A photo of a wall planner calendar.

After a heavily disrupted 2021 campaign, NBL basketball is (almost) back. Here’s my notes from a quick once-over of the NBL schedule.

When does the season start?

Like the headline says, Friday, December 3. The opening night schedule features the home opener for the expansion Tasmania Jackjumpers, hosting Adelaide, with a Perth/Brisbane nightcap from RAC Arena as the second course.

The original plan was to open the season on November 18, but presumably ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in Sydney and Melbourne put the kybosh on that. There is a bit of a silver lining to the delay, though; FIBA World Cup qualifiers are scheduled for the weekend of 25-29 November, and the NBL not operating means that players would be available. Assuming those games go ahead, natch. (Australia is scheduled to host Chinese Taipei that weekend, with New Zealand facing India.)

Has the season format changed?

It appears to be a full 28-game home-and-away season, reverting to the 2019/2020 competition format. Each team plays 14 home games.

So no NBL Cup, then?

Doesn’t look like it; there isn’t a gap in the schedule that would allow it. Unless a Cup hub is being added at the very end of the season (seems unlikely), the league isn’t going with the Cup idea for 2021/22. The NBL’s media release did note that they planned to announce a pre-season tournament ‘soon’, so November basketball is still on the cards.

The league would presumably want to get back onto its normal calendar starting in 2022/23, so that it can take advantage of other opportunities- I’m sure the NBL would love to have those NBA pre-season games back on the schedule, and that means being ready for an October tip-off. NBL general manager Jeremy Loeliger said as much in a video interview for the NBL’s Twitter account.

What impact will Covid-19 have on the draw?

At this stage, the main impact appears to be on the New Zealand Breakers. The Breakers will once again start the season with a heavy road schedule, playing their first 12 games away from Aotearoa. All going to plan, though, they will be back home for an 11-game home stand starting on February 5th.

For now, the NBL is banking on Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed in Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney’s first home game is scheduled for opening weekend (against United, no less), while United have a Throwdown against the Phoenix as their home opener in week 2.

In the original media release, Loeliger did note that there may need to be changes down the line.

“There are a lot of factors to consider, and we’ve tried to plan for them all, so as some or all of those various events unfold and begin to materialise, we will enter a different phase of the schedule and certain things change as a result and as we deem necessary.

“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.”

NBL GM Jeremy Loeliger

Has the TV deal changed?

The plan this season is that all games will continue to be shown on ESPN and Kayo Sports in Australia. Two Sunday afternoon games each week will be available on Kayo Freebies, which requires a Kayo account but not a paid subscription; those will also be broadcast on free-to-air on 10 Peach and 10 Play. Network 10 has made a bit of a sports push this year under new owners ViacomCBS; 10 is also carrying the A-League soccer.

Sadly it appears that the agreement with Twitch has ended, although the league may still end up using its social media platforms for additional content like NBL Overtime; this remains to be seen.

Sky Sport remains the NBL’s broadcast partner in New Zealand, with all games broadcast on Sky as in previous seasons.

What about the WNBL?

The WNBL announced last week that its season will begin on December 8, so the week after the NBL launches. A full draw has not yet been released, but the league’s initial media release gave some hints of the opening schedule:

  • a matchup between Sydney Uni and Uni Canberra
  • Melbourne to open their season against Victoria
  • a Melbourne derby with the Boomers visiting Southside

The media release also noted that the Sydney Uni Flames would play some games as double-headers at Qudos Bank Arena, sharing game nights with the Sydney Kings. (The Flames and Kings have common ownership.)