The 2021-22 NBL regular season schedule has been released, with confirmation that the original November 18 tip-off date has been pushed back to December 3.
In the latest episode of ESPN's Ball and the Real World podcast, NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger revealed the season could be pushed back to prioritise the fans, with the league hoping to play in front of packed arenas across the country.
"While it's only a few weeks later than we originally planned, the new start date gives us a greater level of comfort and flexibility as we navigate through the current environment and prioritise having our growing number of fans courtside around the country and in New Zealand," said Loeliger.
"The NBL is a fan-first product and playing in front of crowds is vital for the league and our clubs. Giving supporters an even better chance of seeing their teams compete at home was a key driver in moving things back slightly and in how we've structured the schedule."
With various travel restrictions still in place across the country, the New Zealand Breakers will start the season based in Australia, with hopes to return home early in the New Year.
As Victoria and New South Wales work through their roadmaps out of lockdown, Melbourne United, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Illawarra Hawks and Sydney Kings will play each other in the opening weeks before borders are expected to open up.
"We are confident that as the country opens back up, our schedule will open up with it and we will get back to running the competition like we used to with all teams playing and traveling from their home bases,' said Loeliger.
Adjusting to fall in line with current pandemic related obstacles leaves the schedule with some unique quirks. The season series between Melbourne and Sydney will be completed on Boxing Day, while the Perth Wildcats and Brisbane Bullets will be done and dusted with their regular season meeting by New Year's Day.
• Melbourne United begin their title defence against championship contender the Sydney Kings on December 5. The matchup looms as the NBL debut of United's marquee recruit Matthew Dellavedova.
• A massive Boxing Day triple-header begins with Tasmania vs. New Zealand, while Sydney vs. Melbourne and Brisbane vs. Cairns is also on the docket.
• Double-header hoops on both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
• The first of three meetings between last year's Grand Finalists comes on February 18, with the Wildcats hosting United at RAC Arena.
• New Cairns head coach Adam Forde will face his old squad for the first time when the Taipans visit the Kings on March 6.
• Adelaide young gun Mojave King will get a chance to show out against his old squad early in the season when the 36ers face Cairns three times between December 18 and January 7.
• 7'5" Chuanxing Liu will square off against 7'3" Zhou Xi on January 15 when the Bullets host the Phoenix in the battle between the two towering Chinese recruits.
• Rivalry round is on tap for round two, with Sydney facing the Illawarra Hawks and United battling the Phoenix in the Throw Down.
• The NBL will hold the third annual Indigenous round, with a date TBC.
Aussie Hoops fans are set to feast on Saturday double-headers live on ESPN throughout the season.
The season launches in Hobart at the MyState Bank Arena, with the Tasmania JackJumpers making their league debut by hosting the Adelaide 36ers. Opening night will be broadcast live on ESPN, with a 7:30pm (AEDT) tip in Tasmania followed by a 9:30pm (AEDT) start time in Perth when the Wildcats host the Bullets.