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Ten reasons it's great to love hoops
MELBOURNE (Paulo Kennedy's View from Downunder) - In case you were in a basketball coma the past couple of days, the NBL signed a 'best ever' broadcast deal for 2015/16.
While the devil could still be in the detail - and we await the end of season review written into the deal - on the surface the agreement to have every game live and in HD on Fox Sports this season far exceeds anything the league has attracted before.
This isn't good news in isolation, however, so here are my top 10 reasons why it's good to be a hoops fan Downunder right now.
No, the local league isn't trying to steal the NBA's marketing thunder (not that I'm aware of anyway), this one is more about having some effort put into the running of the NBL.
There is still a long way to go - and the true test comes in-season when the effort needs to be made to make it easy to follow the competition - but the little things seem to be more of a focus heading into this season.
By my count, eight WNBL teams have major sponsors or partners heading into the new season. It's not an easy market to get sponsorship, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the league's TV deal, so this is a promising sign and a credit to the people making it happen.
Full credit to the WNBL review too, which strongly recommended every club employ a general manager. The old saying goes you have to spend money to make money, but a better one is without professional management you'll end up with mismanagement.
Serious NBA minutes
It's one thing to have eight Aussies and Kiwis in the NBA, but that doesn't cut a lot of mustard in the Australian media. However, when those players are still doing their thing deep into the post-season, everyone Downunder seems to become a hoops fan.
Let's hope Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Steve Adams and Matthew Dellavedova are still firing well into 2016, because outside a successful Aussie run at the Olympics, nothing generates better hoops publicity than our locals matching the Yanks in their own land. Hopefully it also has them in form heading into the international season.
Rob Beveridge may be remembered for his dour final season with Perth, where he completed a game-style makeover in an attempt to beat the all-conquering Breakers, but those who've been around a while know his modus operandi is aggressive, attacking basketball.
As the new coach of the Illawarra Hawks, Beveridge has put together a team laden with offensive talent - Kirk Penney, Kevin Lisch, AJ Ogilvy and Oscar Forman, all guided by the mercurial Rhys Martin - and they are going to play hard and fast, daring the competition to go with them. It’s going to be great to watch.
A Penny for your stars
Some laugh at the NBA's WWE-style promotion of its stars, but let's face it, people love a superstar to read about, talk about and watch.
With Penney, Chris Goulding, Ogilvy, Ebi Ere, Lisch and Julian Khazzouh all returning to the NBL this season, that's three former MVPs, three former leading scorers and two former leading rebounders. Talk about that!
Rod Laver Arena full
I know I mentioned this last week, but how amazing to see the former showcourt of Australian basketball full to the brink for the Opals and Boomers first step towards Rio.
With high ticket prices, star withdrawals, competition from football codes and a live TV broadcast all good reasons why fans may have stayed away, Basketball Australia showed with a bit of effort and the right contacts this sport can be made sexy again in Australia.
Opals on their merry way
The Opals' success is almost taken as a given these days. After nine medals from their past 10 major championships, it's easy to look at anything other than silver or gold at a major championship as a non-achievement.
But the way they continue to roll out new talent, year after year, covering for stars away in the WNBA, is a testament to all of those along the female talent pathway in Australia, from the grassroots up, who help young stars become world-class players.
Bogut and Mills committed
The Boomers were highly-impressive in the way they dispatched one of arguably world basketball's most plucky opponent by 22 points across two games, and most impressive was the wide array of contributors they had.
Bogut and Mills both had their moments in the sun, but for the most part were happy to do whatever the team needed. To have this pair committed to Rio and committed to team basketball is as exciting as it gets. Now to just pray to the injury gods.
Josh Childress and Cedric Jackson
If you created prototype imports for the NBL's fast-moving, aggressive, combative and unpredictable style, you might well come up with Childress and Jackson.
That aggressive, unpredictable approach makes them so tough to contain, and (with the exception of one Childress brain fade) easy to love for home and away fans. To have them as the stardom pace-setters again this NBL season, challenging everyone else to keep up, is a major win for the league.
Fox Sports backs hoops
Having stars like Childress, Jackson, Penney, Ogilvy, Goulding, Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Nathan Jawai, Damian Martin, Todd Blanchfield, Brian Conklin and Marcus Thornton in the comp this year is genuinely exciting because of this TV deal.
Recently we've had great talent but no one promoting them. It’s been like a talent tree falling in the forest - no one heard about it.
With every game being shown live and in HD - from Wednesday to Sunday - there are many many chances for sports fans to see these stars and get hooked on the NBL.
Now we wait and hope the WNBL can find a broadcast partner to spread the word about its great talent too.
FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
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