NBL season pushed back to new year

The NBL is determined to start its next season in front of paying fans amid ongoing financial pain during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next NBL season start date has been pushed back further to the middle of January amid concerns over the cost of playing in front of empty stands.

An NBA-style hub model remains on the table for the 2020-21 campaign, with the NBL keeping its options open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim is to delay the start of the season long enough to allow clubs to play in front of paying fans, helping to limit the financial pain felt by the league and its nine clubs.

Players are already set to take drastic pay cuts next season, while the number of import spots has been reduced by one to two per club.

"The main reason for pushing the start of the season back to the new year is to give the clubs the best opportunity to play in front of as many fans as possible," NBL chief executive Kestelman said.

"We will remain flexible about the exact start date and this will depend on a number of factors including travel and border restrictions, community transmission numbers and availability at venues across Australia and New Zealand.

"We intend to play a full season and, if needed, we will play in one or more hubs to achieve this.

"We are currently having positive discussions with a number of interested states about potential locations."

The NBL had a huge scare last month when the coronavirus swept through the Melbourne United club, infecting 12 players.

"As always, the health and safety of our players, staff and fans will be our number one priority," Kestelman said.

"But we also remain focused on playing in front of fans as they are the lifeblood of the league."

The NBL season usually starts in October, after the conclusion of the AFL and NRL seasons.

It had already been pushed back to December before Monday's announcement.

Reigning champions Perth are hopeful the latest delay could help their roster situation as they wait on MVP Bryce Cotton's Australian citizenship to be confirmed.

As it stands, Cotton and fellow American John Mooney have signed on to fill the Wildcats' import slots for next season.

"We're still waiting on that part of it and hopefully this (season) getting put back to 2021 gives us an opportunity for Bryce to get his citizenship," Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.

"That might open us up for another import."