KBL will resume season at the end of this month but with shorter playoffsThe Korean men’s professional basketball league announced Monday that its regular season, which was halted over the weekend due to the new coronavirus, will resume at the end of this month.
Following its emergency board meeting, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) said its 10 teams will be back in action starting March 29.
To help curb the spread of the virus, the KBL first started playing regular season games behind closed doors last Wednesday.
But on Saturday, it decided to put the season on hold, beginning with games scheduled for Sunday, after a guest who stayed at the same hotel as a KBL team, the Jeonju KCC Egis, tested positive for the coronavirus.
KBL teams play 54 games per season, and they’ve so far played 42 or 43 games. The regular season was originally set to end on March 31.
Lee In-sik, the KBL’s secretary general, said the entire season, including the championship final, would have ended on May 10 under normal circumstances, and the goal is to have all teams play the full 54-game regular season schedule and wrap up the playoffs by May 10.
“There will be a lot going on during the offseason, including free agency, and so we have to finish everything by then,” Lee said. “With that in mind, we felt it was appropriate to resume the season after four weeks, and there was no dissenting opinion.”
This will obviously mean shortened playoffs. Typically, the first two rounds are best-of-five and the championship final is best-of-seven.
The KBL could adjust the schedule, so that the first two stages will be best-of-three and the final becomes best-of-five.
Lee said the league is also considering turning the first two rounds into one-and-done affairs and making the final a best-of-three series.
Last week, three foreign players, two Americans and one Serbian, left their teams and returned home over fears of the coronavirus.
Lee acknowledged that more foreign players could take similar action but said the KBL will leave it up to individual teams to handle their own situations.
The KBL said if the situation with the virus improves in the coming days, the resumption of the season could come earlier than scheduled.
In a future meeting, the KBL will explore the possibility of holding games in neutral venues near Seoul, in order to reduce traveling for teams.
Also on Monday, the Women’s Korean Basketball League (WKBL) decided to keep on playing the rest of the regular season behind closed doors until further notice.
WKBL games have been closed off for spectators since Feb. 21.
Representatives from the six WKBL teams met Monday to discuss the possible suspension of their season.
But one participant in the meeting said the teams concluded it’d be safer for players to continue playing.
“During the season, players stay in their team dormitories, isolated from the outside world, and we agreed that it would actually help them stay healthy,” the official said. “If we were to put the league on hold now, there’s no telling when we can resume playing. Players would then have to go home and that would make them more vulnerable [to the virus].”
WKBL teams play 35 games each in the regular season, and they’ve each played 25 games so far this season.
Along with the KBL, the International Skating Union (ISU) also announced its schedule in regard to the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, which was originally scheduled to take place at Mokdong Ice Rink in western Seoul from March 13-15.
Citing concerns about the developments surrounding the coronavirus, the ISU said Monday that rescheduling or relocating the annual competition within the current 2019-2020 season “cannot be reasonably considered.”
A typical short track season begins in November and ends with the world championships in mid-March. But Mokdong Ice Rink, the venue for the short track worlds, has been shut down until further notice in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Korean Volleyball Federation decided it would suspend its season starting from today’s matches and continue to monitor the situation.