Nuggets to host Saints in opener

The Otago Nuggets celebrate after claiming their first NBL championship last night in Auckland....
The Otago Nuggets celebrate after claiming their first NBL championship earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images
At last a true homecoming is in sight for the Otago Nuggets — and it will not have to wait long into next season.

The 2020 National Basketball League Showdown champion side will open next year’s NBL in Dunedin on April 24.

It will host the 11-time champion Wellington Saints, who won the 2019 league but did not enter this year’s Showdown.

The match is the first of 18 the team will play, nine of which will be at home.

It will be the Nuggets’ first home match since 2014, after all matches in this year’s league were played in Auckland.

Home matches against the Taranaki Mountainairs and Manawatu Jets follow on the next two Saturdays.

The league will next year return to a full schedule with home and away games.

The final is on July 23.

Of the Nuggets’ nine home games, seven will be on Saturdays at 7.30pm, while the other two are scheduled for 5pm on Sundays.

All matches will be televised.

The league returns to a 10-team competition for the first time since 2014 and will also return to a two-import limit, after allowing three in recent years.

A competitive balance system will be used to attempt to spread talent across the teams, as had been planned for the 2020 league before Covid-19.

From there, a free-agency period opens on November 16.

NBL general manager Justin Nelson is excited to bring the league back to Dunedin.

He said the decision to host the season-opener in Dunedin stemmed back to his visit to the city last year.

Known for his fans-first approach, a conversation with Nuggets fan Stephen Gibson — known as "Stephen from Dunedin" — had proved pivotal in planting the seed.

"I think it took him all of a few seconds to tell me what he expected from me and that there was no way he was letting me exit the conversation without agreeing to his wish list for the Nuggets.

"Stephen was straight into it, there was no mucking about.

"He told me that anything less than the Nuggets hosting the Wellington Saints at the Edgar Centre in his team's first game back in the NBL would not be acceptable.

"He wanted the Saints, that was it, no room for negotiation. He made me promise him."

 

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