Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak around the world, international basketball leagues are adjusting their schedules to deal with the crisis.
From Italy to China to Japan to South Korea and beyond, competitions are being moved behind closed doors, postponed or canceled. Other leagues, of course, may follow suit.
The ASEAN Basketball League, a 10-team circuit, recently announced that all of its March games would be rescheduled at a later time. The league is considering the possibility of making up these games at a neutral site.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, 21 ASEAN games and their locations, involving teams from Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, and the Philippines, are TBD, the league said.
The ABL continues to work with all the teams in finding the best solutions to still push through with the games in the most responsible manner possible,” read a statement on the ASEAN website. “We are in constant communication regarding the newest updates on restrictions between all countries involved and are working hard in finding the common ground that would be beneficial and amenable to all ten teams.
“As such, the league is now looking at the possibility of playing in a neutral venue where games could be held so as to have our teams play as many of their rescheduled games for a smoother continuation of the ABL’s 10th season.
More than 3,000 people have died and about 90,000 people globally have been infected from the coronavirus outbreak. It has spread to more than 60 countries.
Ongoing crisis in Italy
The Italian Basketball Federation, meanwhile, announced Monday that matches in all league competitions have been called off due to the coronavirus outbreak. Northern Italy is the epicenter of the health crisis in Europe. There are more than 1,500 reported cases of the coronavirus in Italy, more than any other country outside of Asia.
The sports national governing body in Italy stated that it is “taking note of the governmental and regional directions on the protection of public health.”
Leagues halt play in Asia
Japan’s B. League, which encompasses 48 teams in three divisions, called off play from Feb. 28 to March 1, following the actions of other sports leagues in the nation in an attempt to limit the transmission of the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition, the decision, made after recommendations issued by Japanese government health experts, is intended to help the nation’s health workers cope with patients who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19. (B. League first-division squads have played 39 of their 60 regular-season games.)
In China, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, the league’s top hoop circuit suspended operations at the end of January. It remains to be seen if the Chinese Basketball Association will relaunch and stage games this spring. Media outlets have reported that teams have informed players that competition could resume in April or the rest of the season could be called off completely. Numerous foreign players and coaches departed from China after the league suspended operations.
What’s more, CBA teams have banned practices to help combat the spread of COVID-19 virus.
On a related note, FIBA moved a women’s Pre-Olympic Tournament from China to Belgrade, Serbia.
“After carefully assessing the outbreak of coronavirus and prioritizing the safety of the players and team members, the FIBA Executive Committee decided to relocate the tournament in Belgrade,” a news release stated.
Update from South Korea
In South Korea, the Korean Basketball League held an emergency board meeting on Monday in Seoul. KBL leaders decided that the season will resume at the end of March.
This announcement comes after the KBL said on Saturday that it would suspend all games as of Sunday.
Now, all 10 KBL teams will start playing again on March 29.
Previously, KBL teams had started playing games behind closed doors on Feb. 26 as a precautionary measure.
The decision to call off competition came after fears of the coronavirus outbreak hit particularly close to home for the KBL. In Jeongu, 240 km south of Seoul, the KBL club KCC Egis was staying at the same hotel as a guest who tested positive for COVID-19, on Saturday.
Korean news reports said that no KCC Egis players had had contact with the guest, nor had any team players and staff mentioned having coronavirus symptoms. That said, Egis players and coaches are being quarantined in the team dormitory in Yongin, about 50 km south of Seoul.
More KBL details
KBL teams are nearly finished with their season, with 42 or 43 of 54 games already completed.
KBL secretary general Lee In-sik said, “There will be a lot going on during the offseason, including free agency, and so we have to finish everything by then. With that in mind, we felt it was appropriate to resume the season after four weeks, and there was no dissenting opinion.”
Shortening the length of playoff rounds is also being considered, according to Lee.
Coping with coronavirus outbreak
Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum announced on Twitter over the weekend that he’s stopped signing autographs for fans due to coronavirus outbreak-related fears.
“The Corona Virus has officially hit Oregon,” McCollum tweeted. “More specifically Lake Oswego…Make sure y’all washing y’all hands with soap for 20 or more seconds & covering ya mouths when you cough. I am officially taking a break from signing autographs until further notice.”