Why were the Perth Wildcats left out of October’s NBA preseason games?
In what is a massive coup for the NBL, three clubs - Melbourne United, the Sydney Kings and the Brisbane Bullets - will travel to the United States in October to take on several NBA clubs in preseason action.
United will take on reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Kings will meet Dante Exum and Joe Ingles when they face the Utah Jazz, and the Bullets will compete against a young Phoenix Suns outfit.
The announcement of these games further cements the NBL's newfound relevance on the world stage. The Aussie clubs join European powerhouses like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Fenerbahce Ulker as recent international teams to take on NBA squads in the preseason. The significant work done by NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger and managing director Larry Kestelman to throw the Aussie hat into the ring and bring these games to fruition, should be met with great jubilation.
The exposure these games generate for the NBL will be, perhaps, the greatest in the league's history. The accomplishment is something that's certainly worth celebrating.
However, the fact that the Perth Wildcats are staying home for this trip feels like a missed opportunity.
Clearing the air
UPDATE 1 Aug: According to Andrew Gaze, who was interviewed on SEN Afternoons, there was originally only one NBA game open for tender, which the Sydney Kings won. The NBA eventually opened up two more games for the NBL.
(Gaze's comment can be found by fast forwarding to the 4:20 mark.)
"It is my understanding, that the Perth Wildcats were asked to be one of those teams," Gaze said.
Gaze went on to share that the Wildcats took into consideration the toll of travelling to the States and back, while the NBL season was ongoing, and figured it to be "too much of an interruption to the regular season".
"It's not ideal, as far as timing, but Melbourne United, and the Brisbane Bullets, they're actually having to go during season, and it's a real tight turnaround time for them. So I understand that the Perth Wildcats didn't think that it was in their best interests as far as the season was concerned, to play in those games, which is fair enough and we'll respect that."
Ten journalist Lachy Reid confirmed on Twitter that Perth's focus was on the season over the NBA preseason game.
Joe Ingles also made a similar comment on Twitter, confirming it was Perth's call.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson, when asked by ESPN, said he did not know of the announcement, or any discussions prior.
"First I've heard of it was this morning so obviously been no discussion with Perth about that," Gleeson said. "I was just like everybody else and seen the announcement this morning."
UPDATE 2 Aug: The Perth Wildcats put out a statement on Twitter in the afternoon.
The opportunity for the Perth Wildcats to play an NBA pre-season game in the United States was informally raised by the NBL earlier this year.
However, given the timing of the games and the unknown financial cost, the decision was made that it wasn't in the best interest of the organisation.
The Wildcats are firmly focused on the 2017/18 NBL campaign and preparation for every regular season game is of the utmost importance.
It's important to note that, on top of the timing question everyone else pointed out:
The NBL's request was worded as being informally raised, and
The financial costs were not pointed out at the time of the NBL's request.
The Wildcats represent the very best of what the NBL has to offer. The club is impeccably run from top to bottom, has the most raucous and loyal fans, is a pillar of sustained success and, has been one of the most financially stable organisations in the NBL. Perth fully symbolises the scrappy, hard-nosed style of Australian basketball and do so in an ultra-professional manner. Simply put, the Wildcats go about their business the right way.
Since their foundation, Perth have been wildly successful on and off the court. They have made the playoffs every single year since 1986. Yes, That's 31 straight years of playoffs basketball for the Red Army. The club has won a record eight titles, including back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017.
In January, the Wildcats became the first NBL club ever to accumulate over 10,000 memberships in a single season. Fans packed out Perth Arena and created a true home court advantage with their unbelievably loud chants and eruptions.
With such a growing fan base, 31 years of excellence, and back-to-back titles under their belt, now seems like the perfect time to expose the Perth Wildcats to the rest of the world again. Instead, the Brisbane Bullets, who only just re-entered the competition and finished last in 2016/17, get the nod.
The Wildcats did get a shot at an NBA team in 1995 during the McDonalds Championship, when they took on a Houston Rockets team that was fresh off an NBA title fuelled by Hall-Of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Wildcats went down 116-72.
Some Adelaide fans may also feel hard done by after their club was overlooked for three teams that failed to make the NBL playoffs after finishing atop the ladder last season. However, it's understandable why the NBL is electing to send Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane over Adelaide and Perth.
The three clubs chosen are in some of Australia's biggest and most internationally recognisable destinations, and the NBL hopes to market the league based around these go-to cities.
The announcement of these upcoming games is a momentous occasion for the NBL, one that continues to establish the league as a world class competition. However, if the NBL wanted to show the best it has to offer, the Wildcats are an eminent candidate and should be making the trip to the US for the NBA preseason exhibition games.