NBL revises 2020-21 schedule amid COVID-19 outbreaks

The recent COVID-19 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria have forced the NBL to revise its schedule for the 2020-21 season, with the opening game now set to be played between the Cairns Taipans and Hawks on January 15.

The NBL had initially released a five-round schedule at the beginning of December, but travel restrictions imposed across multiple state governments led to the league relocating the NSW and Victoria-based teams, while releasing a new rolling schedule that begins with two rounds.

The season will effectively be played across three states -- Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia -- with Cairns set to host the opener, before the Perth Wildcats host Melbourne United later in the evening.

"We always knew we would have to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and the travel restrictions that would be imposed by our various State Governments from time to time," the NBL's Commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger, said.

"This is why we proceeded on the basis of a rolling schedule, which will hopefully minimize the inconvenience for our teams and our fans.

"The changes we have made to the schedule ensure the season can get underway in a timely manner and that we can still play enough games prior to the beginning of the NBL Melbourne Hub and be confident of still being able to complete the season in June.

"We will wait and see how things progress around the country over the coming weeks before we finalise the schedule for the following three rounds leading into the NBL Cup in the Melbourne NBL Hub."

In response to the respective outbreaks in NSW and Victoria, the NBL swiftly moved the Hawks and Sydney Kings to Albury, NSW -- regarded as a 'green zone', outside Greater Sydney -- while the New Zealand Breakers and South East Melbourne Phoenix were relocated to Hobart, Tasmania.

United was in Cairns for a pair of preseason games during the time of the outbreak, and won't be returning to Melbourne, so not to face any travel restrictions.

The NBL had planned to play five home-and-away rounds before the season moved to a Melbourne-based hub, which is set to begin on February 20.

"I want to thank all of our clubs, players, officials and our fans for their patience and understanding as we have prepared for the season," NBL owner and Executive Chairman, Larry Kestelman, said.

"We've always said this will be a season like no other and to expect the unexpected. We can also expect world class basketball, fierce rivalries and great entertainment in what will be the 43rd consecutive season of one of Australia's favourite and longest running national sporting leagues.

"Last season was a record-breaking season for the NBL and cemented our position as one of the best leagues in the world outside of the NBA. We know everyone can't wait for the new season to start and we look forward to seeing as many fans as possible live at venues over the coming months."

The NBL says it's "hopeful" that the Breakers will be able to play games in New Zealand at some point, and that the aim is for every Australian-based team to host 14 home games over the season.