Otago Daily Times

Nuggets to host Saints in opener

BAS­KET­BALL

- JEFF CHESHIRE Sports · College Sports · Otago Region · National Basketball League (Australasien) · Dunedin · Wellington, New Zealand · Denver Nuggets · OceanaGold Nuggets · National Basketball League · Wellington Saints · Taranaki Mountainairs · Manawatu Jets

AT last a true home­com­ing is in sight for the Otago Nuggets — and it will not have to wait long into next sea­son.

The 2020 Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League Show­down cham­pion side will open next year’s NBL in Dunedin on April 24.

It will host the 11­time cham­pion Welling­ton Saints, who won the 2019 league but did not en­ter this year’s Show­down.

The match is the first of 18 the team will play, nine of which will be at home.

It will be the Nuggets’ first home match since 2014, af­ter all matches in this year’s league were played in Auck­land.

Home matches against the Taranaki Moun­tainairs and Manawatu Jets fol­low on the next two Satur­days.

The league will next year re­turn to a full sched­ule with home and away games.

The fi­nal is on July 23.

Of the Nuggets’ nine home games, seven will be on

Satur­days at 7.30pm, while the other two are sched­uled for 5pm on Sun­days.

All matches will be tele­vised. The league re­turns to a 10­team com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since 2014 and will also re­turn to a two­im­port limit, af­ter al­low­ing three in re­cent years.

A com­pet­i­tive bal­ance sys­tem will be used to at­tempt to spread tal­ent across the teams, as had been planned for the 2020 league be­fore Covid­19.

From there, a free­agency pe­riod opens on Novem­ber 16.

NBL gen­eral man­ager Justin Nel­son is ex­cited to bring the league back to Dunedin.

He said the de­ci­sion to host the sea­son­opener in Dunedin stemmed back to his visit to the city last year.

Known for his fans­first ap­proach, a con­ver­sa­tion with Nuggets fan Stephen Gib­son — known as ‘‘Stephen from Dunedin’’ — had proved piv­otal in plant­ing the seed.

‘‘I think it took him all of a few sec­onds to tell me what he ex­pected from me and that there was no way he was let­ting me exit the con­ver­sa­tion with­out agree­ing to his wish list for the Nuggets.

‘‘Stephen was straight into it, there was no muck­ing about.

‘‘He told me that any­thing less than the Nuggets host­ing the Welling­ton Saints at the Edgar Cen­tre in his team's first game back in the NBL would not be ac­cept­able.

‘‘He wanted the Saints, that was it, no room for ne­go­ti­a­tion. He made me prom­ise him.’’

 ??  ?? Justin Nel­son
Justin Nel­son

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