Mitch Creek staying put in NBL with South East Melbourne Phoenix

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Mitch Creek has committed to South East Melbourne Phoenix while NBL owner Larry Kestelman remains hopeful players who have opted out of their contracts may not yet be lost to the league altogether.

Creek's decision to stay on is a huge result for the Phoenix and the league itself after Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware both decided to opt out of their contracts over the past few days.

"I'm staying to repay the fans and the club - we started something, and I want to continue to build it," Creek said.

"It will be tough, but everyone is doing it tough, our fans are doing it tough and that's why I've decided to stay and get through this together."

The NBL was forced to implement pay cuts of up to 50 percent last month amid the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a number of the league's high-profile players to investigate their options offshore.

The Phoenix finished second last in their debut NBL season but Creek is confident better things lie ahead, particularly after the club was able to engage successfully with the local community last season.

"I love the club, love the fans and love what we're building and I'm in for the long haul," he said.

Creek's decision to remain with the Phoenix is a real shot in the arm for the NBL, while league owner Kestelman says players who had opted out of contracts could return to their NBL clubs should the open market not meet their expectations.

"We believe the NBL will remain a highly attractive option for players from both Australia and New Zealand and around the world should borders be re-opened," Kestelman said.

"The NBL is one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA and Australia will without doubt be one of the safest places in the world to play in.

"We respect the rights of players to test the market. The agreement with the Australian Basketball Players' Association was done by the NBL on behalf of the clubs who were unanimous in their support of the players and wanted to avoid stand downs as they managed the impact of the virus.

"Those players who choose to explore their options can still opt back in to their NBL contracts and we believe there will be a number who do so as the situation in regards to COVID-19 and its impact on various basketball leagues around the world becomes clearer.

"We are very encouraged by the large number of players who have indicated their desire to play in the NBL and we have no doubt the league will remain of a very high standard, attracting top players and enjoyed by fans across Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world."

The NBL has also confirmed it is working towards establishing a start date for the 2020/21 season as other Australian sporting leagues, specifically the winter football codes, move closer to resuming their competitions.

"We are ... encouraged by the progress other professional sporting leagues are making as they seek to return and we will monitor them and work with the relevant health authorities and government as we look to bring basketball back," Kestelman said.

"We are also talking with the clubs about plans for next season including identifying a start date. We also want to do everything we can to be able to accommodate fans at games even if it means ramping up attendances as the season progresses.

"We are taking a positive and proactive approach and will continue to assess options and hope to be in a position by mid-year to be able to confirm plans for the coming season."