Justin Nelson has put his respective National Basketball Leagues on hold with a clear conscience and heavy heart, pledging to do everything in his power to "put food on the tables" of players and team personnel as soon as possible.
Stuff article with Marc Hinton available HERE.
On Friday NBL General Manager Nelson announced that the men's and women's national hoops leagues had been postponed from their planned April start dates because of the coronavirus pandemic, and were being re-evaluated to tip off later this year under a modified format.
The hope is that both competitions might get under way in late May or June (viewed as the earliest possible start point under current circumstances), though Nelson concedes there is a possibility that 2020 could become a lost season under the unprecedented global health crisis.
"There won't be a competition in 2020 if it's not feasible and the health and safety of our teams is put in jeopardy," said the adept Aussie who has played the lead role in transforming the fortunes of the sagging NBL. "But we are confident we'll be able to provide a good and workable modified competition.
"Whatever decisions we make for 2020 – and we certainly believe we've got something that could work – must be feasible and must ensure health and sustainability of our teams for 2021 onwards."
Nelson, though, is driven to find a workable solution for this year for the simple reason that he is acutely aware of how many people are relying on him to do so.
"Everybody needs to understand that for many athletes in many sports, they can't go down to .8 or .6 of a job, they can't take four weeks of built-up leave … for so many athletes in sports all around the world, if they don't play, they don't get paid.
"I'm really mindful of working as hard as I can to get our players back to work in a safe environment in something that adheres to the government and Ministry of Health regulations.
"I want to unearth every rock and do everything I can with Sky Sport and our partners to get food on the table of these players because they are feeling this right now."
Nelson, of course, feels for the start-up Franklin Bulls who have been working furiously to make their debut as an NBL team. But no more than he does for the Southland Sharks or the Wellington Saints or the Taranaki Mountainairs. Or for the women's teams relishing the prospect of a true national league for the first time.
"I feel for every team, for every player, for every employee. All our teams have people at the coalface heading home right now not knowing if they've got a job to come to tomorrow. If I can provide a solution that provides a modified competition and helps put food on the table of these people then I'm going hell for leather to do everything I can to make that happen through something we've never seen in our lives before."
Nelson said the plan was for the competitions to start behind closed doors and that 60 clear days between now and a proposed tip-off date was an appropriate period. He was confident they would have no problem meeting mandated restrictions of less than 100 people at events, as they stood now.
"We're very confident the phoenix will rise," he added. "It's a worrying time for everybody, but we've been working since last Saturday with our teams and since Monday with all concerned parties on what we hope is a viable solution.
"I have a level of responsibility in leading all our basketball players right now. I'm with them, I'm concerned for them and I want to do everything we can to get them back into work as soon as possible. They need to look after their families and that is my greatest concern right now."
The NBL's decision, along with netball's to invoke a two-week suspension of play, contrasts with the approach across the ditch from the NRL, AFL and the A-League which are boxing on behind closed doors.
Nelson said he could understand where they were coming from with their decisions to press on amid the mayhem.
"I can't talk on behalf of other competitions, but regardless of what the sport is athletes can't go down to three days week and ride through the troubled waters. They have to be out there performing their job in order to bring money in.
"There's no doubt the decisions made so far by the AFL and NRL are about ensuring the health and sustainability of their teams and that their players are able to earn a living.
"We're no different. We're doing everything we can to ensure we keep people employed."