With the 2016/17 NBL season schedule being announced today (see the full schedule here) it’s time to circle the can’t miss games this season.
These are what I feel are ten of the “can’t miss” games in chronological order.
6th October 2016 – Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Not only is this the first game of the season (thank goodness, NBL is back!) but it will also be Brisbane’s first game in 3143 days, or eight years and seven months. That’s right, the Bullets are back!
They’ve been out of the league for far too long and to welcome them back into the fold they are pitted against the reigning champion Perth Wildcats.
7th October 2016 – New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne United
Cedric Jackson has been the common thread in all four of the Breakers championship. He’s guiding the team to four grand final appearances and three championships in the past four seasons. He also snagged a tonne of individual awards, taking home the league’s MVP in 2013, the Grand Final MVP twice (2013 and 2015) and he also led the league in assists in all four of his NBL seasons.
When a player of that calibre leaves your program it’s a big deal, especially when it’s to a trans-Tasman rival like Melbourne. So… how will the Breakers’ crowd react to Jackson returning in a different uniform? How will former Breaker and also new United member Tai Wesley deal with the Breakers crowd?
8th October 2016 – Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
The Sydney Kings return with a new roster that looks mouth-wateringly good on paper with the likes of reigning MVP Kevin Lisch, elite big man Julian Khazzouh and two Australian Boomers returning from Europe in Brad Newley and Aleks Maric.
This team could be a contender, so now is the time for Kings’ fans to back them up. The team’s management think this is a great time for the club, moving from the 5,000 seat Sydney State Sports Centre to the 18,200 seat Qudos Bank Arena. That’s a fair jump in capacity and if the Kings’ community want to be taken seriously in this league, they’ll come to home games in droves. This will be the first test for Kings fans to show how much they love their basketball.
14th October 2016 – Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
After the 75-52 game three loss of the grand final series still stinging the Breakers, this grand final rematch will be of utmost importance.
With the game being held in Perth it should be even more significant for New Zealand and a win here will likely see them on track for an NBL Finals spot.
27th October 2016 – Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United
The Taipans got the short end of the stick with this schedule, unfortunately, fans will have to wait until round four until their first home game. That’s three weeks! The fans in Cairns will be ravenous by then, especially since it will be their first time seeing their biggest recruit in Nathan Jawai.
Jawai hasn’t played for the Taipans since the Brisbane Bullets were in the league which just gives a perspective on how long it’s been since he’s played in the orange.
5th November 2016 – Perth Wildcats vs. Adelaide 36ers
Terrance Ferguson could be quite a big deal. In two of the biggest high school ranking websites, Ferguson was ranked eleventh and fourteenth for the whole class of 2016. That means he is ranked in the top fifteen of all basketball players in all of the USA who would be starting college this year. That’s a big deal.
He’ll be in for a shock, especially playing against Perth in Perth. They don’t call Perth’s home court “The Jungle” for nothing and it’s likely to be a shocking welcome to his first game as a professional basketball player. Adelaide fans will hope he’s up to the task.
12th November 2016 – Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings
Things that are more Melbourne than Andrew Gaze: Nothing. Gaze is a basketball icon who is more well known to Australians than any other athlete in the NBL.
With his success as a player having been watched by thousands, if not millions of Melbourne fans over the years it will be a strange experience seeing him hoping to lead a team from Sydney to victory against the United.
When Gaze signed on to be the head coach of Melbourne’s nemesis in Sydney, some people were upset, some were excited. Either way, the NBL is hoping they all care enough to buy tickets to this one.
18th November 2016 – New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
In case some people have forgotten, on the 17th of January 2016, the Breakers and Hawks played a monster of a game, needing two overtimes to find a victory. Illawarra eventually came away with a 103-96 victory thanks to Kevin Lisch leading the way with 40 points while AJ Ogilvy and Charles Jackson battled it out for 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 points, 18 rebounds respectively.
Jackson, in particular, had a great game with ten offensive rebounds, three more than the whole Illawarra team. Fans attending this game can only hope that this season’s matchup will be half as good.
1st January 2017 – Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
This kind of scheduling has to be illegal because putting a game on New Year’s Day is just cruel.
With United already stating it will have the roof open for as many games as possible this season, this is one that will need to be as NYE revellers sweat out the night before.
The Melbourne stadium will have to have the music and fireworks toned down to allow for all those who partied a little too hard the night before, which is something most United fans would appreciate most games. At least Melbourne will be able to see the return of Jerome Randle… that’s worth suffering a hangover? for isn’t it?
12th February 2017 – Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
And so ends the regular season. After 111 games in the regular season over 129 days, the regular season will close and the playoffs will begin. The season won’t go without a bang as the Melbourne against Perth game will probably decide playoff position and give both teams a real warmup for what post season play will be like.
This upcoming season looks to be fantastic so it is most likely that at the end of the season there will be many more than ten “can’t miss” games that will be looked back upon.