The Sal's NBL will be a seven-team competition in season 2020 with the league's General Manager Justin Nelson saying it is the "best fit as the league focuses on reaching its optimum model." A busy week for New Zealand's National Basketball League has seen the Supercity Rangers terminated due to outstanding debts with the league, while the Southern Huskies based in Tasmania announced its withdrawal of three teams from the NZNBL and Australia's NBL1. "We stated from the start of the year that should we have two franchises based in Australia our optimum model was ten to twelve teams, but this is no longer on our radar with the Huskies now gone," said Nelson, adding "from here we'll focus on our own backyard and work on eight to ten teams as being our optimum model." At this stage both the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls have been given provisional entry into the league for 2021, while Nelson says interest in a stronger and more resourced franchise in Auckland is gathering momentum quickly. "Since moving away from the Rangers we have received a lot of contact from people in Auckland where there is no doubt the feeling is one of wanting an engaged, financial and sustainable franchise, so we'll see what happens over the next year." Despite the interest, Nelson did stop short of saying the league would return to ten teams in 2021. "Without Australian teams in the league our optimum model is eight to ten teams, so right now we have seven really good teams next season and we have strong interest for up to another three teams in 2021, but the (NBL) board is extremely focused on sustainability and we will make sure those wanting to come in are covering all bases," explained Nelson. "We'll be happy with eight teams, but up to ten is also good. That model will suit elite-level men's basketball in New Zealand perfectly, especially with so much young talent coming through the system. "But it's one step at a time and we aren't cutting corners, those days are gone." As news out of Tasmania continues to add further detail on what went wrong with the Huskies, Nelson maintained the NZNBL was the unfortunate "middle-man" in a fallout that was beyond the league's control. "We're learning a little more each day since receiving the news from the Huskies late last week and from where we sit it unfortunately looks like a number of different groups in Tasmania have failed to work together, and of course money and politics seem to be at the middle of it all. "The Huskies owners will be visiting us in New Zealand shortly and we'll tidy up some outstanding accounts and have a talk about the exit clauses in their contract with us, but right now the dust is still settling in Tasmania and we want some clear heads before we tackle what's owed to us," Nelson added. The league completed its annual franchise meeting last weekend with a number of exciting initiatives agreed to, including the finalisation of the competition's Competitive Balance System. "The teams agreed a more competitive and balanced league is what the fans want and that means we'll now have some financial boundaries around what teams can and can't do," explained Nelson. "We will also be bringing in standard player agreements that will sit with the league, which we believe is a major advancement and one that will help prevent similar issues to those we saw unfold at the Rangers this year." The Sal's NBL is expected to release the season 2020 schedule in the coming weeks with each team play against one another three times.
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