Last season’s four championship finalists from the NBL and bj-league will compete on Sept. 13 in Tokyo, the Japan Basketball Association announced on Monday.
In the event, dubbed the “NBL-bj-league Dream Games,” the NBL champion Aisin SeaHorses and bj-league winner Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix will square off at 1 p.m., followed by another contest that’ll be played between the rival circuits’ reigning runnerup teams, the Toyota Alvark of the NBL and Akita Northern Happinets of the bj-league at 4:30 p.m.
Both contests are slated to be held at Ota City General Gymnasium.
In the past few years, some exhibitions have been played between teams from the two leagues, which will be merged into one entity (along with the NBDL clubs as well) when the three-tier Japan Professional Basketball League is scheduled to tip off for the 2016-17 season. The Ryukyu Golden Kings and Toyota, two elite teams from the bj-league and NBL, respectively, played two preseason games in Tokyo last year.
The Dream Games event, meanwhile, will mark the first time the JBA hosts an event of this kind.
JBA president Saburo Kawabuchi said at a news conference at the JFA House that this event is a necessary step to promote the JPBL to a wider audience, not just basketball fanatics.
“Of course, the basketball fans know that there’ll be a new league, but other general sports fans don’t,” said Kawabuchi, one of soccer’s J. League founders. “It is our mission to advertise our new league to as many people as possible.”
The games will be exhibitions and teams won’t compete for prize money or anything in particular. Nevertheless, Kawabuchi, the co-chair of the Japan 2024 Task Force that was appointed by FIBA to reform the JBA and unify the leagues, said he expects the teams and players to exhibit some feelings of rivalry between the leagues.
NBL vice chairman Mikiya Horii said, “We the NBL would like to prove our ability.”
Toshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, responded to Horii’s remarks by saying, “People might think that the NBL is better, but you never know what’s going to happen in competitions.”
Last season, Aisin captured its first league title in two years by defeating Toyota in the NBL Finals, while the Phoenix, who defected from the JBL (predecessor of the NBL) to the bj-league in 2008, edged Akita to capture their third bj-league crown.
Regarding the rules that will be in place for the games, the organizers said that they are discussing the matter, but they are going to be split in the games. For example, the NBL uses Molten balls, with the bj-league operating with Spalding balls. So they are likely going to use one ball for the first half and the other in the second half, as the NBA and ABA used to do in exhibition games in the 1970s before their merger.
The teams will likely use the same import rules from their respective leagues for the 2015-16 season: One import on the floor in the first and third quarters and two in the second and fourth for the NBL, two in all quarters for the bj-league.
Asked if the organizers had considered staging this event after the upcoming season, not before it, Kawabuchi said that this event is one of the potential two-league competitions that JBA officials are planning before the JPBL begins in October 2016.
“Toward the launch of the new league, this is a first step, and we would like to do things like this more and more,” Kawabuchi said.
After its Thursday meeting, the task force is scheduled to announce about 10 clubs of the 12-16 clubs that will compete in the JPBL’s top division for the 2016-17 campaign. All four of the Dream Games participants are strong candidates to be assigned to the top flight.
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