NBL Cup unveiled as part of 2021 Melbourne-based hub

The NBL will play a month of its 2020-21 season in a Melbourne-based hub starting on Feb. 20, the league and Victorian Government announced on Monday.

All nine teams will enter the hub, with 36 total games to be played in what will become the inaugural NBL Cup. As part of the mid-season tournament, each team will play each other once, with three points awarded for a win and an additional point awarded for winning a quarter.

The team that finishes with the most points will win $150,000 in prize money, while the second-placed team will receive $100,000. The third-place finisher will walk away with $50,000. If teams finish on equal points, the one with the greatest number of wins will be declared the winner.

All wins and losses in the NBL Cup will count toward each team's overall win/loss record for the 2020-21 regular season.

"These games will form part of an expanded NBL season and give fans a chance to watch all of the league's stars in what will be a showcase of world class basketball featuring all nine NBL teams," NBL executive chairman and owner Larry Kestelman said.

"After such a tough year with so many families isolated, it will be great for fans to be entertained live and on TV by our amazing athletes and bring some normality back to our lives.

"As permitted attendances hopefully increase up to 75 percent in Victoria by early next year, this will be a great opportunity for tens of thousands of fans to enjoy a unique basketball event for Melbourne and Australia.

"We plan to play a lot of double headers and ensure tickets will be great value for families. We will start on the weekend of the Australian Open finals at Melbourne Park and the NBL will provide fantastic sporting entertainment all the way through to the Australian Grand Prix and beginning of the AFL season."

The 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin on Jan. 10 with a matchup between Melbourne United and the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and 39 games will be played over the course of the first 37 days of the campaign.

The season will then move to the Melbourne hub for one month, before reverting back to a regular home-and-away format. The New Zealand Breakers are currently the only team not set to be based in their home city during the season, with the roster setting up shop in Melbourne.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruption across the sports world and forced the NBL to postpone the beginning of its new season. With the hub, the league hopes enough time can pass that crowd restrictions ease across Australia, opening up the potential of more revenue.

"Playing these extra games in Victoria will provide us with valuable time for restrictions on crowd numbers to continue to be eased around the country, hopefully allowing more fans to see their teams play at home," NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said.

"It also enables us to accumulate more games in an accelerated format should any unexpected issues arise later in the season.

"The additional games will also generate much needed revenue for our clubs during this COVID affected year but are also a huge bonus for our fans and the game of basketball across Australia as we bounce back from an unexpectedly long offseason.

"Extra games are a great outcome for everyone, especially when so many sporting leagues in Australia and around the world have had to shorten or even cancel their seasons. We are very grateful to the Victorian Government for the opportunity. It's certainly not taken for granted given where we were only a few short months ago."

The NBL Cup has the backing of the Victorian Government, which says it will ensure the hub operates in accordance with the "latest public health advice".

"Victorians love their basketball and there couldn't be a better place for the NBL to tip off its season," Jaclyn Symes, the Acting Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, said. "This will give fans the chance to see more top-level games and world class players than ever and we'll ensure it's done safely in accordance with the latest public health advice."

The schedule for the NBL Cup will be released at a later date, according to the league.