Australia’s NBL season tip off delayed until December

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s National Basketball League season has been pushed back by two weeks and is set to open Dec. 3 with a debut home game for expansion team the Tasmania Jack Jumpers against Adelaide 36ers.

The NBL said the season start was rescheduled with the intention of having fans in the stadiums as Australia moves toward easing restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new start date gives us a greater level of comfort and flexibility as we navigate through the current environment and prioritise having our growing number of fans courtside around the country and in New Zealand,” NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said on Tuesday.

The New Zealand Breakers will be based in Australia at least until early 2022, when organizers are hoping borders will open and the competition can go back to a more regular format.

“We are confident that as the country opens back up, our schedule will open up with it and we will get back to running the competition like we used to with all teams playing and traveling from their home bases,” Loeliger said.

Defending champion Melbourne United will open against the Kings in Sydney on Dec. 5, with ex-Cavaliers point guard Matthew Dellavedova making his NBL debut for the title-holders.

Dellavedova helped the Cavs win the 2016 NBA title, ending a 52-year championship drought for Cleveland’s pro teams. He is on a three-year contract with Melbourne.

Parts of Australia’s two most populous states — New South Wales and Victoria — have been in lockdown for months because of surging coronavirus cases but are starting to ease restrictions for fully vaccinated people.

Loeliger said 99% of the league’s players have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’ve ensured that we’ve delivered a really extensive education program for clubs and players to ensure that they are aware of the implications of not being vaccinated, both from a health perspective but also from a practical perspective and what that could mean in terms of crossing between state borders or international borders,” he said.

The New Zealand Breakers and the Illawarra Hawks have each released a player who refused to be vaccinated.

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