March 21, 2020, 4:04 pm
Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight weekly feature that will try to shed some hope during the dark times that humanity is facing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA was the first major league to pretty much shut down its operations and most Europeans league followed immediately while Asian countries are bouncing back and are in the process of figuring out the logistics of resuming their basketball activities. Here is the current situation around the world.
EuroLeague, the Europe-wide, top-tier level professional basketball club competition that has long established itself as the benchmark for basketball outside the NBA, was expected to have games played up until last Thursday when a basketball player from Spain’s Real Madrid tested positive for the disease. The unfortunate news forced the organization to immediately announce the suspension of all its tournaments (the EuroLeague and the Eurocup). In previous days, the EuroLeague Players Association had asked for the tournament to stop, even though several games were scheduled to be played behind closed doors.
EuroLeague basketball will now closely monitor any further developments to verify whether they allow the suspension to be reverted but the future of the season is up in the air after the major impact that the virus has already had in Spain and Italy, two of the biggest members of the tournament, with five of the 18 participants from these two countries.
Meanwhile, Panathinaikos and Hall of Fame head coach Pick Pitino agreed to end their cooperation in light of COVID-19. Pitino returned to the United States last week and, soon after, decided to continue his career next season at Iona College in New York, ending what is the coach’s second stint with the club.
Similarly, FIBA’s Board of Directors decided to indefinitely cancel the FIBA Europe Cup, which was in the Final Four stage, and to indefinitely suspend all games of the competitions organized by FIBA Europe (EuroLeague Women, EuroCup Women and FIBA Champions League). Following requests by a number of national federations and as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic can grow significantly, the Board also agreed to monitor (and decide by April) any possible rescheduling or relocation of all upcoming summer events.
The 18 clubs of the Spanish League held a meeting this past Monday and reached a unanimous decision to suspend the season until April 24th. The competition had already been postponed prior to this meeting for a couple days but without a set date and official agreement from the clubs about the further progress of the season. The next meeting will be held on March 23rd.
Antonio Martin, the president of the ACB, said that “the clubs are still intent on restarting the competition and completing the 2019/20 Endesa season as long as the situation and time allows.”
The VTB includes the top-tier Russian clubs plus the top winning teams from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The league has now been suspended until April 10th in order to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak. In case the restrictions are lifted or lessened after April 10, the league believes it will be ready to play the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
Italy’s Serie A was the first time to call off games on March 8th after Lombardy and 14 other provinces were quarantined due to the epidemic. All sports competitions have been suspended until the first week of April but with Italy having been hit hard by the virus it looks highly unlikely that games will be resuming any time soon.
In France, all the activities organized by the National Basketball League between March 12th and March 31st have also been postponed but the LNB is determined to resume and complete the championships for the 2019-2020 season.
The Israel Winner Basketball League suspended the 2019/20 campaign indefinitely as of Tuesday due to the coronavirus with no date set for its return to action. The league office issued a statement to explain their decision to not set a date as to when the league would go back to regular operations. The league’s decision to not end the season or set a date of return would allow the foreign players a chance to go home to be with their families during this challenging time throughout the world.
ABA League, with teams from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and North Macedonia, also announced on Thursday the suspension of its competitions until further notice.
In Germany, BBL league officials announced that games are indefinitely suspended, while teams will meet within the next 14 days “to discuss the current situation and possible scenarios and options.”
In Greece, the league’s board of directors unanimously voted to suspend the competition until further notice.
Meanwhile, as March Madness is canceled, the NBA postponed through mid-May (at least), and virtually every other major domestic European hoops league, including the EuroLeague and the EuroCup, has suspended games, the BSL held a full slate games with closed doors and no fans on Sunday and another game this past Tuesday!
Not surprisingly, more than a half-dozen players around the league declined to play due to concerns about the virus, including former NBA guards Shane Larkin and Aaron Harrison (Hornets, Mavericks). Eventually, Turkey suspended its basketball, soccer and volleyball leagues due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday. Unfortunately, some members and staff of Fenerbahce have been showing symptoms and today, on Saturday the 21st of March, the entire team was put into quarantine while awaiting the results of their tests.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic forced the Lithuanian Basketball League to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season and Zalgiris Kaunas was crowned as the champion. Disagreements between agents and Lithuanian teams are emerging, as the decision to cancel the season caught the players and their representatives off guard. Teams will very likely try to avoid paying the players for the remaining months of the season citing force majeure and other minor leagues, in Belgium, Bosnia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Ireland and Cyprus have decided to also end their season early.
Meanwhile in Asia
On the other side of the globe though, the Chinese Basketball Association, which has been on hiatus since late January, is slowly getting ready to resume action in the upcoming weeks, demanding that all US players return to China and threatening to ban them for up to three years if they don’t honor their contracts.
Players are expected to report to their local clubs this week in order to begin a mandatory two-week quarantine period, while games are expected to be played starting April 15th in two cities, Dongguan and Qingdao, behind closed doors before moving on to the playoffs.
South Korea and Japan are also moving to the same direction and it seems very likely that hoop fans worldwide will have to tune in to Asia in order to watch some much-needed live basketball action again.
Thank you for reading our little update on the basketball leagues worldwide and please stay home and stay safe until things get back to normal. Follow all our news posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.