There are four teams vying for the last spot in the NBL’s top four and they all just happen to be playing one another on Thursday night to open Round 17.
One of Australia’s finest players, Mitch Creek, has signed a training deal with the Brooklyn Nets which could see the number of Aussies in the NBA grow this season.
The exhibit ten deal will allow the forward to join the Nets’ training camp with an eye to getting a guaranteed deal once the season gets underway in October.
Unbelievably, Creek’s NBL club the Adelaide 36ers attempted to block his attempts to play with the Nets in the world’s biggest basketball competition.
While Creek had a year to run on his deal with Adelaide, he used his Euro and NBA out clause to chase further opportunities in Germany with S.Oliver Würzburg.
It was thought at the time the deal in Germany would allow Creek to enter the NBA radar and it didn’t disappoint. The forward put in strong performances across the summer league to get the exhibit ten deal with Brooklyn after being picked up out of Europe for his strong numbers.
Yet, according to a report in the Adelaide Advertiser, the 36ers weren’t going to let him chase the American dream unless they received at least $100,000 in compensation.
The injunction was filed through Basketball Australia, and while the official outcome hasn’t been announced, the 36ers have agreed to terms with all the relevant parties, as a statement read on Thursday evening.
“The Adelaide 36ers are pleased to advise that terms for Mitch Creek’s release to the Brooklyn Nets have now been agreed.
“The club has loved being a part of Mitch’s journey over the last eight years and is thrilled to have played a role in the opportunity Mitch has worked so hard for and thoroughly deserves.
“On behalf of the entire Adelaide 36ers Family, we wish Mitch every success in the NBA and look forward to watching his progress.”
Now, I can understand a club chasing compensation, but Creek was one of the most loved players in Adelaide. The fans got right behind him and he rose to prominence, grabbing a spot on the Boomers roster over the last 12 months.
Doing anything to make him the slightest bit annoyed would be, to put it nicely, one of the dumbest decisions any NBL executive has ever made.
And there have been some crazy ones over the years.
The chance of Creek not working out in the NBA still remains though and if it doesn’t there is a chance he would return to the NBL for the season ahead, even if he joins part of the way through.
Given he won’t chew up an import spot and would improve any team’s chances dramatically, it would be a no-brainer to show interest should he not move to Brooklyn with a guaranteed deal for the season.
Before all this went down, there was only one location Creek would have ended up should he have come back to the NBL – and that’s the 36ers.
He was the lifeblood of the club over the past 24 months, being involved in a playoff run last season. While they didn’t go all the way, the club have the city of Churches behind them with big crowds and genuine excitement – it’s just a shame Creek won’t be there to help them in that regard this season.
With this shemozzle basically looking like a club trying to prevent an Aussie player chasing the NBA dream, the chance of Creek ever wanting to return to Adelaide is low.
Any NBL club trying to hurt a player’s chances in the NBA is unbelievably silly. The 36ers now have egg on their face because of the way this has played out.
The more Australians playing in the NBA, the better for Aussie hoops. It means the interest around the league increases, the quality of the national team goes up and in turn, more people become interested in the sport as a whole, which should relate to more eyeballs on TV screens and bums in seats for the NBL.
You’d be sticking your head in the sand if you said that the NBL’s resurgence over the last three seasons had nothing to do with Australian players and their level of success in the NBA. Even if it’s only a small part.
It has a direct trend line. The better guys like Matthew Dellavedova, Ben Simmons and Patty Mills go, the more it translates into interest back home – or that’s the way it seems anyway.
What it also means for the NBL is the chance of Creek returning to the league looks slim.
Whether Creek would ever play against Adelaide is up for debate and only the man himself would know, but he will be able to get better opportunities, higher quality of opposition and more money by playing in Europe.
Despite the NBL’s growth, which now has it well within the top ten leagues around the world, it’s not in a position of bargaining power when compared to Euro clubs just yet.
It means they can ill-afford rubbish like this going down. Anything to hurt the reputation will not settle well with players, executives and fans.
Given the league are also trying to implement the ‘Next Star’ program, where American college players spend their ‘one-and-done’ year in Australia, reputation is also right at the top of the agenda.
While the Creek and 36ers injunction won’t be a huge story in the States, agents will be aware and it could affect the chances of players from America signing Down Under, particularly at the 36ers.
It’s likely this is a one-off incident given it’s never happened before, but it’s still an ugly spot for Australian basketball to be in.
With more players likely to follow in the coming years given the improving quality of the competition, there need to be regulations put in place to ensure this simply doesn’t happen again.
It’s all worked out fine this time, but it might not have. And that’s where the NBL must ensure everything is in shape and secure moving forward.
Don’t piss off America and the NBA should be the go-to line. That and don’t piss off your best players who have lit up the league over the past few seasons during its run from zero to hero.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the 36ers appear to have done here.
It doesn’t get much sillier than that and while I’d hope to see Creek back on the NBL floor one day before he retires after a successful stint in the NBA, it doesn’t look likely that it’ll ever happen in a 36ers uniform.
And that’s a damn shame.