Basketball Australia have built it, now NBL fans must come
Patty Mills wowed NBL fans, but did he leave them cold? (Image: mcsimmo)
When the NBL season tips off Friday night, fans won’t have to worry about unreliable live scores, ridiculous TV delays or controlling their anger towards the game’s administration. They can simply get back to enjoying the basketball.
There was plenty said about the TV deal last season, and the affair served to put a pretty big dampener on things.
With games being shown on One three hours after tip-off — and sometimes beyond 1am — the notion Patty Mills’ stint with the Melbourne Tigers would have any form of lasting legacy was very quickly squandered.
Even though ratings actually kept pace with those from live games the year before for most of the season, there were obvious negative consequences.
The game was being blocked off from children, families and those with the temerity to value a good night’s sleep. Things had to change.
But, as I was constantly at pains to point out, Basketball Australia held all the bargaining power moving forward. A renegotiated deal was always on the horizon and when it came, it was bliss.
A live game each Sunday not on One, but Ten’s main station, was delivered. A second 9.30pm Friday game on One was also included.
The final piece of the new Ten deal, the returning of digital rights back to the league, means every single game will now be shown to NBL.TV subscribers across a host of platforms.
To describe this as a good outcome for fans would be an understatement.
Every game of the season will be broadcast. Among them will be a live game every week on a main free-to-air station. If you’re a fan of an NBL club who’s become frustrated by the game’s coverage compared to rivals like the A-League and Big Bash League, complain no more.
With a subscription and FTA component, the NBL’s coverage is now above those leagues.
If we are to think of an asterisk heading into this season, it may well be that the teams in Australia’s largest two cities are in rebuilding mode once again.
Club legends Chris Anstey and Shane Heal have taken over the Tigers and Sydney Kings respectively, but despite their NBA experience, bookies and pundits alike have them well behind the pack.
It’s a shame because the league could do with a boost in the bigger cities, but the fact the Tigers have rid themselves of former owner Seamus McPeake and taken the long overdue step of moving games to Hisense Arena can only be positive.
Likewise, the charismatic Heal is a highly recognisable figure and could very well find himself in the Sydney papers more often than his predecessor, Ian Robilliard.
At the other end of the table, though, things promise to be hotly contested.
The Perth Wildcats move into the brand new Perth Arena this season, with the 15,000-seat venue sure to do a better job of showcasing just how popular the team is in their home state. On the court, little has changed for last season’s runner-up — and that definitely isn’t a bad thing.
It’s a very complete team with last year’s MVP Kevin Lisch, best defensive player Damian Martin and best sixth man Jesse Wagstaff. Throw in Shawn Redhage and there’s plenty of star power.
Defending the title will be the New Zealand Breakers. Will Hudson has big shoes to fill replacing Gary Wilkinson as the side’s import big and you have to wonder if they can really pull off a three-peat after losing Kirk Penney and Wilkinson in consecutive years. But with guns like Cedric Jackson and local hero Thomas Abercrombie, not to mention a professionalism above the rest of the league, anything is possible.
After several seasons in the wilderness, which included a wooden spoon in their most recent campaign, the Adelaide 36ers picked up some of the key free agents after the Gold Coast Blaze’s exit. Adam Gibson, Jason Cadee, Anthony Petrie and Luke Schenscher join a new-look team that would appear on track for, at the very least, a finals berth.
The Cairns Taipans had an active offseason also, bringing in Cam Tragardh and the pick of the Aussies fresh out of college, Clint Steindl and Cameron Gliddon. Retaining the services of import Jamar Wilson is another big coup.
Elsewhere in north Queensland, after taking the unprecedented step of sacking both their imports on the eve of the season, the Townsville Crocs quickly went about redeeming themselves by signing former MVP winner Gary Ervin. Big man Ben Allen could be in line for most improved honours.
While Ervin is a candidate for the most shrewd import signing, his former club’s decision to nab Adris Deleon has to be up there. Deleon adds star power to an otherwise well-rounded team that knows a thing or two about overachieving.
Save for an unlikely collapse by the Wildcats or Breakers, there will be two unlucky sides among Adelaide and the three regional clubs. Having said that, among them will be the biggest threats to the continued dominance of those top two teams over everyone else.
With sublime broadcast arrangements, it’s good to know that this battle won’t get lost behind a wave of criticism and discontent.
The NBL hasn’t gotten back to where it needs to be. The Gold Coast Blaze’s disappointing recent demise showed as much. The void of having no team in Brisbane still remains. But all you can ask, at this stage, is for it to be on the right track.
Live games on Ten’s main network, a massive new stadium in Perth, every game being broadcast, a tight competition, 6000 fans showing up to a preseason game in New Zealand … yeah, fans really can go back to just enjoying the basketball.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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