NBL taskforce considers 'total hub' start

The Australian NBL is exploring options for how it will start in December. Photo: Getty Images
The Australian NBL is exploring options for how it will start in December. Photo: Getty Images
An NBA-style New Zealand hub to begin the NBL season remains on the table after league owner Larry Kestelman introduced his return-to-competition taskforce.

The delayed season is due to begin on December 3 and that is still the goal despite the coronavirus sweeping through the Melbourne United club and infecting 12 players.

None of those players are understood to be seriously ill but the outbreak shut down both United's and South East Melbourne Phoenix training.

The setback prompted New Zealand Breakers owner Matt Walsh to last week push for an NBL restart exclusively across the Tasman, where they have gone more than 100 days without a positive local case.

It's a "bubble" model the NBA have adopted successfully in Orlando, Florida, where the season recommenced earlier this month.

Kestelman said the NBL's 12-strong taskforce - featuring a spread of NBL club owners, sponsors, medical professionals and business people - would consider it.

"We're exploring all the different venue issues ... there's the total hub model and something we need to consider if things get worse or stay as they are," he said.

"We're also working on a flexible model ... to move clubs around [like the current AFL and NRL models].

"We're looking at New Zealand as another state of Australia and how to make sure they're an integral part of the season."

Kestelman said there was also scope to delay the season until the first week of February if needed.

Players will take drastic pay cuts next season while the number of import spots will reduce by one to two per two as the league attempts to limit the financial pain.

The league is also determined to hold games in front of live audiences given a bulk of their revenue is sourced by membership and ticket sales.

"Our fans are the key to the whole sport; without fans we're nothing," he said.

"They need to know we'll do everything humanly possible and hopefully they'll continue to support us."

NBL Return to Competition Taskforce

* Graeme Wade (NBL chairman), Larry Kestelman (NBL owner and executive chairman), Jeremy Loeliger (NBL commissioner), Jack Cowin, (Hungry Jack's owner), Ruffy Geminder (Pact Group executive chairman and former NBL team owner, Dr Peter Harcourt (Basketball Australia chief medical officer), Craig Hutchison (Melbourne United owner), Grant Kelley (Adelaide 36ers Owner), Chris Lamont (NSW Small Business Commissioner), Chris Lamont (NSW Small Business Commissioner), Rob Marcolina (Qantas Executive and former Basketball Australia chairman), Greg O'Neill (ABPA chairman, CEO La Trobe Financial), Glen Rainsbury (Live Entertainment Industry Forum).

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