Photo credit: GameFace NZ
After its successful introduction in G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi in 2023, the Sky Broadband Rapid League will also feature in the Sal’s NBL this year. After overwhelming feedback from fans and input from players, a key change to the Rapid League this year – in both the NBL and Tauihi – is that import players (restricted players) will not be permitted to play. This means Rapid League will be a Kiwi-only competition. For those new to Rapid League, get ready for fast-paced action. Rapid League games are played immediately before NBL/Tauihi games, they consist of 4 x 4-minute quarters (no coach/bench timeouts or extended quarter or half-time breaks). And the unique twist in this world-first concept is Rapid League game cannot feature any player selected to start for their respective team in the following NBL/Tauihi game. In other words, players named 6-12 for the NBL/Tauihi game that day can also play Rapid League. It’s a great way for fans to enjoy more basketball, arrive early for added entertainment, and to also get the chance to see every player in action across the two games. For the players, the chance to play more minutes and further develop their game on the big stage is a major win.
This season will see a significant change to the Sal’s NBL ladder. For the first time, teams will be positioned according to their winning percentage. In the past teams were awarded 2 points for winning a game, which from time-to-time resulted in confusion because throughout the regular season teams have often played a different number of games. The second big change to the ladder will be when it comes to points scored by and points scored against each team. This will now be reflected as a percentage on the ladder. For example, if a team has scored a total of 1000 points in games and conceded 900 points, their percentage will be 111%. However, the importance of Rapid League games will be heightened because all points scored for and against each team in Rapid League will be added to the same team’s points totals on the NBL Ladder. A team’s points percentage (points for divided by points against) will then be used as the tie-breaker should two or more teams finish on the same number of wins during the regular season. Simply put, every basket in NBL and Rapid League games count for so much more. Teams will need to score as much as possible in both competitions, while also conceding as few points as possible in both competitions. No more dribbling games out, playing all the way to the final buzzer will be a factor in which Final 6 hopes are achieved and squashed.
As we all know, once a team reaches four team fouls in a quarter any subsequent foul results in the opposing team being awarded two free throws (unless it is an offensive foul). However, this changes slightly when a game goes into overtime. Regardless of how many fouls a team has committed in the previous period, prior to any overtime period starting team fouls for each team will be shown as having committed two fouls (2) and then upon the fifth foul bonus shots will be awarded. Again, simply put, it means in any overtime period a team can commit two fouls with bonus shots being awarded on the third team fouls (unless it is an offensive foul).
Each season the League sets a game number for finals qualification, which is done in full collaboration with the Teams. The qualification number for many years has been 25 per cent of regular season games. In season 2024 each Team will play 20 regular season games, and therefore a player will need to play (5) games to qualify for the finals. Under League rules, playing a game means suited up for the game, recorded on the scoresheet, and actually stepping on court and playing in the game, simply suiting up and riding the pine will not count towards the total for finals eligibility. With the inclusion of Rapid League this year and following learnings gained in Tauihi’s initial season of Rapid play, playing in a Rapid League game and/or a NBL game on the same day is considered as (1) game towards Sal’s NBL finals qualification.
Are you ready for some mid-season movement filled with strategy and new opportunities for both players and teams alike? For the first time ever in New Zealand pro sport, a trade window is being introduced to the Sal’s NBL and the unique rules means all 11 teams will be working the phones to see if they can gain some type of advantage. For a period of 66 hours after round 7 and prior to the tip off of round 8, teams will have an opportunity to speak with other teams and players as they all attempt to complete trades. Players must agree to any trade, along with the team they are being traded from. A unique part of the trade window machinations is any team capable of successfully trading a player onto their roster (not simply sending a player out) will receive a 6.5% boost to their salary cap, which can be used on any player over the second half of the season. This includes the player they are trading for, other players currently on the roster, or any new player the team recruits from that point on. Any player traded into a team must remain on their new team’s registered roster for the remainder of the season.
Player Timeouts will return in season 2024. Introduced into the Sal’s NBL for the first time in 2023, following a successful trial in the Tauihi competition in 2022, the player only timeouts have already delivered lots of big moments in games. Each team in Rapid League and NBL will be permitted (1) player timeout per half. Only the player in possession of the ball can call a player timeout, which can then only involve the players on the court for each team. No subs can be made, the coach or bench players cannot interact with the players on the court. Following the timeout, the ball is advanced to the in-bound mark up the court (unless a player has called the timeout when inbounding the ball from under their own basket – which will then result in the ball being inbounded from the same spot after the player timeout). What can we expect from player timeouts? Teams have quickly adapted to the innovation and tend to use their player timeouts very late in the second and fourth quarters as a means of advancing the ball and getting quality looks at the basket with little time remaining. This tactic has already resulted in a number of thrilling finishes to games, and no doubt that trend will continue in 2024.
A little-known rule amongst the fans (and sometimes even the teams can get it wrong) is that of players wearing compression gear. Compression gear, including shooting sleeves, is permitted in the Sal’s NBL, but players on the same team wearing any compression gear in a game must all be wearing the same colour. If you ever see players warming up wearing different colour compression gear, you are likely to see the referees ask for the players to change and ensure they are wearing the same colour.
This is a rule that changed prior to the 2019 season, but from time-to-time it comes up and is speculated about across social media and at games. If a player or coach is ejected from a game, it does not automatically result in a suspension for the next game. Previously, prior to 2019, there was an automatic one-game suspension applied to ejections. These days, if a player or coach is ejected from a game the League’s Game Review Commissioner (GRC) will look at any incidents that led to the ejection and determine if any further action is required.
The League introduced a new MVP voting system back in 2019 and it has proven to be successful over the last five seasons. These days, the coach of each team is right in the thick of the action when it comes to most of the League’s season awards. Here’s how it works … after every regular season game the coach of each team is required to lodge 15 votes, made up of 5 votes for the player (on either team) they judge as being the best player in the game, then 4 votes for the second-best player, and so on down to 1 vote being awarded to the fifth best player in the game. The only other requirement for each coach is they must include at least two players from the opposing team in their votes. At the end of the regular season, the top 10 vote getters (as decided by the coaches) go into a final vote to be made by panel, which has consisted of 15 or 16 people. The panel is made up of each team’s coach (so yes, they again hold the majority of say), along with a selection of independent voters. The independents are usually people who either have seen or are highly likely to have seen every game played – normally Sky Sport commentators, League staff, and journalists who follow the sport for various media outlets. Other season awards are also decided by the same in-season voting and the final panel, including the All-Star 5, Coach of the Year and the Youth Player of the Year.
The chance for fans to step on court and meet their favourite players after every game has been a big part of the Sal’s NBL for many years, but not many people would know it is actually a rule of the League. Home teams are required to stay on court and be accessible to fans for a minimum of 15 minutes after every game. It’s one of the easiest and most fun rules to adhere to for teams as they thoroughly enjoy the chance to meet their fans. The after-game sessions have become so popular, that many away teams also now stay on court these days and provide opportunities for fans to meet visiting players as well.
New Zealand’s best amateur talent has more pathways to choose from than ever but heading to university in the States to pursue a degree while playing hoops has always been at the top of the preference list for young Kiwis. But with over 100 athletes currently many wonder, can these players come back and play during the NBL season?
Yes, but there is a process and given the number of levels of play and numerous governing bodies it can get complicated:
If a player is enrolled in a US collegiate basketball programme they cannot participate in the NBL, unless they provide the following: