NBL owner Larry Kestelman admits there will always been an asterisk on the season after Perth was awarded the title two days after its finals series against Sydney was extraordinarily cut short.
The NBL cancelled the best-of-five series on Tuesday, with Perth leading 2-1 before Friday’s scheduled fourth game in Western Australia.
That decision came because the Kings, citing the threat of coronavirus, refused to play.
Perth maintained it was ready and willing to continue.
— NBL (@NBL) March 19, 2020
Both teams originally agreed last week to continue with a five-game series before the Kings had a change of heart.
The series halt meant Perth’s win in an empty Sydney stadium on Sunday decided the series, eventually assuring the defending champions their 10th title.
Kestelman said he was proud of, and respected the Kings’ decision, but that “rules were rules”.
He said the club had received the news with disappointment and grace.
Kings owner Paul Smith tweeted his congratulations to the Wildcats after the decision was made public.
“As a human being I feel for players … but the fact of the matter is we’re in extraordinary circumstances and … we were only left with one decision to make,” Kestelman said.
“There’s always going to be an asterisk next to this season, for all sorts of reasons … we’re all going to remember this one.”
Quick note about the season that was @NBL 20 and the past few weeks.
I will be chatting to the press tomorrow morning here in Sydney to wrap up our season.
Be safe out there and be a human being when out and about. pic.twitter.com/hAHMzpyGKR
— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) March 19, 2020
But star Kings guard Andrew Bogut was less complimentary of the process, labelling the NBL’s handling of the entire grand final series embarrassing and disappointing.
Bogut tweeted his congratulations to the Wildcats but added a note slamming the NBL.
“I could not be any prouder of the Sydney Kings and our playing group,” he wrote.
“After almost three hours of back and forth (and plenty of tears) we came to what ultimately was the hardest decision any athlete or team could make (to not continue playing).
“I am beyond embarrassed and disappointed in regards to how this was handled by our league from the week leading up to the grand final series.
“This has nothing to do with the result announced today and I wish to congratulate the Perth Wildcats on being crowned champions.”
Perth import Bryce Cotton was awarded the Larry Sengstock Medal as finals MVP.
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger was comfortable that the “logical conclusion” had been reached by following the letter of the law.
“Having considered all of that advice, we have concluded that there is only one outcome that is most appropriate in the circumstances,” he said.
“In this instance, games four and five were cancelled by the League due to unforeseen circumstances pursuant to rule 34 (regarding game abandonment) of the NBL operations manual.”