The New Zealand Breakers are putting contingency plans in place as to how the ANBL season might shape up after the Covid-19 resurgence in Australia.
Speaking to the media at Auckland airport, Breakers owner Matt Walsh outlined three scenarios that are currently on the table for the 2020/21 season to go ahead.
“I think a month ago when things were looking a lot better in Australia, everyone was feeling positive about the bubble opening. Now with Victoria taking a real step backwards, we’re looking at basically three scenarios.”
Walsh said the three scenarios are:
1. The Breakers relocate to Australia and play the season there, similarly to the Warriors in the NRL and the Phoenix in the A-League.
2. The rest of the league relocates to New Zealand because of the country’s current Covid-free environment.
3. Postpone the season until February.
Walsh said he’s working hard on advocating for the league to be held in New Zealand.
“We’re working closely with the NBL and hopefully things continue to improve in Australia.
“We’re being assured there will be a season, whatever that looks like even if it’s a hub model. I’m strongly endorsing New Zealand as the hub. It’s the only place in the world where you can do safe travel at zero risk of coronavirus and it makes a lot of sense.
“But we do have the ability to push the season back all the way to a February start and still get a full season in.”
Walsh said the ability to have crowds was another factor in favour of having the season in New Zealand.
“A number of teams are looking at making New Zealand cities their hub city if they can work it out with the Government and if they can work it out with being able to travel here.
“If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. If you’re a Melbourne team, you come and you station yourself in Wellington or Christchurch and you probably get some good crowds and play some home games there. There are real discussions happening around that.”
At the same time, the Breakers are also looking at the possibility of relocating to Australia – probably the more likely outcome – with the Gold Coast among the top contenders for a team base.
Meanwhile, the Breakers yesterday announced the signing of two-time all-NBL player Lamar Patterson to their squad for the 2020-21 season.
The 28-year-old Patterson, a former NBA guard with the Atlanta Hawks, joins the team on a one-year deal that will see him replace former import Scotty Hopson.
The Breakers are in the market for one more import, which Walsh says will be made easier because of New Zealand’s success with handling the pandemic.
“It’s interesting,” Walsh said. “It’s a very easy conversation when you say we’re the only place in the world you can come to and there’s zero Covid basically. So I mean it certainly helped with Lamar.
“I think it’s going to help with our other import. New Zealand has been very well publicised about how well we’ve done in the US market so it’s making it more attractive.”
Walsh also said the previously scheduled pre-season clash against the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets won’t be happening but the team is working on organising games against a “New Zealand select team”, which will be played across the country, to warm up ahead of the season.