The NBL’s opening round has been thrown into further chaos, with the New Zealand Breakers and stranded Perth Wildcats removed from the draw after Brisbane was placed in COVID-19 lockdown on Friday.
In what is the third public change to the schedule, Adelaide 36ers will now host the season opener against Melbourne United next Friday as one of just four confirmed fixtures.
The Wildcats played the Brisbane Bullets in a preseason game on Wednesday and were due to open their season at home – in an already rejigged fixture released earlier this week – against Melbourne United on Friday.
But Brisbane was then placed in lockdown until at least Monday, trapping the two-time defending champions in Queensland and forcing the NBL into another rewrite.
The West Australian government has allowed the team to return on Saturday night, but they will then be placed in quarantine and are unable to prepare for what would have been a blockbuster season opener on Friday.
With five of the eight NBL teams currently in Queensland, officials have rescheduled the opening round to play games in Cairns and Adelaide, with the exception of a Bullets home game on Saturday against an opponent yet to be confirmed.
The NBL is hopeful the Bullets will host a game in Brisbane on Saturday, but their opponent is yet to be confirmed and its status will depend on Queensland government regulations.
“We will start the season in Cairns and Adelaide, but we will continue to monitor the situation in Brisbane in the hope we can also host a game there in the opening round,” NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said.
“We will continue to stay flexible and be guided by the relevant state health authorities but our intention is still for all teams to play 14 home games across the season when they are able to do so.”
The NBL’s season has already been delayed by more than two months and was originally set to begin this weekend, with the league’s highest-paid players accepting cuts of almost 50 per cent to soften the financial impact of the virus on the clubs.
“Under the current conditions, we understand the need to be flexible and able to adapt to schedule changes such as these,” Bullets CEO Peter McLennan said.
“Brisbane as a city needs to stay safe and get through this together, giving us every opportunity to host our season opener at Nissan Arena next Saturday afternoon.”
* Friday, January 15
Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United, Adelaide Entertainment Centre
* Saturday, January 16
Brisbane Bullets v TBC, Nissan Arena.
Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings, Cairns Pop-Up Arena, 8pm
* Sunday, January 17
Adelaide 36ers v South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide Entertainment Centre
* Monday, January 18
Cairns Taipans v The Hawks, Cairns Pop-Up Arena.