for the next NBL season to counter the financial impact of the pandemic on clubs that rely on membership and sponsorship to stay afloat.

Those wage reductions pushed Perth's league MVP Bryce Cotton to opt out of his contract and explore overseas options, before returning to the Wildcats on a fresh long-term deal.

Cotton was one of five high-profile players to opt out of next season's contracts, with Brisbane's Matt Hodgson subsequently re-signing with the Bullets.

"With the current uncertainty around other basketball leagues, the NBL will remain a highly attractive option for players from both Australia and New Zealand as well as around the world," Kestelman said.

"The NBL is one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA and Australia will be one of the safest places in the world to play.

"We are delighted that the overwhelming majority of contracted players have already recommitted to the league and we have no doubt the NBL will remain of a world-class standard to be enjoyed by fans across Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world."

Australian Associated Press