Basketball: NZ national league facing player exodus under proposed format

The NZ National Basketball League faces a player exodus, if current plans for the revised season go ahead.

The competition's two leading sides - Wellington Saints and Southland Sharks - pulled the pin on a proposed competition and now players could follow suit.

"As it stands now, if we were to say today is the day you have to sign up, I would say probably, out of the top 18 players in the league, 8-10 of us are not willing to play, based on what we've been told and what we've seen," Tall Black Dion Prewster has told Newshub.

Along with fellow Tall Blacks Jarrod Kenney and Tom Abercrombie, Prewster has been working with the playing group in a newly formed, but not yet official 'players association'.

Player welfare has been the biggest concern so far.

In the proposed format, teams could assemble 3-5 days before the competition begins. Compare that to the NRL, Super Rugby and ANZ Premiership, who have all been given at least three weeks before they start competing and Prewster doesn't feel that's fair.

He doesn't think it's enough time to prepare, especially given they're likely to play several games a week for more than a month.

"When you consider the amount of games, obviously there's the risk of injury and you start thinking about contracts - guys who are tied down to the Breakers or with Australian clubs." Prewster says.

"No-one has said you're going to be covered, so what happens to guys if they do get hurt?"

For some with more lucrative Australian NBL contracts, that poses too much of a risk. For others, just getting over a month off their day jobs isn't possible.

But younger players also feel this is their only chance to play in front of coaches.

Prewster questions whether creating a product that's not beneficial for everyone is worth it.

"The fans aren’t really going to enjoy the product on TV, if they're not seeing their local players or New Zealand's best players out on the floor - it just doesn’t make sense.

"If you're going to go and do that, it kind of undermines the history and the success of the league."

Prewster hopes all players that are eligible to get paid, can get paid.

Under the current proposal, the bottom three players in the squad won't get any financial reimbursement. This was mainly created to ensure those younger players wanting to play in the NCAA system retain their amateur status, but Prewster says older players could also get picked in those spots.

"We would like the wages to increase, because not all the rostered positions are paid.

"We want to see we’re going to be covered for any injuries that happen, and we need medical staff and physios on board.

"We can't just have one physio on gameday for 6-8 teams - it's just not going to work.

"Most people know you need at least one specific physio for each team. Now, obviously, we know we might not be able to have that, but we're just going to have to have those things in place.

"All these things have been brought up, but it's kind of been brushed off."

NBL general manager Justin Nelson doesn't see it that way.

"We've worked hard to address concerns, but we understand, in unprecedented circumstances, everything won't be normal and can't be normal, which is the same for every sport," Nelson has told Newshub.

"When we reveal the competition details, it will include no more than three games per week for each team and a minimum 39-day lead-in period for players to prepare."

The league expects to unveil plans late next week.

Prewster is adamant players want to play, but they want to see changes made to the proposal.

He hopes they will ensure the NBL reflects the nation's best competition.

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