Australian basketball continues to be on the rise, as the major coups roll in. This morning, the NBL held a media conference at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, to reveal an epic schedule of NBL v NBA showdowns, to be held later this year.
As a part of the 2017/18 NBA preseason, the Sydney Kings, Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United crossed the Pacific to take on NBA teams in the US for the first time ever. It turned out to be a notable success, and both leagues decided to more than double the slate of contests in 2018.
Andrew Bogut first gave an inkling of some exciting news ahead with a typically cryptic tweet last night, before the news filtered through and into this morning's announcement.
In a press release, NBL owner Larry Kestleman was proud to announce the continued basketball connection between Australia and the US.
“The increased number of games symbolises the continued strength of the NBL-NBA partnership and the growth of our league in Australia and New Zealand," Kestleman said. "These initiatives continue to position the NBL as the second best league and entertainment product in the world outside the NBA.”
Starting on September 28, seven games in total will be played, as the Adelaide 36ers, New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats whet their NBA competition appetite.
The schedule will kick off the with reigning NBL champion Melbourne United taking on the freshly crowned NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. A Melbourne kid growing up, Simmons will team up with current head coach and former Australian Boomers coach Brett Brown, in an attempt to take down United and tune up for the NBA season.
Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and the Utah Jazz are back for a second bout of of NBL competition, this time competing against the Perth Wildcats and Adelaide 36ers.
Hawaii is also on the list -- perhaps at the request of Andrew Bogut looking for some R&R -- as the NBL season heats up. Bogut and the Kings will take on the Los Angeles Clippers at the Stan Sheriff Centre in Honolulu.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to play for the Sydney Kings against the LA Clippers," Bogut said. "This is also a great opportunity to showcase the NBL against some of the best players in the world at a time when the league and Australian and New Zealand basketball is thriving.”
Kings coach and Australian basketball legend, Andrew Gaze, echoed the thoughts of his newly signed star big man.
“We loved going to play in the NBA preseason last year and for five teams to now have that opportunity this year is another feather in the cap of the NBL," Gaze said. "We can’t wait to take on the LA Clippers and I’m sure Australian and New Zealand basketball fans will be just as excited about these games.”
All in all, the NBL will be showcased in six different cities and two different countries, as United will head north of the border to take on the Toronto Raptors on October 5.
The managing director of NBA Asia, Scott Levy, touched on his excitement at the coming together of the two leagues.
“We are excited to build on our partnership with the NBL to expand the number of their teams participating in this year’s NBA preseason," Levy said. "There’s incredible momentum around basketball in Australia and New Zealand, and our fans can look forward to a tremendous slate of games showcasing some of the best talent the NBA and NBL have to offer.”
With another landmark day in the books for Australian basketball, the dream of one day hosting an NBA regular season game on Aussie shores appears to have taken one Thon Maker-sized stride length forward.
But for now, bring on September 28 and Melbourne United versus Ben Simmons.
Full NBLxNBA Game Schedule:
September 28 - Philadelphia 76ers vs Melbourne United - Wells Fargo Centre, Philadelphia
September 29 - Utah Jazz vs Perth Wildcats - Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah
September 30 - LA Clippers vs Sydney Kings - Stan Sheriff Centre, Honolulu
October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers - Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix
October 5 - Denver Nuggets vs Perth Wildcats - Pepsi Centre, Denver
October 5 - Toronto Raptors vs Melbourne United - Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
October 5 - Utah Jazz vs Adelaide 36ers - Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah