The NBL is leaning towards delaying the 2020/2021 season until late January and running through to May in a bid to allow fans to attend games to maximise the league’s long-term financial security.
A hub to at least start the season is also firming.
The new campaign is set to start on December 3, but it’s understood league officials and the clubs are keen to delay the season to benefit all parties.
A January start would increase the chances of more fans attending games, which is vital revenue given the league doesn’t have a broadcast deal.
A limited number of supporters could attend games in a socially distanced set-up, but at least it would bring in profit for the clubs and the league.
The impact of the coronavirus in Melbourne is also playing a part in potentially delaying the season.
Melbourne United and the South East Melbourne Phoenix had to stop training for almost a month after 12 United players tested positive to the virus.
United returned to training but with both teams having their preparation for the upcoming season significantly impacted, a delayed start would help both make up lost ground.
The NBL has previously declared a hub is an option to start the season given the serious nature of the coronavirus in Victoria.
This option is now firming, at least to start the season, before potentially shifting back to a regular home-and-away structure to finish the season.
Depending on the severity of the virus nationally, states like Queensland and NSW could become hub destinations for an NBL restart.
NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman refused to rule out any option when he spoke in early August following the establishment of the NBL Return to Competition Taskforce.
“At this stage we are still hoping to start the season in early December, but we will be guided by the taskforce around scheduling,” Kestelman said.
“Playing as many games in front of fans remains a priority.
“They are the lifeblood of our clubs, and we will do all that is possible to deliver a season that allows them to be part of it.”
Championship-winning Perth Wildcats point guard Bryce Cotton recently backed the NBL restarting the season in a hub when speaking on local radio.
Cotton isn’t alone with a host of players happy to delay the season if it means their fellow players can safely fulfil their on-court duties.