NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger has revealed a bold ambition to take the NBL Cup overseas as a talent showcase in future seasons amid growing interest from NBA scouts.
The inaugural competition-within-a-competition tips off on Saturday, with all nine NBL clubs featuring in a total of 36 games over three weeks in a Melbourne hub.
The NBL Cup concept, which forms part of the National Basketball League’s regular season, was spawned from the league’s desire to churn out a large portion of games in quick succession amid the looming threat of further coronavirus disruptions.
One positive spin-off has been the attention the basketball bonanza has already garnered in the United States.
According to Loeliger, NBA team representatives explored the possibility of circumventing Australian COVID-19 quarantine rules to attend the NBL Cup in person.
That, of course, was not possible – but scouts will be able to continue streaming NBL games online.
“This is a pretty unique opportunity where there’s so much talent on show. Thirty-six games, all in one city, in a short amount of time – that’s scouting nirvana,” Loeliger told AAP.
“You saw how many people came from the US to our Blitz (preseason tournament) in the last couple of years and I can tell you that would’ve been even stronger again had there not been a two-week quarantine associated with flying in.
“For those people who are watching with a keen eye from a scouting and reporting point of view, I know that they’re really excited that everyone’s playing at the same time.
“It will attract a huge amount of attention from the who’s who of basketball.”
The league will await commercial assessment of the inaugural NBL Cup tournament before deciding its future.
But Loeliger said he has already been swayed by the increased NBA interest and is sold on the concept becoming an ongoing feature of the competition’s schedule.
He flagged Sydney, Auckland, Hawaii and the continental United States as possible NBL Cup locations, while noting the cost of hosting all NBL teams in one city for multiple weeks would play a significant role.
“Travelling this many people to any location is a big undertaking … but we’re not shy about thinking big,” Loeliger said.
“We live on the edge of the envelope and we know that we’re still on the cusp of mainstream sport in Australia, so if we’re not bold then we don’t get spoken about.
“I would like to think there’s a commercial proposition whereby – whether it’s Auckland, Sydney or Hawaii – they’re propositioning us as to why we should come and play in their backyard.
“We think we’re a really good value proposition and that we represent a significant economic impact where we go.
“We’ll wait on that data to be able to prove it.”
Saturday’s double-header at John Cain Arena sees Cairns do battle with Illawarra before unbeaten Melbourne United take on Perth.