Gaze talks up Bogut as NBL looks to ACT
So powerful an influence will Andrew Bogut be on the NBL that whoever signs him will immediately become the competition favourite, Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze says.
The Bogut-to-the-NBL push received a huge boost yesterday with the breakdown of talks between NBA owners and the players' union in the US.
The impasse looks set to scuttle at least the start of the American season and, according to the players' union, it could be up to half the season before a deal can be reached.
Bogut, who is contracted to the Milwaukee Bucks, wants to play in the NBL while the NBA lockout continues.
That gave the NBL season launch in Melbourne yesterday a huge feel-good factor, with three clubs excited about their prospects of signing the 26-year-old.
The Sydney Kings met Bogut this week and would appear to the front-runners, though Gold Coast Blaze were confident about luring the 213cm centre. The Adelaide 36ers have also made a pitch to Bogut's management.
Gaze said Bogut's size and quality would immediately lift his new club to NBL favouritism.
''He's not just a great Australian player and a great NBA player, but one of the premier big men in the world,'' said Gaze, who won a NBA championship with San Antonio.
''To have a player of that capacity come and play would be great for the league.
''If the lockout continues and someone has Andrew Bogut, whoever he plays for, they will be the favourites - he's that good.''
Should Bogut sign, he would join fellow Australian NBA player Patrick Mills, who has signed with the Melbourne Tigers.
Meanwhile, the NBL said starting a team in Brisbane and a second club in Melbourne were its top priorities, and promised to examine starting a team in Canberra.
The league has earmarked establishing a club in all metropolitan markets by 2015 under a new business plan unveiled yesterday.
Brisbane's last club, the Bullets, folded in 2008 after financial problems struck its owner, ABC Learning boss Eddy Groves.
Melbourne has been a graveyard for several NBL clubs since the early 1990s - most recently the South Dragons collapsed weeks after winning the championship in 2009.
''The league must grow its footprint into all major metropolitan markets,'' NBL marketing boss Aaron Flanagan said.
''Brisbane and a second Melbourne club are the major priorities in the immediate future.''
NBL chief executive Larry Sengstock was confident a Brisbane club would be up and running as soon as the 2012-13 season.
The league has also promised to examine whether expansion in Canberra, Tasmania and Newcastle would be feasible, as well as a second club in New Zealand to join the Breakers.
The expansion plans are ambitious, considering all the markets earmarked except New Zealand have had failed NBL franchises in previous years.
This season the league has introduced themed rounds, including heritage and family rounds.
Officials say it is part of a plan to generate an extra 290,000 NBL attendees in the next five years.
The nine-team competition will tip off on October 7.