NBL cancels remaining Grand Final games in light of COVID-19 coronavirus, championship decision in the air
It had seemed for a while, like the NBL Grand Final series would play to its full conclusion in a best of five series - the Perth Wildcats were leading 2-1. But the league has officially announced on Tuesday afternoon, that the remaining games will be cancelled, due to concerns around the coronavirus COVID-19 situation rapidly escalating in Australia.
Prior to the NBL's announcement, the Wildcats had pushed for the remaining games to be fast tracked, according to The West Australian.
Game 4, which was scheduled to be played this Friday at Perth's RAC Arena, was not an option for the Sydney Kings. Kings management indicated earlier today, that they "did not wish to proceed with the remainder of the series given the global uncertainty and effects around COVID-19."
Senior clinicians working on the WA Health response to this situation, had called for isolation restrictions to include interstate travel.
“We respect the decision in what are extraordinary times for everyone," League owner and executive chairman, Larry Kestelman said. "We are understanding of not just the players’ health and well being but also their desire to be with their families, especially given so many of them have family overseas.
“Having consulted with the Australian Basketball Players’ Association we have decided the remaining games shall not be played. With Perth leading the best of five game series 2-1, we will now consider a decision on the outcome of the championship over the next 48 hours."
It's uncertain how the championship decision criteria will be shifted in this case. With no more postseason games left to play, logic would dictate that the leader in the series --Perth in this case-- could be the champions. During the earlier regular season, Perth also won five of their seven matchups against Sydney.
Kestelman, who went on SEN earlier on Tuesday, commented that there were "arguments for both sides to be named champions". This was not supposed to be the case, according to The Daily Telegraph's Tim Morrissey, who shared that it was reportedly agreed in a meeting before Game 2, that if the Grand Final series would not have a winner, should the entire Finals not be completed.
Update: Perth Wildcats CEO Troy Georgiu expressed his frustration in a statement released by the team.
“Words can’t express how disappointed we are as a club. The League put forward a range of options to complete this series ahead of the scheduled dates. This included reducing the Grand Final to a three-game series, or playing Game Four on Wednesday instead of Friday. Chartered flights were also discussed. It’s our understanding the Kings turned down these options.
"While the club takes seriously the importance of player and community welfare, we believe there was a safe and reasonable way for the 2020 NBL Finals to have reached a resolution. I feel terrible for our thousands of loyal and passionate members and fans, and we are sorry that the season has ended on such an abrupt note. Unfortunately, the decision was taken out of our hands.”
Georgiu also elaborated on his statement over a press conference.
In a press conference held on Tuesday afternoon, Kings owner Paul Smith shared his thoughts on the team's decision. The thought process stemmed from a meeting that included players, staff, management, and an independent medical advisor, who cautioned them against travel.
“Why are athletes different from any employee? Why are they being held to a higher standard here? I don’t understand it. It’s gotta stop... sport has to wake up. It’s time. It’s not just basketball. Everyone has to stop and realise what we’re doing here. We’re talking about people. Why should our athletes — any athlete in any sport — be held to a higher standard than any other employee, any other professional, in any sport, or any business.
“These are simple questions. It’s not for us to answer, but questions for the public to consider in this point and time. So, the piling on we’re getting, and we’re gonna get it, and we’ll cop it. We’ll get it; we understand it. Fine. Get it off your chest, but, at the end of the day, when you stop and think about it, what are we trying to do here? What are we trying to do? We’re not gaming anyone. We’re worried about our people.”