NBL tip-off set for December, with fans

Melissa WoodsAAP
Fans will be back in the stands when the NBL season commences in early December.
Camera IconFans will be back in the stands when the NBL season commences in early December. Credit: AAP

The NBL will open its season in early December with two competition pools in play as they look to avoid travel restrictions and maximise crowd attendance.

Newcomers Tasmania JackJumpers will host the first match of the season against the Adelaide 36ers in Hobart on Friday, December 3.

In a double-header opening night, the Perth Wildcats then face the Brisbane Bullets at RAC Arena in Perth.

Originally set for November 18, tip-off has been rescheduled with the NBL saying the priority is getting supporters back into stadiums.

"While it's only a few weeks later than we originally planned, 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.

Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth and Tasmania square off over the first four rounds while the four teams based in states who have battled recent COVID-19 outbreaks - NSW and Victoria - meet early.

The New Zealand Breakers, who will play out of Australia until the New Year, open against Cairns but swing between pools with their home base still to be decided.

"We've split our teams into geographic regions, but that won't affect the full schedule in terms of who plays who and how many times," Loeliger said.

"The expectation is that relatively early in the new year, as borders continue to open, that we go back to a more traditional home and away season.

"I expect it will be January or February before things truly open up again."

He was confident crowds would be able to attend all venues in the opening round.

Melbourne begin their championship defence on December 5 against the Kings in Sydney, with ex-NBA star Matthew Dellavedova making his NBL debut for United.

Other highlights of the schedule include a Boxing Day triple-header with games in Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania while Illawarra and Cairns will host games on New Year's Eve.

Loeliger said they would try to improve conditions for the Breakers, who spent over 160 days on the road in nine different bases last season.

"Certainly they did it harder than anyone else and we're hopeful we'll get them back into New Zealand early in 2022; we want to play home games in front of fans as often as possible," Loeliger said.

"The reality is we don't yet know when the (trans-Tasman) bubble will open up but we are very keen to ensure there is the least disruption to the Breakers and we hope to make them as comfortable as possible as soon as possible."

Loeliger said the NBL had contingencies built into the schedule for when borders reopen, vaccination rates hit targets and crowds are allowed back in arenas.

"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 travelling from their home bases."

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