The inaugural NBL Cup will see a hometown Melbourne United team face the defending champion Perth Wildcats in its opening slate of matchups as the league looks to begin its four-week, 36-game basketball spectacle with a bang.
All nine NBL teams will descend on Melbourne for the event, which begins on February 20 and will feature 18 double-headers across John Cain Arena and the State Basketball Centre.
The NBL announced the schedule for the tournament on Friday, with the Cairns Taipans and Hawks facing off to open the event, before the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Sydney Kings, and Adelaide 36ers hit the court for the following day's action.
The tournament will run from Rounds 6 through 9, with the final weekend of basketball featuring a matchup of the NBL's top two teams -- assuming the current standings remain until that point -- as Brian Goorjian's Hawks face United in the Melbourne arena.
"We are excited to announce the schedule for the NBL Cup, a truly unique event for Melbourne and Australian sport," the NBL's owner and executive chairman, Larry Kestelman, said.
"The NBL Cup will showcase one of the best basketball leagues and provide great live entertainment between the Australian Open tennis and start of the AFL season.
"Most importantly, it will provide great value for all sports fans, particularly families, who can watch the biggest stars of the league in double headers for the price of one game. We encourage everyone who hasn't been to an NBL game before to come along and experience a fantastic night of entertainment."
Rounds 6 and 7 will each feature four sets of double-headers, before things ramp up with five double-headers each to be played in both Rounds 8 and 9.
"It's what, as an athlete and as a basketball player, you wanna do," United star Jock Landale said.
"You wanna get out there and you wanna play as many games as possible. You see other leagues around the world trying to simulate this kind of cup format, and it's always really successful out there. You bring everyone together in one city and you just hash some games out, and let the best team come out on top.
"For us to be able to do that mid-season, and get a really good idea of the standard of everyone else is fantastic for us, but [also] for the city of Melbourne, it's great. They get to see all teams in action, and really see how good the NBL can be."
Jeremy Loeliger, the NBL's commissioner, confirmed "all 36 games played for the NBL Cup will count towards the teams' overall season record in accordance with standard ladder methodology," while a separate ladder for the tournament will also be in effect, with three points awarded for a win and an extra point awarded for each quarter won.
The winner of the NBL Cup will earn $150,000 in prize money, while the second-place finisher will receive $100,000 and third place walks away with $50,000.